6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 13
I went to elementary school with one of those classic quirky kids; we’ll call him “Timmy”. Timmy was a nice guy but always was a bit strange. Every day in second grade, for instance, Timmy would bring in a set of locks and keys that his dad (who must’ve been a locksmith) had given him for show-and-tell. He loved heavy metal at age seven. Timmy was an ineffable presence to me as a kid because he just didn’t fit into my worldview of what I understood being a young kid to be.
After second grade, Timmy must have gone to another school, because none of us ever saw him again, but I have never forgotten him because I just had no frame of reference for him.
That’s the tough thing about football and the game of fantasy: sometimes things happen that all the experience and analysis in the world can’t prepare you for. You look into all the odds and data you want, and no one could’ve nailed that Tyreek Hill and Will Fuller would both threaten the single-game receiving record in the same week. It boggles the mind, but it was real. So we adjust, we move forward, and we try to improve our understanding.
Don’t let your lineups boggle your mind: which wideouts have the best cornerback matchups in Week 13?
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: Keenan Allen and Cooper Kupp. Allen (16.0) came very close to our mark, as – even with game-calling and the return of Austin Ekeler capping his upside – he remains one of the most consistent players this season. Kupp (6.1) did stunningly poorly thanks to the inefficiency of his quarterback in a low-scoring bout.
Good Stocks: Robby Anderson, Corey Davis, Sterling Shepard, and Keke Coutee. Anderson (19.4) is one of the only reliable deep target-only players I’ve ever seen in my fantasy career, and Davis (10.0) functioned similarly, capturing 3-70-0 despite only 10 targets going to Tennessee wide receivers in this game. Shepard (13.8) was second in targets but tops in catches and did fine even when Daniel Jones got injured. Coutee (5.7) was still a distant third on the target list, but with Will Fuller getting suspended through the end of the year, perhaps things will open up further for him now.
Smoking Craters: Deebo Samuel and A.J. Green. Samuel (24.3) went ballistic against Los Angeles’ top-tier secondary, seeing 13 targets – or a 38% target share. Hard to see that one coming. Green (0.0) saw three targets and caught none of them. He’s droppable just about everywhere, in my opinion.
Two Lineup Locks
Brandin Cooks vs. Rock Ya-Sin – With literally no one left in his way on the depth chart, Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks could (and should) assume a hefty portion of the team’s target share going forward. How fortuitous that this paving of the way in the volume department should come in a week where Cooks faces column favorite Rock Ya-Sin, cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts!
Cooks hasn’t been the top target for the Texans most of the season, so it’s understandable that he has a slightly below-average target per route run rate (19%, per Pro Football Focus) among Week 13 starting receivers. He has been fairly reliable and reasonably efficient, in spite of his relatively low target volume, with a top-half catch rate (70%) and a top-third rate of yards per route run (1.8). The speedy Cooks holds a top-20 mark in average separation per target (per Player Profiler) and a top-40 mark in air yards team share (the percent of his team’s total target yardage) despite having played second fiddle to Will Fuller all season.
RYS, on the other hand, has struggled basically across the board. He is allowing a top-quarter target rate among Week 13 starting cornerbacks (18%), a top-third catch rate when targeted (71%), and a top-five mark in yards per coverage snap allowed (2.0). What’s surprising is that, despite his 4.51 40 speed, Ya-Sin isn’t getting roasted downfield. Despite an average depth of target of 9.9 yards, Ya-Sin has a 0% burn rate (percent of targets in which the receiver is five or more downfield yards away) and has a fairly middling average separation of 1.5 yards.
Cooks won’t need to break off huge chunk plays to be useful this week, however. His likely volume against the lagging pass defense of Ya-Sin should be enough to secure you a strong fantasy showing.
Tyler Lockett vs. Darnay Holmes – Speedy slot receiver Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks has been anything but reliable in 2020. The dangerous downfield asset has three games this year of 20 or more PPR fantasy points, as well as four with 8 points or fewer. He is the very antithesis of the phrase “numbers never lie” – the number, in this case, being the average points per game. Still, I encourage taking a risk in situations where the ceiling is so high, and the matchup is good enough to warrant it. New York Giants slot cornerback Darnay Holmes is just such a matchup.
Holmes has allowed a top-12 rate of targets per coverage snap among Week 13 starters (20%), a top-10 catch rate when targeted (80%), and a top-20 rate of yards per coverage snap (1.5). Holmes has played 20 coverage snaps or more in 7 of his 10 games played this season, and in those games, he has allowed an average of 5.7 targets, 4.7 receptions, and 45.9 receiving yards per game (9.3 PPR fantasy points). He ensures a stable floor of production for Lockett here.
