Wide Receivers With the Best and Worst Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
Exploiting key matchups is an easy way to give your fantasy team an edge over your opponent. Even a low-end wide receiver can dominate when in a smash spot, while a stud receiver can struggle against good shadow coverage. Just look at Julio Jones last week.
These mismatches are prevalent everywhere, even on good defenses. Let’s take a look at the wide receivers with the best and worst matchups in Week 2.
Matchups to Target
After a collision with Johnathan Abram, Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley is questionable to play with a neck injury. Abrams himself came away from the game with a shoulder injury that landed him on Injured Reserve, meaning the Raiders will likely be down their top two defensive backs for a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs -- yikes.
Sammy Watkins was absolutely electric after the catch against one of the league's better group of corners pic.twitter.com/eizPy4QJeF
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 9, 2019
Trayvon Mullen, the second-round pick out of Clemson, filled in at cornerback for the injured Conley for the remainder of the Broncos tilt. That means Sammy Watkins will either be paired up with a rookie corner or Daryl Worley. Now the top receiver for KC, Watkins should be fired up in all formats.
Dede Westbrook vs. Lonnie Johnson
Drew Brees exploited Texans slot cornerback Aaron Colvin so bad that the team opted to just release him. Colvin was under contract through 2020, meaning Houston was willing to eat $10 million in dead cap money to part ways with him.
Head coach Bill O'Brien hinted that the Texans would put rookie corner Lonnie Johnson in the slot. The second-rounder from Kentucky will likely see a heavy dose of targets while matched up with Dede Westbrook.
The new Jacksonville Jaguars offense actually ranked 10th in Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points per play in Week 1, so perhaps the “ground and pound” method is dead. Expect Gardner Minshew and company to target the slot often to take advantage of a secondary that allowed the ninth-most Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play in Week 1.
The New England Patriots looked Hilton’s way often, as Julian Edelman saw 11 targets last week. Edelman reeled in just six of those looks, as Tom Brady missed him multiple times. The Pats still clearly thought he was a mismatch for Edelman in the slot, and the Seattle Seahawks likely agree. Tyler Lockett should get a boost in targets in this matchup.
Best coverage from the secondary Sunday night? Mike Hilton on Steven Nelson. Blanketed. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/m765F8SL6g
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 11, 2019
The perimeter will feature a battle between D.K. Metcalf and Joe Haden. Haden came away from the Pats game with a shoulder injury and is at risk to miss this game. If he suits up injured, Metcalf has the imposing physical frame to bully him around. If he misses the game, Metcalf will likely have a date with the 5-10, 197-pound Steven Nelson.
The Pittsburgh Steelers posted the sixth-worst Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play in Week 1 in a lopsided loss to the Patriots. They should be exploited until they give us a reason not to.
Brandin Cooks went nuts in his two games against the New Orleans Saints last season, topping 100 receiving yards in both. In the 2018 playoffs, he mostly saw Eli Apple and P.J. Williams on his targets. If you watched the Saints play Monday night against the Texans, you would have seen Apple give up a 54-yard bomb to Will Fuller as well as Williams giving up a near-game-deciding 34-yard score to Kenny Stills.
Cooks has the speed to torch any defensive back in the league, and the fantasy-friendly “Shootout Saints” seem to be back. Expect his success to continue against his former team.
The Ravens star cornerback, Jimmy Smith, went down with an MCL sprain in Week 1. He’ll miss some games, leaving Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey as the top guys. Just as the offseason hype indicated, the Arizona Cardinals played fast in Week 1, running 82 plays and passing on 60 percent of them. This pass-game volume is paramount in fantasy football. Christian Kirk did not hand in an impressive box score in the opener, catching only four balls for 32 yards and a two-point conversion.
James Washington, Christian Kirk, DHop, and Robby Anderson left a lot of fantasy points on the field last week
Air Yards - Actual Receiving Yards = Unrealized fantasy points pic.twitter.com/4a2Hi1r2uy
— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) September 12, 2019
The real signal was his 12 targets and 132 air yards, which ranked 11th among receivers in Week 1, per PlayerProfiler. Air yards are a strong signal for a breakout performance from a big-play receiver, meaning Kirk could be paying off soon if that kind of volume continues. The Cardinals will be passing often given the likely negative game script at the Ravens. Buy the Kirk breakout while everyone else is fading him.
Matchups to Avoid
Casey Hayward stuck to T.Y. Hilton last week, and the veteran receiver still managed to post nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns. While the nimble Hilton turned in a monster fantasy day, he did most of his damage after the catch and escaped to the slot on nearly 30 percent of his snaps.
Hayward matches up better with the bigger-bodied Kenny Golladay this week. Golladay ran out of the slot on just seven snaps and will likely see the Pro Bowl cornerback nearly every play. This is an easy fade.
The entire Atlanta Falcons' offense was shut down by the Minnesota Vikings for nearly the entire game. The Dirty Birds finally started putting up some points when the game was all but over, which is where most of Julio Jones’ fantasy production came from.
Two key pass breakups from Xavier Rhodes. Love to see that swagger: pic.twitter.com/pgfZ9klSCT
— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) September 9, 2019
Jones was locked up by Xavier Rhodes, meaning the stud cornerback might be back to his 2017 All-Pro form. Davante Adams was held to fewer than 70 yards in both matchups last season while salvaging his fantasy days with touchdowns. Adams is always a good bet to find the end zone, but it's tough to feel good about him in this stingy matchup.
Keenan Allen and Darius Slay will be an intriguing matchup this weekend. While Slay normally sticks to the outside, he has shadowed into the slot in the past (11 percent slot rate in 2018, per PlayerProfiler). Allen went into the slot on 41 percent of his plays in Week 1 and was at 45 percent in 2018.
The shutdown cornerback allowed just two catches for eight yards in the season opener against Arizona, so if he matches up with Allen for most of the game, it could be a tricky situation for fantasy gamers.
Chargers weapons are dropping like flies with Hunter Henry and Mike Williams set to miss Week 2, so volume won’t be a concern for Allen. He’ll likely get there with a hefty target share, but don’t expect good efficiency against Slay.