10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
Fall is a beautiful season.
That crispness of the air has returned, just enough to ask you to consider a sweatshirt in the Upper Midwest. We are at the point of the year where the leaves on the trees have started to dip themselves into paint buckets, just before they splatter the neighborhood sidewalks with color. I love the fall, the season for pumpkins and porters and potpie dinners.
It’s also the time of the year where the beginning of school crashes headlong into NFL kickoff. That creates a lot of homework to manage all at once.
Managing your fantasy football teams shouldn’t feel like “work”, though. Sure, you have to put in the time to set a lineup and manage your squad, and to really do it right, you have to do some research on who the best options each week are, but it should never feel like a chore. With your busy schedule getting busier this fall, that’s why we’re here: to help you manage your wide receiver corps and find the best matchups to play them in each week in fantasy football. We look at which matchups on cornerbacks are most inviting, and exploit them.
So, which matchups are as easy as pumpkin pie for your wide receivers in Week 2?
Five Lineup Locks
Julio Jones vs. Sean Smith -- This is about as easy a matchup as you can get in Week 2. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones should get a walk in the park against Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith, who got positively torched by Brandin Cooks last week. Smith came into the season giving up 1.65 fantasy points per target (per Pro Football Focus), and last week he gave up 3.93 (second-highest among starters), being targeted 30 percent of his coverage routes. With the target market share that Jones commands, the Raiders could bench Smith at halftime again and Jones still might be able to match Cooks’ Week 1 numbers.
DeSean Jackson vs. Brandon Carr -- Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr has been overrated since he entered the league, never developing into the elite cornerback he was drafted to be. Last week, that was on full display, as Carr allowed 2.35 fantasy points per target (15th-highest) on the eight times he was targeted against the New York Giants. Odell Beckham and Shane Vereen combined for seven of those leftward targets, and had a total 0.74 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target on Carr’s side. Washington's DeSean Jackson should have little trouble replicating their success, as he generated 16 fantasy points on nine targets in Week 1. The only issue for Jackson may be volume; he was targeted just 22 percent of the time last week.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Jalen Mills -- Paint-by-numbers prognosticating is not always a smart idea. When the Chicago Bears put one of the best wide receivers in the league against a seventh-round rookie cornerback, though, you are more than welcome to giggle to yourself while you slot Alshon Jeffery into your lineup. Jeffery’s 2.11 fantasy points per target are 25th among starting wide receivers after Week 1, and he gets to pick apart Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, who is a severe downgrade from Jeffery’s first-week matchup. Mills only covered seven routes last week, but was targeted twice on them; with starter Leodis McKelvin out with an injury, Mills should be heavily tested by quarterback Jay Cutler. The Eagles allowed just a -0.26 Passing NEP per drop back to their opponents in Week 1, but considering it was the lowly Cleveland Browns, we can't put too much stock into that.
Odell Beckham vs. Ken Crawley -- The New York Giants toyed with Dallas last week in the passing game, and Odell Beckham was, of course, one of the biggest beneficiaries. Beckham saw targets on 31 percent of his routes, and generated a strong 17 points on his 10 targets. It often matters so little who is lined up opposite Beckham -- he dominates regardless -- but in Week 2, he gets the New Orleans Saints’ decimated secondary and undrafted rookie Ken Crawley. Crawley was pressed into action in the wake of top cover corner Delvin Breaux's injury, and subsequently allowed 21 fantasy points on 10 targets in Week 1, being targeted 32 percent of the time. Crawley’s size is perhaps the only advantage he has in this matchup.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Vernon Hargreaves III -- Rookies are the name of the game in Week 2, as veteran Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald will tussle with Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie slot man Vernon Hargreaves III. First of all, Fitz has a four-inch height advantage on the Tampa defender, which is a big difference in a possession slot role that demands boxing out in traffic to shield the pass from prying cornerback hands. Second, VH3 was targeted a whopping 10 times in Week 1, allowing 25 fantasy points to Atlanta receivers. Fitzgerald had a minor MCL sprain in Week 1, but as long as he’s healthy and active, he’s a full go in fantasy lineups.
Five Good Stocks
Travis Benjamin vs. Davon House -- The new number-one wideout in the San Diego Chargers’ offense will go up against the vastly-improved Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense in Week 2. Despite Jaguars’ cornerback Davon House only being targeted four times in Week 1, he allowed the fourth-highest points per target among starting Week 2 cornerbacks. Benjamin has never been a volume receiver anyway; all he needs is a few big plays to have a good fantasy day.
Kenny Stills vs. Cyrus Jones -- Compelling wide receiver against a rookie cornerback? Check. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills had some brutal drops in Week 1, but there is an important downfield role that he plays in head coach Adam Gase’s offense. There’s a likelihood that the New England Patriots pummel the Dolphins early and Stills’ big-play potential is needed in the catch-up game. He had just a 0.53 fantasy points per target rate in Week 1, but Cyrus Jones allowed 2.80 -- which one gives first?
John Brown vs. Alterraun Verner -- Another banged-up Cardinal receiver will be covered by a lackluster Buccaneer defender here, as cornerback Alterraun Verner was roasted the worst on a per-target basis in Week 1. Verner gave up 5.20 fantasy points per target. He was only targeted 10 percent of the time last week, but could easily see additional volume this week if Larry Fitzgerald can't go.
Kamar Aiken vs. Tramon Williams -- I’m always going to be interested in starting my wide receivers against the 2016 Browns, and Baltimore Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken is no different. Aiken saw an 18 percent target rate in Week 1 for 1.11 fantasy points per target. Tramon Williams gave up 2.19 fantasy points per target. You do the math; it should be a fantasy free-for-all in the slot.
Donte Moncrief vs. Bradley Roby -- Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby will be a great cornerback someday, and he’s already showing flashes of that now. In Week 1, though, he was targeted at a 25 percent rate and gave up 1.96 fantasy points per target to Kelvin Benjamin. He now has to shut down Indianapolis Colts wideout Donte Moncrief, who picked up 2.69 fantasy points per target. Good luck.
Two Smoking Craters
T.Y. Hilton vs. Chris Harris, Jr. -- I’m excited for this matchup as a viewer of football, as the speed and agility of T.Y. Hilton has no better NFL match than Denver slot man Chris Harris. Harris allowed a surprising 2.09 fantasy points per target in Week 1, but was targeted just four times. Hilton’s typical volume of chances may diminish here, as Harris flashed his interception playmaking ability in Week 1 against the much larger and more physical Carolina Panthers’ receivers. Quarterback Andrew Luck may avoid testing him altogether.
Mike Evans vs. Patrick Peterson -- Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is the worst possible matchup for Bucs receiver Mike Evans, who just found his fantasy feet again in Week 1. Evans has the 12th-highest fantasy points per target through Week 1, with 2.90, but Peterson is typically a shadow corner who was targeted on a terrifyingly-low 8 percent of his routes in Week 1, giving up 1.13 fantasy points per target. When Pat P. is on a receiver, the quarterback tends to concede the matchup to him; don’t expect different here.