6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 12
As a soon-to-be new dad, I have heard often that having a kid is one of the greatest joys (and also one of the greatest challenges) in life. Diapers, burp-ups, and temper tantrums are balanced out by the happiness of a baby’s coo, the sweetness of their snuggles, and the fascination of watching them grow and learn.
In the run-up to having a baby, though, there seems to be just a lot of work. Consider the pregnant person, whose body is changing drastically and experiencing physical phenomena unlike anything else: is that indigestion or is the baby kicking? For the other partner, there’s a lot of lifting heavy things and painting rooms and building furniture; it’s wild.
When all of that work is put in, though, and your nursery is complete and ready to welcome your wee babe, you start to see exactly why all of the restless nights and tired days will be worth it. You’re helping create something. And that’s pretty cool.
Nothing I help you do in these columns can at all match up to the miracle of making and raising a little creature, but hopefully the work you and I put in to researching wide receiver matchups brings you joy at the end of the week. Sure, I pummel you with stats and data, and you have to sift through all of it to find what works best for you, but in the end, I think we’ll both be happier with the results: happy and healthy, newly scored wide receiver fantasy points.
Now, remember your breathing techniques and repeat after me: which fantasy wide receivers have the best cornerback matchups in Week 12?
Last Week (Week 10)
One of the things I do is reflect on my process, analyzing the successes and fixing the failures, so that I can give you all the best fantasy football advice possible. Each week, we’ll look at the previous one’s hits and misses.
I consider 15.0 PPR fantasy points (the weekly fantasy average of the WR24 over the last six years) a hit for Lineup Locks, and a score of 9.0 (the average WR48) a hit for Good Stocks. A player with 7.0 PPR fantasy points (the average WR60) or fewer as a Smoking Crater is a hit as well.
Lineup Locks: DeAndre Hopkins (19.8) and Cooper Kupp (2.9). Hopkins went absolutely ballistic in Week 10, reining in 10 of his 14 targets and racking up 98 yards. Chemistry with his quarterback: achieved. Kupp was a different matter, though his falling short of Lock status was partially due to the high-ankle sprain he suffered than any fault of his own. Converted tight end Ben Skowronek did collect seven targets in his stead, so #TheProcess?
Good Stocks: Chris Olave (7.0), Chris Godwin (19.1), Christian Kirk (31.5), and George Pickens (14.5). Week 10 was strangely quiet for Olave, with just five targets coming his way in a low-scoring slog. Godwin silenced his doubters, however, catching six-of-eight targets for 71 yards and a score. Kirk produced the fourth-highest wide receiver score of the week for fantasy, and Pickens got in on the fun, too, with a solid hit.
Smoking Craters: Drake London (14.8) and Cody Hollister (0.0). London made us look silly for doubting him early in the game, though he still hasn’t posted more than 40 yards receiving since Week 3. His five catches in Week 10 were the first time he’s had that many grabs since Week 2. Hollister was a big old goose-egg, so we’re in the clear there.
Two Lineup Locks
Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Taron Johnson – His nagging injury finally behind him, Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has strung together four weeks of solid PPR fantasy joy as he makes a case to be considered a true Lineup Lock once again. The past month for Detroit has been suspect, but for St. Brown, it has featured an average of 7.0 catches (9.5 targets) and 79.8 receiving yards per game. ARSB can count on his team’s defense to let up a ton of points each week, meaning that his Lions have to constantly pass to stay in games. That’s a feature, not a bug, that ensures his fantasy success on a week-to-week basis.
When we get down to the underlying numbers, St. Brown has been sublime. He has been targeted on 32% of his routes run (98th percentile among Week 12 starting wide receivers), catching 73% of his targets (71st percentile). On those catches, St. Brown has racked up a whopping 2.5 yards per route run -- a mark in the 91st percentile among his peers in NFL starting lineups this week.
It’s stunning that he has generated this much value, due to his quarterback’s inconsistent play and the fact that St. Brown has just a 4.3-yard average depth of target (aDOT) over the last month, which ranks 39th among the 58 receivers to average five catches a game or more in that span of time. St. Brown is a volume-based PPR machine, and he faces the perfect cornerback and matchup to continue that gravy train in Week 12.
As mentioned before, the best environment for St. Brown’s fantasy upside to hit is against another team that puts up points. You almost couldn’t ask for a better opponent than the second-ranked scoring offense of the Buffalo Bills -- especially when ARSB’s matchup figures to be slot cornerback Taron Johnson.
Johnson is notable in that he accumulates tons of tackles every single season, but that is partly due to the fact that he lets up a lot of catches. Coming into Week 12, Johnson has been targeted on 17% of his coverage snaps (67th percentile among Week 12 starting cornerbacks) and has forked over a catch rate of 73% (71st percentile) when targeted. Even his 1.3 yards per coverage snap allowed (68th percentile) isn’t that impressive, considering the routes he covers are often shorter and he has help from linebackers and box safeties in recovering from allowed catches.
