10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 10
I’ve never realized just how great graphic novels are at telling stories.
I’ve read graphic novels before, but until I read Craig Thompson’s autobiographical Blankets -- a powerful personal story about how we find and make unexpected places of comfort in our lives -- I never really realized how the art of a graphic novel helps to add understanding and meaning to the story of the text. Even when the setting of the piece is rural Wisconsin, the visuals of a graphic novel support the story immensely, and sometimes carry it in a way words never could.
When we set our fantasy football lineups, we have to tell ourselves stories about the players and figure out which ones have the most compelling reasons to be started. That’s why we look at cornerback matchups when figuring out which wide receiver to start; it cannot be the only thing that tells our story, but it’s an important part of the picture. Of course a good receiver is much more likely to score well than a lackluster one, but a tough matchup might make that good receiver a lot less enticing and an easy one might make that lackluster one playable. It all depends on the story we find ourselves in for the week.
Which cornerback matchups tell the most interesting tales for your fantasy wide receivers in Week 10?
Five Lineup Locks
Mohamed Sanu vs. Malcolm Jenkins -- It’s easy to dislike the Atlanta Falcons’ Mohamed Sanu for his inconsistency this season, but the much-maligned wideout has seen at least six targets in four of his last five games, with 264 receiving yards and two touchdowns in that span. His cover man is Philadelphia Eagles’ safety/slot corner Malcolm Jenkins, who is allowing the most fantasy points per target among Week 10 starting cornerbacks (per Pro Football Focus). Slot receivers have averaged 51.5 receiving yards and 0.50 touchdowns on 3.50 receptions over the last two games against the Eagles. If the Falcons target Sanu, he could be in for a sizable day, and he is a worthy FLEX starter in Week 10.
Randall Cobb vs. Brice McCain -- Last week, hamstring health was Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb’s major bugaboo, as he didn’t play a snap until the second half of the game. Still, he caught two passes for 14 yards and a score with no setbacks, so it’s reasonable to assume the Cobb will be ready to go this week. He gets a matchup with Tennessee Titans slot cornerback Brice McCain, who is allowing the third-most fantasy points per target to opposing receivers. By our schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play metric, the Titans’ secondary ranks fifth-worst in the league. The Packers should dice them.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Jimmie Ward -- Continuing the trend of safeties playing slot cornerback, San Francisco 49ers’ defensive back Jimmie Ward draws the wily veteran Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10. Fitz has excelled in the slot since moving there, but Ward hasn’t necessarily; he is giving up the 12th-most fantasy points per target to opposing wideouts. The Niners have an ailing pass-rush to boot, and rank 13th-worst in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play coming into the week. Fitzgerald has been targeted on 22 percent of his routes run, and he’ll thrive again here.
Brandon Marshall vs. E.J. Gaines -- The deteriorating state of the New York Jets’ passing offense makes Brandon Marshall seem unattractive, as he’s caught just 48.2 percent of his targets this year (thanks, Ryan Fitzpatrick). Still, he’s seen a target on 24 percent of his routes this year, and gets a chance to beat up on the Los Angeles Rams secondary in Week 10. Cornerback E.J. Gaines gives up six inches and 40 pounds to Marshall, and he’s also given up the 14th-most fantasy points per target while being targeted on 21 percent of his coverage snaps. Marshall may not have a ton of upside, but he has a strong floor.
A.J. Green vs. Eli Apple -- We all know Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is incredible, but the New York Giants’ secondary has improved this year, ranking 12th in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Can he best them and put up his usual production? Our survey says “Yes”. Rookie cornerback Eli Apple should see most of Green’s attention this week, and Apple is giving up the 20th-most fantasy points among Week 10 starters. If the Giants don’t shadow Green with top cover corner Janoris Jenkins, which we don’t expect, Green is in for a cakewalk.
Five Good Stocks
Sammie Coates vs. Anthony Brown -- Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Sammie Coates is the epitome of boom-or-bust: he has three games this year with 75 receiving yards or more, and three with fewer than 5. Still, he makes a compelling target in this matchup with Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown, who is allowing the second-most fantasy points per target among Week 10 starters, while being targeted at a 15 percent clip on coverage snaps. Dallas is no great threat, ranking 16th in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, but the question is whether or not Coates and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can get the deep-ball set up once again.
John Brown vs. Keith Reaser -- The Cardinals have a great matchup in all phases of the offense this week, and John Brown could take advantage too, if he’s finally healthy. Niners’ cornerback Keith Reaser holds the physical edge on Brown, but no one beats Smokey’s short-area quickness, especially when his cover man is heavier. Reaser is allowing the third-most fantasy points per target among cornerbacks in Week 10, and should eat plenty of Brown’s dust.
Adam Thielen vs. Bashaud Breeland -- This is odd company for the former undrafted wide receiver of the Minnesota Vikings, Adam Thielen, but he has been bizarrely consistent on a weekly basis this year. He’s caught at least three passes and surpassed 40 yards receiving in six of his eight games this year, averaging four receptions for 71.8 yards over the last four games. Against Washington's Bashaud Breeland, he should be able to keep his low-volume but steady production; Breeland is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per target, and has been targeted on 17 percent of his coverage snaps. Washington ranks in the bottom half of the league in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Kenny Stills vs. Trevor Williams -- Here’s where we play the “fun with small sample sizes” game: San Diego Chargers cornerback Trevor Williams has covered just 29 routes this year, but has gotten picked on, on a whopping 34 percent of them. That number will obviously drop as he plays more, but the Bolts’ fill-in defender ranks 23rd in fantasy points per target this week. All Miami Dolphins’ deep receiver Kenny Stills needs is one play to make an impact, and Williams could allow enough room for that to happen.
Tyreek Hill vs. Leonard Johnson -- Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill hasn’t really let us down when we’ve recommended him each of the last few weeks, but last week he had to earn bunny points on two rushing attempts to be fantasy-worthy at all. This week, despite Hill’s low target market share on his offense, he could see more work with Jeremy Maclin's absence. Carolina Panthers cornerback Leonard Johnson hasn’t allowed a fantasy point on his 71 coverage snaps (nine targets), but this should be a better test for him than the Los Angeles Rams last week.
Two Smoking Craters
Demaryius Thomas vs. Delvin Breaux -- Speaking of fun with small sample sizes, New Orleans Saints’ top cornerback Delvin Breaux was targeted just once last week in his return to action from a leg injury and didn’t allow a catch. Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is a better test, but a poor Denver passing game and the improving health of Breaux makes this iffy for fantasy, despite the seemingly inviting fourth-worst standing for the Saints in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Allen Robinson vs. A.J. Bouye -- The Houston Texans’ defense has remained stout through the loss of some key players, and reserve cornerback A.J. Bouye is one of the main reasons. Houston ranks fourth-best in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and Bouye is allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per target among cornerbacks covering at least 100 routes. He’s been targeted a ridiculous 23 percent of the time, too; this is no fluke.