6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 6
As I write this, I’m watching Tuesday Night Football in Week 5, and it’s a completely surreal experience. My wife came downstairs, looked at the TV, peered at me with a befuddled look, and said, “What in the world day is it?” Needless to say, in Year 2020 things are weird and not getting normal anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong: I wish they were “normal," but you won’t find me saying that I wish we could go back to “before.” Back then, we didn’t broadly realize the myriad social issues plaguing our country. Many of us didn’t know that much of the structure of our world is held up solely by optimism that people will do their jobs responsibly.
In the fantasy football world, too, things have been all over the place in the first month or so. Injuries and illnesses, game postponements, and shocking signings and releases have thrown our best-laid plans into turmoil. We’re all doing our best to figure out the landscape of the league with less information and more variables than usual, but we have to recognize that “normal” means very little in this season of chaos.
In this column, we aim to slice through the chaos and help you get your fantasy feet under you. Which wide receivers will give you a sense of normalcy in Week 6 thanks to their cornerback matchups?
One of the things I do is reflect on my process, analyzing the successes and fixing the failures, so that I can give you all the best fantasy football advice possible. Each week, we’ll look at the previous one’s hits and misses.
I consider 17.5 PPR fantasy points (the weekly fantasy average of the WR24 over the last five years) a hit for Lineup Locks, and a score of 9.0 (the average WR48) a hit for Good Stocks. A player with 7.5 PPR fantasy points or fewer as a Smoking Crater is a hit as well.
Lineup Locks: Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson. Kupp (11.6 PPR points) gave you a startable performance but passing wasn’t much in need in a blowout win. Jefferson (5.3) wasn’t even startable as his team went aggressively run-heavy in their game plan.
Good Stocks: Greg Ward, David Moore, D.J. Moore, and CeeDee Lamb. Ward (12.6) had a great day with a touchdown and wasn’t the only receiver on his team to go off. David Moore (0.0) saw only three targets and whiffed on them all; it was a poor game read by me on both ends. D.J. Moore (19.3) had his breakout performance of the year. Despite the injury to Dak Prescott, Lamb (20.4) still had a tremendous day.
Smoking Craters: Preston Williams and Darnell Mooney. Williams (20.6) went off -- albeit on limited work relative to the score -- in a game that his team shockingly dominated. Mooney (3.5) got wrecked despite seeing five targets.
Two Lineup Locks
Tyreek Hill vs. Taron Johnson – Another week of NFL action means another time that Buffalo Bills slot cornerback Taron Johnson is featured in this column. In Week 6, he’ll have to take on Kansas City and speedy receiver Tyreek Hill, hoping to slow down the top pass-catcher for the defending Super Bowl champions.
That’s seemingly not as tall an order as one might think in 2020. So far, Hill has drawn a target on 18% of his pass plays (just below average), has a 63% catch rate (a bottom-third mark among Week 6 starting wide receivers), and has earned a solid, but unspectacular, 1.9 yards per pass play (per Pro Football Focus; PFF). Hill is still quarterback Patrick Mahomes' top receiving threat, running by far the most routes among the position group. That said, his efficiency is slightly down from years past.
That shouldn’t make a difference thanks to the, shall we say, permissive 2020 performance of Johnson so far. Johnson is getting targeted on 21% of his coverage plays (top-10 among Week 6 starters), has allowed a 79% catch rate when targeted (top-15), and has given up 1.9 yards per pass play (top-10) from the slot. If there’s any week Hill gets his groove back, it’s this one.
Calvin Ridley vs. Mike Hughes – The Minnesota Vikings have proven time and time again that they want nothing to do with this newfangled “forward pass” nonsense in the Year of Our Lord 2020. They don’t want to use it on offense, and – judging by cornerback Mike Hughes's numbers – they don’t even want to defend it. That worked to the benefit of the Vikings’ opponents last week, and it should work for Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6.
I joke about the Vikings not understanding the pass; they actually rank eighth in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this year. They are absolutely horrendous against wide receivers, however, funneling 8.4 percentage points more target share than the league average towards opposing wide receivers. Hughes has discouraged a fair amount of looks his way, getting targeted on just 15% of his coverage snaps (top half among Week 6 starters), but he is allowing a 73% catch rate when targeted (top third) and 1.3 yards per coverage snap (top third).
