6 Wide Receivers with Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 3

Emmanuel Sanders draws a tasty matchup against Ravens' slot corner Tavon Young. What other pairings are worth attacking this week?

I love my day job.

Even when it rains, when I’m exhausted, or when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I know that going to my new job is going to feel good, rewarding, and at the end of the day I’ll know that I did something meaningful. Not everyone can say that, but I do feel very lucky to be among those who do. Being able to feel successful in the face of failure is important; it’s about finding the right process even when the product is a mess.

In this column weekly, we try to help you sift through the process of your wide receiver start-sits by helping with their cornerback matchups. When you begin to consider additional elements, you can refine your process and find the best players to play in a given week. Things aren’t always going to be perfect, but when you make decisions with well thought out logic, you’re likely to feel a lot happier at the end of the day.

To keep that fantasy smile on your face, we talk about some wide receivers with affable cornerback matchups in Week 3 below. Which ones are they?


One of the things I try to do is reflect on my process and focus on the successes and fix the failures, so that I can give you all the best fantasy football advice possible. 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 Crater is a hit as well.

Lineup Locks: Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, and Demaryius Thomas. Only Hopkins surpassed our benchmark. Allen still saw eight targets and caught six for 68 yards, but his team got a big lead early and didn’t need to push the ball downfield with the pass. Thomas doubled the targets of his next-highest teammate but caught just five of the short tosses for a disappointing 18 yards receiving.

Good Stocks: Nelson Agholor, Mohamed Sanu, and Allen Robinson. Only Sanu failed to reach our points threshold for this category. Agholor’s target share remained dominant, and finally the points came with it, and Robinson had a similarly heavy target share (14). Sanu saw half the targets that rookie Calvin Ridley did (five targets and caught one for a score); we simply expected the second receiver role to remain Sanu’s longer.

Smoking Craters: Chad Williams/Christian Kirk, and Geronimo Allison. Williams and Kirk combined for 6.7 points, so we’re calling them a hit. Allison, however, had a solid day and looks to be his team’s primary field-stretching deep threat.

2018 Hit Rates –
Locks: 3-of-6 (50.0%)
Stocks: 3-of-6 (50.0%)
Smoking Craters: 3-of-4 (75.0%)

Three Lineup Locks

Emmanuel Sanders vs. Tavon Young – Three things in life are always true: death, taxes, and the Denver BroncosEmmanuel Sanders beasting in the slot. Per, Sanders has run 75 percent of his routes from the slot this season, which usually leads to short routes and needing to fight with defenders over the middle for passes. Not so, says Manny-San: he has the fourth-most yards of separation from his coverage man at the time his targets arrive and the fifth-most yards per target, despite the 95th-highest average amount of cushion the defender gives him on a play, and an average target distance that ranks outside the top-30 receivers.

But this is about cornerback matchups, right? Baltimore Ravens slot corner Tavon Young will remain a starter for two more weeks with Jimmy Smith suspended, and he got positively smushed last week, giving up six catches on six targets for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Yikes. Young’s 1.60 fantasy points per target allowed ranks just 42nd among corners, but he also gets targeted on nearly 25 percent of his routes defended – a sign that teams realize he’s the weak point in this secondary. In Week 3, Young is trending down, Sanders is way, way up.

Mike Evans vs. Joe Haden – “Never again,” a friend of mine said this year. “Never again will I get suckered into drafting Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans after that atrocious 2017 season.” Little did he know that all Evans needed to get back on track was a little FitzMagic and some tasty cornerback matchups in the early goings, like he has this week against the Pittsburgh SteelersJoe Haden.

Haden isn’t an absolute pushover, by any means, but he’s certainly no longer the lockdown cornerback who might have been the premier shadow corner of his time if not for one Mr. Darrelle Revis. This year teams are avoiding him, throwing his way just 15 percent of the time (15th-least). That number should increase, though, when we look at what happens when he is thrown at: 67 percent catch rate, 11.3 yards per target, and 1.80 fantasy points per target allowed. Despite Haden sticking to his assignments like glue (lowest average yards of separation per target), Evans should be able to out-muscle him (11th-best contested catch rate) and break Week 3 wide open.

