10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 4
From when I was 3 until age 18, my family lived in the same west-side bungalow in Milwaukee -- 16 years. When I came to Minnesota for college, though, I essentially moved once a year until I found my current place. I’ve been in one spot again for two and a half years and it feels great, but I’m moving again at the end of October. It’s time to find greener pastures.
Moving can really suck, but when you’ve done it enough, you start to figure out a plan of attack. You know how long it will take you, you know how to clean it up right so you get your deposit back, and you know where to go to find the necessary supplies: boxes, packing tape, friends, and pizza.
In a similar way, the more you look at wide receiver-cornerback matchups in the NFL, the more you begin to understand in what situations your fantasy football pass-catchers will excel and fail. By picking apart shadow situations and the most likely cover men, you will find it easier and quicker to set your fantasy lineups every time. In this column, I am your sweat-stained, coveralls-wearing moving guy, and we’re here to load your lineup with the best wide receivers this week.
So, which cornerback matchups will back the moving truck up to your wide receivers’ fantasy doors in Week 4?
Five Lineup Locks
Emmanuel Sanders vs. Brent Grimes -- Emmanuel Sanders has been a far more impactful contributor than I expected this season, given the relative inexperience of Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian and the tendency of rough quarterbacks to zero in on one or two targets in their offense. Sanders has been his primary receiver, though, and has been a versatile chess piece for Denver. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ cornerback Brent Grimes has been gashed for scores all over this year, giving up Mohamed Sanu's Week 1 touchdown, Larry Fitzgerald's Week 2 score (and almost a second), and even allowing a 19-yard completion to Brian Quick in Week 3. He’s not the top-tier cover cornerback he used to be, and Sanders still has speed in droves to burn him.
Washington Wide Receivers vs. Cleveland Browns -- Fire up all of your Washington receivers here; the Browns are a weekly play for any offensive skill position. Here, DeSean Jackson gets Joe Haden (giving up the 20th-most fantasy points per target among Week 4 starters, per Pro Football Focus), Pierre Garcon draws Jamar Taylor (31st-most points per target), and Jamison Crowder will line up across from Tramon Williams in the slot (eighth-most points per target). Washington is the third-most pass-heavy teams in the league in pass-to-run play call ratio; they won’t go away from the pass in an inviting matchup in Week 4.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Alterraun Verner -- The Bucs’ defense as a whole ranks 24th in numberFire’s schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play metric, which means they are a liability across the board. With primary pass-rusher Robert Ayers injured, too, the Denver Broncos should have plenty of time to get the ball to wideout Demaryius Thomas. His cover man, Alterraun Verner, has given up plenty of value (11th-most points per target) despite seemingly playing well. Thomas and Siemian have their jump-ball mechanics down now, and Thomas has a five-inch height advantage on Verner. Advantage, DT.
Mike Wallace vs. Sean Smith -- Tajae Sharpe was not a good bet in Week 3 as it turned out, but not because the matchup against Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith was any less enticing. Smith is still drawing a target on 23 percent of his coverage snaps and giving up the third-most fantasy points per target. Mike Wallace has been by far the most valuable Baltimore Ravens receiver, is earning the seventh-most points per target among Week 4 starting receivers, and should be able to burn Smith deep the same way Brandin Cooks did in Week 1. Oakland still ranks 30th in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Michael Crabtree vs. Shareece Wright -- Wright has been toasted about as often as Brent Grimes in the red zone, giving up an awfully easy touchdown to Allen Robinson in Week 3, nearly allowing a second, and gifting Corey Coleman two scores in Week 2 (not to mention 104 yards on just five catches). He’s not a good cornerback to have as even a second boundary cornerback, especially when Michael Crabtree is still one of Derek Carr's favorite red zone targets. Wright has given up the 12th-most points per target on a 23 percent target rate. Crabtree should have a big Sunday.
Five Good Stocks
Brandin Cooks vs. Jason Verrett -- Despite his diminutive size, Jason Verrett plays with physicality and power and has had more success shadowing players like A.J. Green and Allen Robinson than Steve Smith or T.Y. Hilton, who are more his size but win with quickness. Given that Brandin Cooks plays with the kind of agility that Verrett himself usually outclasses larger receivers with, this should be a matchup Cooks can win. Hilton put up 174 receiving yards and a score on Verrett last week; it’s not impossible to repeat.
Tyler Lockett vs. Darrelle Revis -- Darrelle Revis is improving his game ever-so-slightly, going from the third-most allowing cornerback after Week 2 to just the seventh-most after Week 3. The game script here isn’t favorable in terms of volume for the Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, but the matchup could lead to one or two huge chunk gains when he separates from Revis (as he will). Revis’s struggles have led the Jets to a 29th-place ranking in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Phillip Dorsett vs. Davon House -- The big question for Phillip Dorsett this week is whether he can get enough volume to be a compelling fantasy play. He’s earned targets on just 10 percent of his routes. If he can draw looks, Davon House has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points among Week 4 starting cornerbacks.
Kevin White vs. Nevin Lawson -- The Detroit Lions’ secondary has produced a worse schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP rate than the New Orleans Saints this year, and Nevin Lawson has contributed to that, allowing the 33rd-most points per target to receivers. Kevin White is seeing the highest target rate on his routes among Chicago Bears’ receivers, so you do the math.
Tyrell Williams vs. Sterling Moore -- Speaking of the paper-thin Saints’ secondary, Sterling Moore is now the de facto top cornerback for the team, and will likely find himself shadowing Tyrell Williams on Sunday. Moore has given up the 34th-most fantasy points per target this year, while Williams is just outside the top-25 in fantasy points per target among Week 4 starters. Add in a six-inch height disparity, and Williams should have a field day with Moore.
Two Smoking Craters
Victor Cruz vs. Terence Newman -- Victor Cruz has earned the most fantasy points per target among New York Giants’ receivers, but has been targeted on just 11 percent of his routes. Terence Newman has been targeted on a low 17 percent of his coverage snaps, and has the second-lowest fantasy points per target allowed. Anyone approaching Newman’s side of the field in Week 4 should be careful.
Tavon Austin vs. Patrick Peterson -- Tavon Austin is no fantasy stalwart, but he is the best receiver on the Los Angeles Rams and receives a sizable target load, making him a PPR dreamboat. Patrick Peterson often shadows outside receivers, but in the Arizona Cardinals’ second meeting with the Rams in 2015, he took on Austin and limited him to one catch on three targets for 24 yards receiving; he should do the same here.