6 Wide Receivers with Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 5
For those of you that used to be Boy Scouts, you especially know the Scout Motto: “Be Prepared”. I used to don the kerchief and khakis until I realized that I was absolutely not prepared to do a massive service project to achieve a higher rank. I had thought things would be easier than that, and I didn’t want to make the follow-through as a teenager.
Now, over a decade later, I realize the value of expecting the unexpected. You can be the best planner in the world, do tons of research on the situation you’re going into, gather all the materials you’ll need, and still something will come to disrupt it. It happens.
So, rather than simply “Be Prepared”, what I now use as my own motto is “Hope for the best; prepare for the worst”.
On that note, we’ve had some rough misses on wide receiver matchups the past few weeks. Game scripts I didn’t account for, player usage I didn’t research enough, and even injuries I couldn’t have seen have all made things tough for this column. But when those hitches get in the way of the process, the process needs to adapt.
You can also adapt your process and account for matchups when starting your wide receivers in fantasy football and DFS. “Start your studs” is great, but what if the weather shifts? What if the quarterback gets injured?
These are all things we think about as we deliver you 6 wide receivers with well-prepared matchups in Week 5.
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.
Lineup Locks: Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. None of these guys made the mark this week. Game script went against Thomas as his team won big, while Landry’s quarterback situation is still getting settled in. JuJu's offense is just confusing and was in shambles against a very good defense in the Baltimore Ravens.
Smoking Craters: Jordan Matthews and Tyreek Hill. Both had enough production to break out of this zone. Matthews caught a long touchdown, while Hill was, as expected, peppered with targets and made enough out of them to avoid a total bust week.
Three Lineup Locks
Julio Jones vs. Artie Burns – This will mark Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns’ first appearance in this column this year, and it likely won’t be the last. Last week, Burns was actually the least-targeted of the Steelers’ starting cornerbacks – just two to Joe Haden’s nine and Mike Hilton’s five – but allowed the highest completion percentage of them and looks likely to have to guard Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in Week 5.
Jones has seen an average of 11.5 targets per game this season, so opportunities shouldn’t be a problem in this game, and with Burns allowing a 61.1 percent catch rate this year (per PlayerProfiler.com), there will be plenty of value going to Jones as well. Burns isn’t allowing much separation – 20th-best among 96 starting cornerbacks – but is giving up 2.60 fantasy points per target, the 17th-highest amount among corners. Quarterbacks passing his way have had a 135.4 passer rating, and Falcons’ passer Matt Ryan has already been on fire the past few weeks. Burns is a player to target going forward, and Julio should run him ragged this week.
A.J. Green vs. Xavien Howard – The Miami Dolphins have gotten blistered in the passing game this season, allowing almost 285 passing yards per game this season (seventh-most in the NFL). Starting cornerback Xavien Howard has been part of this defensive debacle, and he gets the unenviable challenge of not only defending Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green in Week 5 but shadowing him across the field.
Howard, despite allowing the 15th-lowest catch rate among cornerbacks this year, has given up a sizable 2.10 fantasy points per target in 2018 (Green averages over eight targets per game). Howard is also susceptible to getting beaten in coverage; he has a very middling 39th-lowest rate of targets when the receiver is 5 or more yards away from him. While Green isn’t the best at separating himself (just 65th-highest average separation on targets), he does excel at beating his man in contested catch situations (16th-highest). Green should get peppered with targets this week, and Howard is likely to oblige.
Adam Thielen vs. Jalen Mills/Sidney Jones – Less than a year removed from giving up the most passing yards ever in a Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense is improved overall, but the secondary has more holes than Swiss cheese. The Minnesota Vikings and Adam Thielen get to take advantage of this rough defensive unit in Week 5, and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones are the primary targets.
The reason I put both Mills and Jones in here is that they tend to stick to the outside and slot, respectively, while Thielen flips in between these positions fairly frequently. Due to this, Thielen will see a fair amount of each of these players this week. Mills and Jones allow an average of 1.82 fantasy points per target between them and a combined 67 percent catch rate. Mills has been much more susceptible to allowing fantasy success, but Jones is still an easy enough opponent that Thielen should be a big-time fantasy asset here.
Three Good Stocks
Golden Tate vs. Jaire Alexander – Speaking of leaky defenses, the Green Bay Packers seem mighty vulnerable these days, especially when we’re eyeing up slot corner Jaire Alexander. Alexander is drawing a lot of attention from opposing offenses, with the 20th-highest target rate, and is allowing 66 percent of those targets to be caught. Giving up a rate of fantasy points per target just outside the highest third of cornerbacks, he should be an excellent matchup for Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate.
Quincy Enunwa vs. Chris Harris – Just a few weeks ago, Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris seemed to be a cornerback to avoid, but we’re starting to realize that he is a bit of a liability this year. Allowing a passer rating of 125.9 when targeted, Harris is giving up the 31st-most fantasy points per target and a 68 percent catch rate. Quincy Enunwa has been the New York Jets’ busiest receiver, and he should be able to get a ton of value on those targets in Week 5.
Will Fuller vs. Chidobe Awuzie – Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is one of the most compelling targets this week, especially because he’ll spend most of his day lined up across from big-play threat Will Fuller (or Keke Coutee if Fuller can’t go because of a hamstring issue). Awuzie has played more than 90 percent of his team’s defensive snaps, is being targeted the 17th-most among starting corners, is allowing a 71 percent catch rate, and has given up the 22nd-most fantasy points per target. Even better, he’s giving up five or more yards of separation to receivers when targeted -- the 15th-most among cornerbacks. Fuller is in a prime blow-up spot in Week 5.
Two Smoking Craters
Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Darius Slay – Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling might be the “next man up” for the Packers in the wake of Randall Cobb’s injury, but he gets the unenviable task of taking on Lions’ shutdown cornerback Darius Slay in Week 5. Slay is allowing the 15th-lowest catch rate to opposing receivers, has been targeted the 10th-least, and is giving up the 7th-fewest fantasy points per target. This is not the week that the Packers rookie will break out.
Pierre Garcon vs. Patrick Peterson – What do you get when you cross a season-ending injury for the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback and matchup against one of the best cover corners in the league? A bad Week 5 for Pierre Garcon, that’s what. Garcon will spend most of this game across from Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is giving up a meager 45.9 passer rating when targeted. He’s allowed the 14th-lowest catch rate, is targeted the 17th-least, and gives up the 5th-fewest fantasy points per target. Oh -- and did I mention C.J. Beathard is throwing the ball for the Niners now?
Week 5 Shadow Situations: A.J. Green (CIN) vs. Xavien Howard (MIA); Alshon Jeffery (PHI) vs. Xavier Rhodes (MIN); Amari Cooper (OAK) vs. Casey Hayward (LAC); Corey Davis (TEN) vs. Tre’Davious White (BUF); Devin Funchess (CAR) vs. Janoris Jenkins (NYG).