10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 16
I am one of the least picky eaters in the world.
No matter what kind of food it is, no matter the culture it comes from, even if it looks unusual compared to my daily meals, I will always have what my parents called a “no-thank-you” bite. When I was a kid, I was pretty picky and didn’t want to try new things. My folks made a rule that if there was something on my plate that I thought I wouldn’t like, I had to at least have one “no-thank-you” bite of it to see.
Most of the time, it was pretty darn good, and I would have a second helping.
Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do the uncomfortable when something important is on the line. For me, that was growing up to have a broad palate. In fantasy football, it could mean the difference between “starting your studs” in a tough matchup and losing the championship or taking a few calculated risks and going home with the glory. In this column, I always want you to go home with a doggie bag of glory in hand.
So, which cornerback matchups will be sweet and savory for your fantasy wide receivers in Week 16?
Five Lineup Locks
Cole Beasley vs. Asa Jackson -- The Dallas Cowboys don’t have reason to keep their foot on the pedal long in Week 16; they’ve pretty much locked up the first seed in the NFC and could go into cruise control in this game. However, even if his day is short, slot receiver Cole Beasley should have enough time to do damage against Detroit Lions cornerback Asa Jackson. Jackson has only played coverage on 37 snaps this season, but -- per Pro Football Focus -- has been targeted on 22 percent of those and is giving up the sixth-most fantasy points per target. The Lions are third-worst in the league by numberFire’s schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, so Beasley has at least a solid Week 16 floor.
Dontrelle Inman vs. Tramon Williams -- Wide receivers tend to earn fewer fantasy points when their team is ahead than when they’re trailing. This “positive” game script is what we should expect this week when the San Diego Chargers take on the Cleveland Browns. Still, I like San Diego wideout Dontrelle Inman, who (according to the Rotoviz Game Splits app) has seen just 0.2 fewer targets per game in positive game scripts since becoming a starting wide receiver. On top of a good floor, Browns cornerback Tramon Williams offers a big ceiling; he has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per target among Week 16 starting cornerbacks, and Cleveland’s defense as a whole is league-worst by numberFire’s metrics.
Antonio Brown vs. Shareece Wright -- If you have Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in a fantasy league, you’re starting him in the championships -- period. However, his matchup against Baltimore Ravens cornerback Shareece Wright gives even more reason for glee this week. Wright has given up the 13th-most fantasy points per target this week among cornerbacks, while being targeted at a 19 percent rate. Brown sees a target on 27 percent of his routes run, so this should be a banner day for him.
Julian Edelman vs. Juston Burris -- I know there are concerns about the New England Patriots also packing it in against the New York Jets in Week 16, but head coach Bill Belichick likes winning too much for that to happen. Also, like Beasley (not a qualifier I often use), slot receiver Julian Edelman could do enough damage in half a game to be a quality fantasy start here thanks to Jets slot cornerback Juston Burris. Burris, an injury fill-in this season, has given up the 15th-most fantasy points per target and is part of a second-worst secondary by Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. With Edelman being targeted on a whopping 25 percent of the routes he runs, there’s no reason to bench him in a must-win fantasy week.
Cameron Meredith vs. Kendall Fuller -- The Chicago Bears’ passing attack gets another good matchup this week as Washington ranks eighth-worst among secondaries in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Slot cornerback Kendall Fuller is giving up the 19th-most fantasy points per target. Cameron Meredith should be the big beneficiary of that value, as he’s seen 21 targets for 176 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks; that won’t slow down here. As a bonus, Josh Norman should be on Alshon Jeffery, forcing Matt Barkley to look elsewhere.
Five Good Stocks
Doug Baldwin vs. Tyrann Mathieu -- This matchup is down here, not because it doesn’t appear interesting, but because as Arizona Cardinals slot cornerback Tyrann Mathieu gets healthier, he’ll get back to his usual incredible self. Right now, he’s still banged up and allowed the New Orleans Saints to score all around him in Week 15. This week, Seattle Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin gets to face the cornerback allowing the third-most fantasy points per target.
Tavon Austin vs. Keith Reaser -- The Los Angeles Rams have a lackluster passing offense this year, which is what drops Tavon Austin down. He’s scored over 10 fantasy points in PPR formats in two of the past three weeks, but he had a dud in Week 15. This could be the matchup to get both him and quarterback Jared Goff on track, though, as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Keith Reaser (an injury replacement for Jimmie Ward) is offering up the fourth-most fantasy points per target. The Niners’ secondary is fifth-lowest by numberFire’s metrics.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers -- If Barkley and the Bears can go big against the Green Bay Packers, so can the Minnesota Vikings. While Cordarrelle Patterson is always a boom-or-bust type of wide receiver, he draws cornerback Damarious Randall, who is giving up the 10th-most fantasy points per target. In the slot, Stefon Diggs gets Quinten Rollins, the 14th-most lenient cornerback in Week 16. Even Adam Thielen has an above-average matchup with Ladarius Gunter (37th-highest). The Packers’ secondary is the 11th-worst by our metrics.
Corey Coleman vs. Trevor Williams -- I don’t trust the Browns’ offense with Robert Griffin III at the helm, but in a game with a negative game script, wide receiver Corey Coleman could be a value. He also gets Chargers’ cornerback Trevor Williams as his cover man, who is allowing the 12th-most fantasy points per target. Volume and quality are on his side.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Jeremy Lane -- The Cardinals’ offense has fallen apart, but possession receiver Larry Fitzgerald is still a stable fantasy value. This week, he faces Seahawks’ slot corner Jeremy Lane, the 22nd-most lenient cornerback in fantasy points per target. This is a low-ceiling endeavor, but Fitz is a quality flex option for your championship week.
Two Smoking Craters
Jeremy Maclin vs. Aqib Talib -- Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is back from his debilitating groin injury, and returned to 82 yards on 8 targets in Week 15. That’s all going away when he faces Denver Broncos shadow cornerback Aqib Talib in Week 16. Talib is giving up the second-fewest fantasy points per target among Week 16 starters. Denver is the best secondary -- by a country miles -- per schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
A.J. Green vs. A.J. Bouye -- The Houston Texans’ defense has really stepped up in the wake of offensive play on offense. Since cornerback Kevin Johnson's injury, A.J. Bouye has become a very sneaky shutdown cornerback. Bouye is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points among Week 16 starters. Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green is returning from a major hamstring injury, and he will be playing at less than 100 percent against a good secondary. As a team, Houston ranks sixth-best by numberFire’s defensive metrics.