Johnson should have his hands full trying to cover the prolific St. Brown in Week 12, and St. Brown should have his hands full, as well -- of catches.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Asante Samuel Jr. – Guess who’s back in the column? That’s right! You can’t keep a ridiculously talented receiver on the back bench of options for too long -- in our case, the one week I took off last week. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a weekly star, seeing at least 12 targets in all but one game since his return to the field while earning the second-highest team target share in the NFL across that span. Despite seeing just five looks in Week 9, Hopkins still hasn’t put up fewer than 13.6 PPR points this year. That’s what fantasy stardom looks like.
Hop’s underlying numbers more than back up this high-end production, too. Coming into Week 12, he has a 29% target rate (97th percentile), backed up by a 78% catch rate (86th percentile). As if you needed any more attestation to his prowess, Hopkins has earned 2.4 yards per route run (88th percentile) this season, as well. High volume, high reliability, and high production: the fantasy trifecta.
This week, he will face Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. While the name of this second-year defender might strike fear into your lineups, the reality is a little different. Quarterbacks have not been averse to throwing Samuel’s way, with Samuel earning him a 20% target rate (87th percentile), though he has been better at defending the catch point; he allows a 60% catch rate (27th percentile). All of this has culminated in a 1.4 yards per coverage snap allowed (75th percentile), a well above-average mark for us to target in fantasy.
With starting quarterback Kyler Murray expected back this week and a prime cornerback matchup lined up for him, Hopkins is one of the easiest Lock candidates on the slate.
Four Good Stocks
Garrett Wilson vs. Kyler Gordon – The New York Jets-Chicago Bears contest in Week 12 features a rookie-on-rookie matchup that is likely to end pretty well for us. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson will likely spend at least 20 snaps in the slot covered by cornerback Kyler Gordon. Gordon is our easiest defender on the slate, allowing 87th-percentile marks across the board. Wilson has the added hurdle of bad quarterback play but is drawing a 75th-percentile target rate and 64th-percentile yards per route run. He’s a strong upside option.
D.K. Metcalf vs. Sam Webb – Any time you can start an elite wide receiver against an undrafted rookie cornerback, you have to do it. That’s what we get this week in a high-flying matchup between D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Sam Webb. Webb has covered just 80 routes in his debut season, but he’s allowing a 99th-percentile target rate and 98th-percentile yards per cover snap. Metcalf is drawing a 90th-percentile target rate and 71st- percentile yards per route run rate. All systems go.
Jakobi Meyers vs. Chandon Sullivan – You can’t always depend on the volume of a New England Patriots passing attack, but wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is at least putting up the peripheral numbers to demand a closer look in deep formats. The Pats’ slot man has rates in the 75th percentile or higher across the board coming into Week 12, and he faces Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chandon Sullivan. “Sully,” as no one calls him, allows a 93rd-percentile catch rate (dangerously bad for a slot cornerback) and 86th-percentile yards per coverage snap. Meyers has sneaky upside against this bad Vikings secondary.
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Derion Kendrick – Normally, I don’t like recommending a wide receiver when his team is favored by more than two touchdowns. Positive game script doesn’t always correlate well to receiving fantasy success. In this case, however, JuJu Smith-Schuster -- assuming he returns to the lineup this week -- is the possession receiver for Kansas City and should continue to rack up catches to move the chains in Week 12. He’s a reliable option, earning an 84th-percentile catch rate and 72nd-percentile yards per route run. When he lines up outside against the Los Angeles Rams, he’ll likely see cornerback Derion Kendrick, who allows a 95th-percentile target rate and 95th-percentile yards per coverage snap.
Two Smoking Craters
A.J. Green vs. Michael Davis – Despite the bevy of injuries plaguing the Cardinals’ wide receiver room, A.J. Green's 10-point Week 11 performance shouldn’t be seen as a sign of things to come. The 34-year-old veteran is simply not what he used to be, and he served more as a security blanket for backup passer Colt McCoy last week than a dynamic weapon. With Murray likely to return in Week 12, we should expect Green to hew closer to his season-long marks of a 17th-percentile target rate, 4th-percentile catch rate, and 1st-percentile yards per route run.
Making things tougher for him, Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis is no pushover. He allows a 42nd-percentile catch rate and 38th-percentile yards per coverage snap to his assignments. In addition, Davis’ gangly 6-foot-4 frame carries the necessary size to keep big receivers like Green in check if they don’t have another tool to fall back on; Green doesn’t.
Shi Smith vs. Essang Bassey – Don’t trust Carolina Panthers wide receivers this year. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. Former sixth-rounder Shi Smith has seen more than three targets in a game just three times this year, and -- while one of those was last week -- Smith’s production rates all live in the seventh percentile or worse coming into Week 12.
Even tougher, he will be dealing with his third starting quarterback of the season in Week 12, not to mention Denver Broncos slot corner Essang Bassey. Bassey is by far our most difficult matchup of the week, albeit with a small sample size: he allows a 3rd-percentile target rate, 11th-percentile catch rate, and 4th-percentile yards per coverage snap. At the very least, wait a week to see what the Panthers’ passing game looks like helmed by Sam Darnold before trotting out tertiary options like Smith in your fantasy lineups.