Jamison Crowder vs. Jaire Alexander – I don’t love putting non-explosive slot receivers in this certain of a category for recommendations, but Washington's Jamison Crowder feels like a hard-to-miss option this week when facing Green Bay Packers slot corner Jaire Alexander.

Alexander has made some big plays already in his brief NFL career thus far, but the fact of the matter is that he is having some issues with consistency in keeping receivers out of the game, allowing 2.00 fantasy points per target (62nd-fewest) and an 83.3 percent catch rate on an average of 9 targets per game. With that average of nearly 18.0 fantasy points per game allowed to his coverage assignments, I fully expect Washington to attack Alexander in this contest. That means a big day for Crowder.

Three Good Stocks

JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Ryan Smith/M.J. Stewart – JuJu Smith-Schuster has been cementing his status as a true receiving asset in the NFL after his incredible rookie season. Averaging the seventh-most fantasy points per game among receivers, “JuJu on the Beat” will likely continue the fantasy onslaught in Week 3 against one of Ryan Smith or M.J. Stewart of the Buccaneers.

Whichever one he gets will be an excellent sight to see: if Brent Grimes returns from injury for Week 3, Smith (allowing 1.50 fantasy points per target and a 67 percent catch rate) will move to the slot and likely allow a solid day to JuJu. If Grimes remains out, M.J. Stewart (allowing 2.70 fantasy points per target and a 92 percent catch rate) will remain the slot corner and likely gift him a big one.

Adam Thielen vs. Phillip Gaines – The Minnesota Vikings are looking for Adam Thielen to continue his dominance as well, and Phillip Gaines presents an excellent opportunity. Thielen runs over 70 percent of his routes from the slot, where the Buffalo Bills still haven’t found a steady presence. Gaines should cycle in there, and while he’s only been targeted the 18th-fewest among cornerbacks and allowed just a 50 percent catch rate, he’s giving up a whopping 2.30 fantasy points per target thanks to a ridiculous 15.7 yards per reception allowed.

Golden Tate vs. Jonathan Jones – I’ve been very off of Detroit Lions slot receiver/breakfast cereal Golden Tate in 2018, but Week 3 looks like his time to shine against New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones. Jones is targeted a strong 21 percent of his routes defended, and despite limiting his assignments to a 50 percent catch rate, he’s giving up 2.00 fantasy points per target. Despite working mainly in the slot, he’s allowed 17.8 yards per reception this year. Tate is still seeing a target share of 26.9 percent – 15th-highest in the league – and should wreck Jones this week, especially considering Kenny Golladay's challenge of facing top Pats corner Stephon Gilmore.

Two Smoking Craters

Mike Williams vs. Marcus Peters – I know, we’re all very excited about the continued blossoming of Los Angeles Chargers receiver Mike Williams, but allow me to throw a little cold water on his coronation this week. Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters continues to be the boogeyman of this section, due to his limiting receivers to the absolute lowest rate of fantasy points per target among cornerbacks this season, and teams’ aversion to throwing his way (12th-least). Peters doesn’t tend to work much in the slot and therefore might not see much of Keenan Allen, so we could see him blanket the next-biggest threat – Williams – for much of Week 3.

Kenny Stills vs. Rashaan Melvin – Rashaan Melvin has been surprisingly competent in the defensive backfield for this ailing Oakland Raiders defense, and the veteran is the 12th-stingiest coverage man in terms of fantasy points per target allowed. He is holding receivers to just a 40 percent catch rate (eighth-best), and leads the league in passes defended. This could present a problem for Miami Dolphins’ deep threat Kenny Stills, who will face a tough time on contested passes this week. Stills’ one hope is to outrun the 29-year-old Melvin and hope to put a big play on him.

Week 3 Shadow Situations: Kenny Golladay (DET) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE); Marvin Jones (DET) vs. Jason McCourty (NE); Golden Tate (JAX) vs. Jonathan Jones (NE); Julio Jones (ATL) vs. Marshon Lattimore (NO); Kelvin Benjamin (BUF) vs. Xavier Rhodes (MIN); Demaryius Thomas (DEN) vs. Brandon Carr (BAL); A.J. Green (CIN) vs. James Bradberry (CAR).