6 Wide Receivers with Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
I don’t like this NFL week. At all.
This is the week that, when I wear my Green Bay Packers fan apparel around town, I am going to not just get a typical Minnesotan cold shoulder and judging. No, I will get jeers and trash-talk and needling -- from both my bosses at work and my wife at home -- due to the Packers playing my home state’s beloved Minnesota Vikings
Rivalry weeks in the NFC North are tense, but the context makes it that much tougher to get through.
In many cases, though, context can make things that much more pleasant, especially when those things are your fantasy football lineups. This marks week two of sifting through the wide receiver/cornerback matchups to find you the most productive ones to target.
Before the pressure makes you curl up into a proverbial ball this week, you need to calm yourself with the knowledge of which wide receivers have plus cornerback matchups for Week 2.
One of the things I try to do is reflect on my process, focus on the successes and fix the failures with the goal of giving you all the best fantasy football advice possible. So, each week, we’ll look at our hits and misses.
I consider a PPR fantasy score of 15.0 (the average points of fantasy’s WR12 last season) a hit for my Lineup Locks, and a score of 10.0 (the average points of fantasy’s WR48 last season) a hit for my Good Stocks. A player with 6.0 PPR fantasy points or fewer as a Smoking Craters is a hit, as well.
Last week in this column, we recommended Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and A.J. Green as Lineup Locks, with only Fitzgerald missing our benchmark due to the much-improved Washington defense allowing Arizona to run just 14 offensive plays in the first half -- the lowest such mark for a team’s season debut in at least the last 25 years.
We also nominated Danny Amendola, Cooper Kupp, and Allen Hurns as Good Stocks, and Kupp was the sole receiver to pass our threshold. Amendola split time with the other Miami Dolphins slot receivers in a rotation, and Hurns and the Dallas Cowboys simply got mashed.
2018 Hit Rates
Locks: 2-of-3 (66.7%)
Stocks: 1-of-3 (33.3%)
Smoking Craters: 2-of-2 (100.0%)
Three Lineup Locks
Keenan Allen vs. Taron Johnson – The Los Angeles Chargers constantly fed Keenan Allen, with his 11 targets currently ranking 10th among wide receivers in the league. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a pace of 176 targets, or 17 more than his career-high total from last season. That feeding should continue when he goes toe-to-toe with Buffalo Bills slot cornerback and rookie Taron Johnson.
Per PlayerProfiler.com, Johnson has so far been targeted on more than a third of his routes defended, allowing a 50.0 percent catch rate and just 6.0 yards per reception. Still, he’s allowed a whopping 2.30 fantasy points per target due to giving up a touchdown in Week 1. So far, he has not been burned on his coverages, but the savvy expertise and immense volume of Allen in the slot should be more than enough to discombobulate this over-matched rookie for a second week in a row.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Malcolm Butler – Tennessee Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler was the hero of his former team’s Super Bowl XLIX victory. Since that moment, he has gone from undrafted no-name to lockdown star to essentially being run out of town in Foxborough. His liabilities will be even more magnified against Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this week.
While Butler was only average as a cornerback target in 2017 (5th-lowest average separation on targets, 30th-lowest catch rate allowed, and 47th-lowest fantasy points per target allowed), he has begun to lag a bit so far in 2018. In Week 1, Butler allowed 26.8 yards per reception on a 66.7 percent catch rate to his coverage assignments, forking over a ridiculous 3.50 fantasy points per target. Even though Butler should stay right with Hopkins in this game, Hopkins won on contested catches with the 25th-most among wide receivers last year. Butler is an easy mark for one of the best wideouts in the league.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Gareon Conley – Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas is already bouncing back in a big way in 2018, thanks to the competent quarterbacking ways of Case Keenum. With a top-20 ranking in PPR scoring after Week 1, DT is looking to add to his totals against the division rival Oakland Raiders. It will be Gareon Conley's duty to try to stop Thomas -- a tough assignment indeed.
So far this year, Conley has allowed a 62.5 percent catch rate and 14.8 yards per reception on eight targets, giving up the 46th-most fantasy points per target. While he’s not nearly as leaky of an asset as the other two Locks, Conley’s presence is a huge boon for Thomas. Both should be in for a ton of snaps opposite one another on the field.
Three Good Stocks
Nelson Agholor vs. M.J. Stewart – Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round rookie cornerback M.J. Stewart is getting a big-time chance to start in just his second professional game ever, but he has to take on Philadelphia Eagles slot sensation Nelson Agholor, who was targeted 10 times in the season opener and looks like he’ll be declaring open season on this poor rookie.
Albeit in a small sample size of just 28.8 percent of the Bucs’ defensive snaps so far, Stewart has allowed a catch rate of 100.0 percent and a solid 12.0 yards per reception. This adds up to an appealing 2.20 fantasy points per target allowed by the young slot corner.
Mohamed Sanu vs. Captain Munnerlyn – Carolina Panthers slot cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has a top-tier name to go with his tantalizing heavy target numbers this week for Atlanta Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu. Once upon a time, Munnerlyn was a plucky cornerback who was very good at picking up passes defended and opportunistic interceptions.
Now, however, he’s allowing a catch rate of 83.3 percent and 14.0 yards per reception, which has equaled 2.00 fantasy points per target this season. With Sanu in the slot opposite him, even his moderate 6 targets or so could lead to some reasonable gains. Sanu is a high-floor option in Week 2.
Allen Robinson vs. Shaquill Griffin – The Chicago Bears’ Week 1 target leader, Allen Robinson, started his Chi-Town career well last week, turning in his 7 targets for 4 receptions, and making a solid 61 yards out of that. There’s a good chance he goes even bigger in Week 2, when he faces Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
Griffin is Seattle’s top cornerback right now but remains a relatively unseasoned coverage man. To this point in 2018, Griffin is giving up a decent 57.1 percent catch rate when targeted and a mouth-watering 16.0 yards per reception. His 2.30 fantasy points per target allowed are 65th and make him a good target for Robinson’s first 15-plus point game as a Bear.
Two Smoking Craters
Chad Williams and Christian Kirk vs. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib – The Los Angeles Rams’ outside cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib combined last week to allow just a 50.0 percent catch rate and 12.8 yards per reception -- solid marks, but unspectacular. The really impressive fact is that they were targeted a combined 15.0 percent of their routes defended and actually forced the opposition to pass into the middle of the field away from them.
That means good things for slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, but not so much for young guns Chad Williams and Christian Kirk as they look to jump-start their careers. The Rams’ lockdown duo is allowing just 1.14 fantasy points per target so far.
Geronimo Allison vs. Trae Waynes – You didn’t think we’d get to the end of an article where the lede was about the Packers and Vikings without a matchup from that game, did you? No no no, I have to be honest with myself: wide receiver Geronimo Allison is not in a good spot against Minnesota cornerback Trae Waynes.
Waynes has allowed a catch rate of 66.7 percent so far this season, but he has limited his assignments to 10.5 yards per reception and just 1.40 fantasy points per target (he kept them to a 13th-lowest 1.30 in 2017). Allison could have a decent game if he gets volume, but the ceiling just will not be there against an oppressive Vikings secondary.
Week 2 Shadow Situations: Donte Moncrief (JAX) vs. Eric Rowe (NE); Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. Marshon Lattimore (NO); Dede Westbrook (JAX) vs. Patrick Chung (NE); Keelan Cole (JAX) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE)