10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 1
People always say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
They say that breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day and fuels you up for whatever adventures the day has in store.
I’m reminded of the scene in Fargo where Sheriff Marge Gunderson gets up early in the morning for patrol, and her half-awake husband mutters, “I’ll fix ya some eggs. You gotta have a breakfast, Margie.”
Week 1 is the breakfast of the NFL season. It sets the tone for the rest of your fantasy year. The easiest way to get the right start to your 2016 NFL season is to figure out the best matchups for your players. Everyone says “start your studs,” but in some cases, finding out which wide receiver has an easy matchup versus a lackluster cornerback can mean the fantasy difference between a perfectly executed Belgian waffle of a lineup and runny eggs and soggy toast.
Let’s get our 2016 mornings started right: which wide receivers have (pan)cake cornerback matchups in Week 1?
Five Lineup Locks
Eric Decker vs. Darqueze Dennard -- For a second-year player, Darqueze Dennard acquitted himself quite well last year. In 2015, he covered just 135 routes, but knocked down 3 passes and picked 1 off. The Cincinnati Bengals like to bring their cornerbacks along slowly, and Dennard should theoretically take a step forward in 2016. However, Eric Decker is a possession receiver monster for the New York Jets. Any time the Jets get into the red zone, there is a legitimate chance he will score. Decker also has a four-inch height advantage on his cover man this week, and Dennard let up a whopping 0.46 fantasy points per route last season (per Pro Football Focus). That’s the most among Week 1 starting corners. Don’t fear Cincy’s new number-one this week.
Jordan Matthews vs. Jamar Taylor -- I’m going to make the bold call now that Jamar Taylor (and, really, the entire Cleveland Browns’ secondary) will be fixtures in this weekly column. When the Browns allowed halfway-decent slot corners like Buster Skrine and K'Waun Williams to walk away, we knew it was going to get bad. Taylor was brought in this offseason after busting with the Miami Dolphins. In 2015, he was targeted on just 18 percent of his routes but gave up 0.40 fantasy points per route. The Philadelphia Eagles will rely on a short passing game, and Jordan Matthews will see a lot of work. With Taylor on him, he’ll earn plenty of value too.
Jordy Nelson vs. Davon House -- The most underrated narrative of the Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars’ Week 1 matchup is Davon House’s homecoming. House was a depth cornerback who Green Bay refused to pay a hefty sum of money last offseason. Jacksonville obliged him, however, and he repaid them by getting burned left and right. House gave up 0.34 fantasy points per route covered last year -- the most of any Jaguars’ cornerback. Jordy Nelson couldn’t ask for an easier matchup in his first game back since 2014.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Kevin Johnson -- Another elite receiver has an excellent unveiling planned for Week 1, and that’s Alshon Jeffery, returning from a myriad of injuries that shelved him last season. His opponent, Houston Texans sophomore Kevin Johnson, gave up the 17th-most fantasy points per route in 2015. Add in that Jeffery dwarfs the 5’11” Johnson, and that star Texans’ cornerback Kareem Jackson is back, and the Chicago Bears will line up Jeffery on Johnson all day.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Tracy Porter -- I’ve heard some folks are worried about DeAndre Hopkins’ Week 1 fantasy value based on game script, that the Texans will go up big early and let running back Lamar Miller salt away the clock. Based on his matchup with Bears’ cornerback Tracy Porter, I’m not sure I care about the late-game with Hopkins; he could score two touchdowns in the first half on this lackluster cornerback group. Porter is coming off a concussion this preseason, not to mention a 2015 season where he gave up 0.33 fantasy points per route covered. Hopkins is a dominant option this week.
Five Good Stocks
Charles Johnson vs. Perrish Cox -- Yes, there is the the Shaun Hill/Sam Bradford effect in play here, but Charles Johnson is a low-cost option in a game against a still-porous Tennessee Titans’ secondary. Perrish Cox didn't see too much action in 2015, but that’s because there was nobody bookending him on the other side. When he was targeted, he gave up 2.13 fantasy points per target.
Anquan Boldin vs. Darius Butler -- With premier cover corner Vontae Davis out for the Indianapolis Colts, everyone in the Detroit Lions’ receiving corps gets a bump up. This could be a shootout, and with the Lions adding more hurry-up, slot starter Anquan Boldin figures to benefit from the volume. Darius Butler allowed graded out as lackluster by any measure last year, and the Colts ranked 20th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in 2015. Losing Davis sure won't help.
Robert Woods vs. Jerraud Powers -- This is a little more of a hunch play than any others. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Woods only produced 8.7 fantasy points per 100 snaps in 2015, but Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jerraud Powers allowed a 0.36 fantasy points per route covered and 1.89 fantasy points per target. With Sammy Watkins blanketed by Jimmy Smith, quarterback Tyrod Taylor could look elsewhere, and Woods is one candidate to help ease the pressure.
Brandon LaFell vs. Marcus Williams -- Size advantage? Check. Cincinnati Bengals’ number-two receiver with a quality quarterback? Check. Cornerback who allowed 0.36 fantasy points per route covered while being targeted 22 percent of the time? Check. The only concern with wide receiver Brandon LaFell this week is his injury and the drops that plagued him in 2015. Otherwise, Jets’ cornerback Marcus Williams should be toast.
Willie Snead vs. D.J. Hayden -- This game is going to be a shootout between two top-tier offenses, and if nothing else, the New Orleans Saints could go down because of a bad defense. Wide receiver Willie Snead should still be the number-two passing option in this offense, and he’ll get matched up on Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden, who allowed 1.63 fantasy points per target last season. David Amerson and Sean Smith should play keep-away pretty well with the other Saints’ receivers, so Snead could feast.
Two Smoking Craters
This is a new section of this article I will be doing every week, essentially listing two wide receivers in horrible matchups that you should avoid.
Julian Edelman vs. Patrick Peterson -- Julian Edelman is still not full-speed after his foot injury, and Patrick Peterson stifled opposing receivers each and every week, mainly because opposing offenses avoided him. The Arizona Cardinals graded out as the eighth-best passing offense last year according to our metrics, too. Good luck, Jimmy Garoppolo.
Vincent Jackson vs. Desmond Trufant -- While he is not the lock-down corner Peterson is, Desmond Trufant is still very impressive. He’ll likely draw Vincent Jackson this week, and -- despite Jackson’s massive size -- shut him down. Trufant allowed just 0.18 fantasy points per route covered and scared opposing quarterbacks into targeting him on just 14 percent of his routes.