Fantasy Football: 4 Receivers Who Have Tough Individual Matchups This Season
Fantasy football has evolved year after year, leaving in the dust those who have not adapted to all the new information.
One of the toughest parts of in-season fantasy management is making start/sit decisions, and when it comes to receivers, one major aspect to consider is understanding your guy's individual matchup against the opposing cornerback.
Some teams utilize their top cornerback in shadow coverage, and other defenses have their cornerbacks play specific sides of the field, opening up advantages to wide receivers who move around the formation pre-snap.
There's a bevy of places to get receiver-corner matchup information during the year. Not only does our JJ Zachariason have a start/sit piece each week, Mike Clay of ESPN does an exceptional job of tweeting out weekly matchups, and Pro Football Focus maintains all of their cornerback grades through their film-watching system. Information regarding where the defensive backs and receivers line up pre-snap is also charted by numerous sites in the industry.
Being a team's number-one wideout comes at the cost of facing gameplans focused on slowing you down, and it also means you'll likely be going up against the opposing team's toughest cover corner.
Last season, we saw Dez Bryant fall victim to -- among other things -- a ridiculously tough slate of individual matchups . His volume was there with 132 targets, but the success was not with a 52.3% catch rate and 838 receiving yards.
While anyone's schedule could become easier due to injuries and it's impossible to predict weekly gameplans in July, let's look at four wideouts who, as of now, appear to have a string of tough individual matchups this season.
Adams has had the luxury of playing with Jordy Nelson in years past, allowing him to, for the most part, avoid top cornerbacks. That will not be the case this season.
Looking at the Green Bay Packers' schedule, Adams is set to have at least six games in which he will go up against a shadow cornerback. (The second matchup with Darius Slay comes in Week 17, which isn't relevant for fantasy.) The table below shows the shadow corners Adams is expected to face along with the PPR points per game they allowed last season.
|Corner||PPR Points Against Per Game|
Based on the table above, Adams will face five different shadow corners, and each of the them gave up fewer than 8.0 PPR points per game on average.
The rest of Adams' schedule doesn't get a whole lot better, either. He will have to deal with five more weeks in which the opposing team has a defensive back that graded in the 75th percentile, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system.
Some of those showdowns will come against: Tre'Davious White, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and Desmond Trufant. And if Richard Sherman can bounce back from an injury and Josh Norman can rebound from a poor season, Adams is in for a tremendously tough schedule.
Sifting through Adams schedule, there are only two clear weeks in which he doesn't face any stiff competition -- Week 10 against the Miami Dolphins and Week 11 on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
While Adams finds himself in an unbelievable situation as Aaron Rodgers number-one guy and Rodgers is more than capable of shredding any defense, Adams is going up against a pretty tough gauntlet this season. At the least, it's reason for pause before taking Adams at his current average draft position (ADP) in PPR formats, which is 2.07, per Fantasy Football Calculator.
Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins
Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins lead an explosive group of wide receivers that the Kansas City Chiefs have on their roster. The problem for those two heading into this year is that they play in the AFC West.
Being a part of that division means they will have four games in which they will have to go up against the dynamic cornerback duos of the Los Angeles Chargers (Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett) and Denver Broncos (Chris Harris and Bradley Roby).
The Chiefs receivers also get to see the stud cornerback duos of the Jacksonville Jaguars (Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye) and Los Angeles Rams (Peters and Talib). That right there is six brutally tough matchups for both Hill and Watkins to get through. Between those four teams, they all fall within Mike Clay's top nine cornerback unit grades.
Last season, the Chargers and Jags allowed weekly WR3 performances, on average, to opposing top receivers. We left out the Broncos and Rams due to key personnel changes from 2017.
|Defense||Weekly Fantasy Finish for WR1s|
While we don't know specifically who will run as the Chiefs' top wideout, we do know they have 10 games on the schedule in which the opposing team has at least one cornerback that was graded in the top 20 out of 121 qualified in Pro Football Focus' grading system.
Hill and Watkins will collectively face stiff competition throughout the 2018 season.
In 2015 and 2016, Amari Cooper had back-to-back fantastic seasons in which he topped 1,000 receiving yards and had at least 5 touchdowns.
Last year, we saw the Oakland Raiders' offense fall flat, and Cooper's numbers left fantasy owners scratching their heads. He finished the season with nine games in which he totaled less than 50 receiving yards.
Cooper struggled when he faced shadow cornerbacks in 2017. According to Pro Football Focus, Cooper had five games last season against shadow coverage, and in those outings, he posted a measly 52.6% catch rate, 1 touchdown and 4.7 PPR points per game. Yikes.
He heads into the 2018 season with an ADP of 40, making him the 17th wide receiver off the board.
Due to sharing a division, the Raiders' schedule is very similar to the Chiefs' slate we just covered. Cooper is scheduled to have six games in which he faces a cornerback that placed in the top 15 of the last season's Pro Football Focus cornerback grades.
Cooper will see the stout defensive back duos of Rams, Broncos (twice) and Chargers (twice) as well as standalone tough cornerbacks matchups with Patrick Peterson, Jimmy Smith, William Jackson III and Richard Sherman.
The difficult schedule could cause Cooper to once again post underwhelming numbers.