Lockett, therefore, needs to bring the ceiling, and boy can he ever. His season-long numbers aren’t absurd: Lockett’s target rate per route run and yards per route run rank just within the top-third (21% and 1.7, respectively), though he does have a top-quarter catch rate when targeted (75%). He also gains the seventh-most average separation per target (2.2 yards) despite running more than 50% of his routes from the slot. He is also top-35 in air yards team share and has the ninth-most red-zone targets in the league. Lockett is in line for a blowup here.
Four Good Stocks
Adam Thielen vs. Luq Barcoo – I don’t usually like to recommend a player the week they come back from an injury or illness, just to give them time to get their feet back under them. It appears, however, that Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen's Week 12 inactive for COVID-19 was just precautionary, and he should be all systems go against cornerback Luq Barcoo of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In case you’ve forgotten, Thielen is in the top-10 of this week’s starters in target rate when on the field and top-15 in yards per route run. Barcoo, despite being my prohibitive favorite for name MVP of 2020, allows the 12th most targets per coverage snap and a bottom-half mark in yards per route run. Maybe the volume won’t be there in a potential Vikings blowout, but Thielen should get enough to be worthwhile.
Cole Beasley vs. Emmanuel Moseley – The San Francisco 49ers secondary is what we like to call a “funnel defense” – meaning they are so good at certain spots that they almost force offenses to go elsewhere with their play calls. The Niners are a slot funnel team in the passing game since slot cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is the main liability in the pass defense shell. He allows a top-20 target rate and top-quarter yards per route run and should be peppered plenty in this game. Cole Beasley typically mans the slot for the opposing Buffalo Bills, ranking in the top-third in target rate, top-quarter in yards per route run, and top-five in catch rate. Perhaps it’s Gabriel Davis who eats in this position instead of Beasley, but the slot is the place to go here.
Hunter Renfrow vs. Arthur Maulet – Another slot machine, Hunter Renfrow seems to be the forgotten man in the Las Vegas Raiders' passing offense when it comes to fantasy. That said, he’s among the top-20 starters this week in both catch rate and yards per route run, and he gets to take on the New York Jets and Arthur Maulet. Maulet has given up an above-average yards per route run rate and the third-highest catch rate going into this week. Renfrow is a sneaky value here.
Laviska Shenault vs. Cameron Dantzler – Listen: things aren’t good for the young, rebuilding Jaguars in 2020, but one bright spot is the versatile Laviska Shenault. This dynamic wide receiver can do a little of everything on offense and has produced a top-12 catch rate among Week 13 starters. It’s not a lot, but it’s what we have. The real gem of this matchup is Minnesota cornerback Cameron Dantzler, who allows top-10 marks in target rate and yards per route run as well as a top-third catch rate. Maybe there’s some deep value for Shenault with Mike Glennon under center playing catch-up.
Two Smoking Craters
Jalen Reagor vs. Jaire Alexander – Green Bay Packers defensive star Jaire Alexander has been undeniably the best cornerback in the league in 2020, locking up opponents to the tune of a bottom-20 target rate (13%), bottom-20 catch rate (17%), and bottom-10 yards per coverage snap (0.7). He’s done that all while shadowing teams’ top receivers across the field and recovering from injury. So, I feel confident that the lagging Philadelphia Eagles and wide receiver Jalen Reagor will have problems in Week 13. Reagor has a bottom-third target rate (17%), bottom-15 catch rate (58%), and bottom-15 yards per route run (1.1) among starters this week. Leave him on the bench for an easier matchup or until the Eagles’ offense gets right.
Marvin Jones vs. Kyle Fuller – It’s a divisional clash here, and Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller has begun to round into his old form. Fuller is allowing a bottom-quarter target rate (14%) and bottom-10 marks in both catch rate and yards per route run (52% and 0.7, respectively). That spells trouble for Detroit Lions de facto top receiver Marvin Jones here, forced into the number-one spot by the absence of Kenny Golladay. Jones is bottom-quarter in every production category this season and likely won’t break the slump here.
Week 13 Potential Shadow Situations: Jalen Reagor (PHI) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB), Davante Adams (GB) vs. Darius Slay (PHI), Robert Woods (LAR) vs. Patrick Peterson (ARZ), D.K. Metcalf (SEA) vs. James Bradberry (NYG), DeVante Parker (MIA) vs. William Jackson III (CIN).