Especially if Julio Jones (hamstring) remains out, Ridley will continue to be featured by the Falcons’ passing attack. With a horrid pass defense themselves, Atlanta should need to throw to keep up, and Ridley is the guy to focus on. In each game this year (excluding Week 4’s uncharacteristic goose egg), Ridley has seen five or more receptions for 109-plus yards on at least 10 targets, as well as averaging a touchdown per game. He’s seeing a top-20 mark in targets per snap and is nearly top-10 in yards per snap. Lock him in.
Four Good Stocks
DeVante Parker vs. Pierre Desir – Did you know that Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the fantasy QB3 since regaining the starting job last year? It’s not surprising, then, that wide receiver DeVante Parker has blossomed over the last season. He’s among the top third of Week 6 starters in all production metrics, including a top-15 mark in catch rate (81%) and top quarter in yards per snap (2.1). New York Jets cornerback Pierre Desir is on the other end of the spectrum, having already been benched once this year for poor play. In particular, he’s allowing top-15 marks in catch rate (80%) and yards per coverage play (1.8).
Laviska Shenault Jr. vs. Desmond Trufant – Gadget or not, the Jacksonville Jaguars are finding ways to get rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault the ball whenever possible. Shenault’s 21% targets per snap, 82% catch rate, and 2.0 yards per pass play give him a steady floor of production despite the Jags’ general mediocrity. His Week 6 opponent, Detroit Lions cornerback Desmond Trufant, should give a boost too: Trufant is allowing top-15 marks in all production metrics.
Jamison Crowder vs. Nik Needham – Speaking of bright spots on bad offenses, Jets slot receiver Jamison Crowder is basically the sole usable fantasy player on Gang Green right now. He’s seeing a stellar 25% target rate (top-20) and turning his chances into 2.8 yards per route run (top-10). This week, he gets Miami slot corner Nik Needham, who has performed about average in terms of discouraging targets and allowing catches but is giving up 1.5 yards per coverage snap -- a top-quarter mark among Week 6 cornerbacks.
Randall Cobb vs. Chris Jackson – Things are going to be a bit different for the Houston Texans now that former head coach Bill O’Brien has been ousted. Hopefully, they’ll be better, which could lead to more and better work for slot receiver Randall Cobb. He tussles with Tennessee Titans cornerback Chris Jackson in Week 6. Johnson has been targeted at a top-10 rate, giving up a top-third catch rate and yards per cover snap rate. Cobb, in particular, has been a reliable possession receiver, catching 79% of his targets. He could be a nice high-floor value this week.
Two Smoking Craters
DaeSean Hamilton vs. J.C. Jackson – None of the New England Patriots’ trio of top cornerbacks have been particularly easy to deal with, but J.C. Jackson currently takes the stonewalling cake. He has allowed a surprisingly high 77% catch rate, but quarterbacks are hardly looking his way (11% targets per coverage snap; top-15 mark), and he’s bringing down receivers immediately after the catch (0.9 yards per coverage snap; top-25). Denver Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has done absolutely nothing thus far in 2020 (bottom five in all metrics), and Week 6 won’t be his breakout.
Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Sidney Jones – We’re a long way and a couple of major injuries from Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones getting drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He’s making the second act of his career count, however. Jones enters Week 6 with the best catch prevention rate (20% allowed) and third-fewest yards per coverage snap allowed (0.3) among starting cornerbacks. Admittedly, he has played only 33 coverage snaps to date in 2020, so this may be a small sample size situation. Still, Jones had real coverage chops coming out of college, so perhaps this is true talent finally emerging. Either way, we’re downgrading Lions wideout Marvin Jones (bottom-15 target rate and yards per snap) a bit more this week just in case.
Week 6 Potential Shadow Situations: Terry McLaurin (WAS) vs. James Bradberry (NYG), Marquise Brown (BAL) vs. Darius Slay (PHI), Davante Adams (GB) vs. Carlton Davis (TB), Mike Evans (TB) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB), A.J. Brown (TEN) vs. Bradley Roby (HOU).