10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 3
The world can be dark and horrible. It can be beautiful and wondrous. The world can also be neither of these binary options and instead replace any sort of value judgment you have for it with unbridled absurdity.
This was the world that one of the greatest American playwrights, Edward Albee (who passed away last week), saw. He truly created some of the greatest Absurdist work ever to be put on stage and asked his audiences, actors, and directors explicitly not to accept the way things were at face value but to question them, to inquire, to peer deep into the psyche of our collective consciousness and see what we truly value.
In honor of Albee, I want to implore you all to do two things with your fantasy lineups this week: first, challenge your perceptions of players and don’t just accept the “start your studs” mentality. This is a week with some bad matchups for good players, and it’s okay to second-guess them. Second, allow for some weirdness! The weeks of the NFL never go as planned, so if you believe in a player’s potential, stick with it and be unique. As Albee himself said, “Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”
So, which cornerback matchups should you not fear like Virginia Woolf for your wide receivers in Week 3?
Five Lineup Locks
Tajae Sharpe vs. Sean Smith -- This will be the biggest test of our cornerback theories yet. If Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe can make Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith look as silly as every other wideout over the first two weeks of the season has, I will be recommending you start whoever plays Smith every single week as a true lock, regardless of talent. Smith has given up a league-high 3.78 fantasy points per target while being targeted on 27 percent of his coverage snaps (per Pro Football Focus). Sharpe doesn’t just stick to the left wide receiver spot that Smith “covers,” but David Amerson -- Smith's bookend -- has also struggled to stop production. Oakland has -- by far -- the worst defense in terms of schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this season to-date, at 0.57. Sharpe is a great play this week, especially in DFS, where he’s dirt-cheap.
Jarvis Landry vs. Tramon Williams -- Jarvis Landry and the Miami Dolphins really need a pick-me-up this week, after stalling out hard in the first two weeks of the season. Landry is the only Dolphins receiver scoring close to 2.00 fantasy points per target (he has 1.92), but all of them get a boost this week against the Cleveland Browns. Tramon Williams in particular has gotten torched by opposing receivers for 2.27 fantasy points per target, and the Dolphins have no run game, so the volume will be there too. Landry’s in for a big week.
Antonio Brown vs. Nolan Carroll II -- You’re always starting Antonio Brown, so it’s not like it’s any surprise that he’s in the “Locks” this week. What is sneaky, however, is just how good he could be this week. With a point spread of just 3.5, the Pittsburgh Steelers may not be able to coast out the clock with the run game in Week 3, and Brown should be able to decimate cover man Nolan Carroll. Brown is earning 1.96 fantasy points per target, and Carroll is giving up 2.21, the 13th-most among starters. If the Philadelphia Eagles don’t bring a safety over the top to bracket Brown (which they might), it will be a total fantasy feast for him.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Darrelle Revis -- Darrelle Revis, rinse and repeat. When Marquise Goodwin is torching you for an 84-yard touchdown bomb in Week 2, you know there’s something seriously wrong. Revis obviously used to be one of the premier lockdown cornerbacks in the NFL, but it’s clear at this point that he’s over the hill and needs to be targeted weekly. Jeremy Maclin and the Kansas City Chiefs are his next beneficiaries, and while Maclin moves all over the formation, he’ll likely spend most of his time with Revis against the New York Jets on Sunday.
Mike Evans vs. Coty Sensabaugh -- This is an excellent matchup for Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans to have a bounceback, after he caught just 6 of 18 targets in Week 2. The Los Angeles Rams’ pass defense has been surprisingly good, ranking eighth in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, but not as a result of cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who is almost certain to see Evans lined up across from him this week. Evans has a six-inch height advantage on Sensabaugh (and 50 pounds of weight to boot), and his diminutive cover man is allowing receivers 2.07 fantasy points per target.
Five Good Stocks
Mike Wallace vs. Jacksonville Jaguars -- It really hasn’t mattered where Mike Wallace lines up for the Baltimore Ravens; he’s doing crazy things there regardless. Wallace was perhaps the lowest on my 2016 list of career revival candidates, but he’s catching enormous touchdown bombs left and right from the downfield passing attack of Joe Flacco. This week, it won’t matter if he lines up on Davon House (3.35 fantasy points per target) or Jalen Ramsey (2.63), he should go nuts. Add in that Prince Amukamara -- the Jaguars’ one good cornerback right now -- is banged up, and this is a choice matchup for the young-again Wallace.
Eddie Royal vs. Orlando Scandrick -- Dallas Cowboys’ slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick is dealing with two hamstring strains but still insists he’s going to play in Week 3. I want his opposite number -- Eddie Royal -- in my lineup, as the Chicago Bears’ slot receiver has put up back-to-back 4-catch, 50-yard weeks against healthy, better cornerbacks than Scandrick. The Dallas nickel back has given up the fifth-highest fantasy points per target rate among Week 3 starters.
Eric Decker vs. Phillip Gaines -- You should never doubt Eric Decker’s ability to score touchdowns, but this week is even saucier than usual for the wideout. He’ll draw Phillip Gaines in three-wide sets, who has allowed 1.90 fantasy points per target this season. Decker's a slot guy primarily, and Steven Nelson, who is four inches shorter than Decker is, could be his other victim.
Tavon Austin vs. Vernon Hargreaves -- Vernon Hargreaves is getting some tough growing pains to start his NFL career. Last week, he allowed Larry Fitzgerald 6 catches on 11 targets for 81 yards and a score. While Tavon Austin isn’t nearly as good or physically dominant as Fitz, he draws Hargreaves as well for his matchup in Week 3. VH3 is allowing the fourth-highest fantasy points per target (3.05) among Week 3 starting cornerbacks, while Austin is generating the seventh-lowest fantasy points per target among starting wideouts (0.81). Something’s gotta give.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Dallas Cowboys -- The Bears move Alshon Jeffery all over the field in order to get him the best matchups possible; he’s spent just 47 percent of his routes at the left wide receiver spot. With the Cowboys’ still-average secondary (18th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play), though, there aren’t a lot of bad matchups. Jeffery figures to draw veteran Brandon Carr for most of his coverage, and Carr has allowed 1.70 fantasy points per target. Jeffery should have a good week.
Two Smoking Craters
A.J. Green vs. Aqib Talib -- Not many cornerbacks would be physical matchups for someone as dominant as Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, but Aqib Talib of the Denver Broncos sure is. Talib continues to dominate all receivers, and Denver as a whole ranks third in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Adam Jones -- This matchup is going to be an old-school, smash-mouth runfest, mostly because no one is going to be able to get open on either side. Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas has had diminished opportunity and value in this new-look offense, but cornerback Adam Jones should shut him down almost completely in Week 3. Jones is allowing just 0.84 fantasy points per target. Going into Week 3, Cincinnati ranks 13th in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play as a team.