6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
Cookie dough is possibly the greatest treat known to mankind. I’m very much a textual eater, and something about the squishy, yet gritty, crunchy bite of chilled cookie dough is a marvelous mouth feeling. Add in the occasional chocolate chip, M&M, or another decadent morsel, and you have heaven in dessert form. Slap a bowl of that in front of me, and I will nibble on it until I am sick to my stomach and also delighted.
That said, I acknowledge that many people believe that cookie dough is just an intermediate stage between raw baking materials and finished baked goods.
The things that fascinate me about wide receivers and cornerback matchups – snap counts, target rates, average depth of target, and so on – are also a sort of “cookie dough” data: they tell us a lot about what has happened already, but as-is they are missing something. It’s through the baking process of analysis that all these ingredients mix and melt and rise and crisp into delicious, actionable fantasy football advice. This week’s article has some delectable tidbits of advice for your DFS and season-long lineups. Grab a glass of milk and let’s dunk right in.
Which fantasy wide receivers have the best cornerback matchups in Week 2?
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 15.0 PPR fantasy points (the weekly fantasy average of the WR24 over the last six years) a hit for Lineup Locks, and a score of 9.0 (the average WR48) a hit for Good Stocks. A player with 7.0 PPR fantasy points (the average WR60) or fewer as a Smoking Crater is a hit as well.
Lineup Locks: Keenan Allen and Davante Adams. As we thought he would be, the Los Angeles Chargers peppered Allen (19.0 PPR points) with target after target in the slot. 13 targets came his way and he brought in nine of them for 100 yards this week, for the eighth-highest target share in Week 1. Adams (10.6) and his Green Bay Packers got too far on the back heel, got desperate, and then eventually packed it in and put the backups into the game. He still had a process win, earning a 22% target share, but that’s not enough to be called a hit for this category.
Good Stocks: Jakobi Meyers, Jarvis Landry, Parris Campbell, and Hunter Renfrow. The New England Patriots receiving corps got an immediate boost from Mac Jones’ presence; Meyers (10.4) was one of the beneficiaries. Unforeseen in this column was Odell Beckham's injury absence, but that bolstered Landry’s (19.4) Week 1 outburst. Campbell (3.4) saw three targets, but that total was only sixth on his own team; he caught just one of them. Renfrow (13.0) stunningly saw the second-most targets – nine – among the Las Vegas Raiders during their comeback campaign. This might be the upper end of his potential, but the floor shouldn’t be significantly lower.
Smoking Craters: D.J. Chark and Michael Gallup. The game script for Chark’s (17.6) Jacksonville Jaguars was completely upended from the expectation, so the top receiver saw 12 targets during essentially an entire game of garbage time. Gallup (7.6) was pacing for a very strong day before a late-game injury forced him off the field. We could blame this on an injury to the opposing secondary, but – either way –the process didn’t pan out into results.
Two Lineup Locks
Tyreek Hill vs. Tavon Young – I’m truly not sure what you do anymore if you’re a defensive coordinator trying to game plan to stop Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The slighter-framed speedster has proven nigh-uncoverable, so much so that his Week 1 performance of 11 catches for 195 yards and a score is almost expected at this point. He’s a slot receiver, a deep threat, a yards-after-catch guy; how do you stop that?
It’s unlikely Baltimore Ravens slot cornerback Tavon Young has many ideas either, heading into Week 2. Young was the cornerback we targeted during the aforementioned Renfrow’s target-fest in Week 1, and he gave us no reason to not target him again here. Young currently holds a 33% target rate (98th percentile among Week 2 starting corners), has allowed an 83% catch rate (68th percentile) and is giving up 3.0 yards per coverage snap (91st percentile). He is arguably the top cornerback we’ll be picking on the rest of the season.
If Young’s numbers have you salivating, just wait until you see Hill’s. The real-life version of "The Flash" posted a 39% target rate (98th percentile among Week 2 starting receivers), a 73% catch rate (55th percentile), and cartoonish 5.2 yards per route run (98th percentile) in the NFL kickoff week. While Hill moves around the formation quite a bit, expect much of the damage he inevitably does in Week 2 to come from the slot; this is a matchup made for fantasy perfection.
D.K. Metcalf vs. Janoris Jenkins – The Tennessee Titans don’t seem to have figured out many of the issues with their secondary that plagued them last season. Even the signing of cornerback Janoris Jenkins – now known as “Jackrabbit” on some stats sites – hasn’t really solidified their defensive backend the way they’d hoped. That was evident as Tennessee got walloped in Week 1, largely due to getting picked apart through the air.
Mediocre secondary pieces mean fantasy fortune for us, however, and Jenkins is a big-time target. The former defensive star allowed a Week 1 target rate of 20% (79th percentile), an 86% catch rate (73rd percentile), and 2.0 yards per coverage snap (80th percentile). He played almost exclusively on the right side of the defense, so we know exactly where he’ll be in Week 2; that’ll be across from Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf for about half the day.
Metcalf moves around a bit but should find himself on the offensive left side for about 50% of his snaps – opposite Jenkins. Metcalf so far this year has drawn a target on 18% of his routes (41st percentile), holds an 80% catch rate (68th percentile), and has earned 2.1 yards per route run (70th percentile). He hasn’t quite flashed his true upside yet this season, but in a favorable matchup with a suspect defensive opponent, Week 2 could be where that comes together.
Four Good Stocks
Mike Williams vs. Anthony Brown – This upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers is tied for the highest total of the week, at 55.5 points. That indicates this should be a high-scoring (and likely high-tempo passing) contest. If that’s true, we should expect Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams to continue his high impact receiving in Week 2. Williams has seen a target on 29% of his routes (89th percentile) and turned them into 2.0 yards per route run (64th percentile). He’ll face off with Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown, who is allowing a 20% targeted rate (79th percentile), 90% catch rate (78th percentile), and 2.7 yards per coverage snap (88th percentile). Williams should waltz to another strong fantasy day here.
Sterling Shepard vs. Kendall Fuller – A move back to the slot for 66% of his snaps in Week 1 precipitated the re-emergence of fantasy value for New York Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who posted seven catches for 113 yards and one score on nine targets. If New York follows the same formula in Week 2, Shepard will face Washington Football Team slot cornerback Kendall Fuller for much of the day. Shepard enters this week with a 22% target rate (69th percentile), 78% catch rate (65th percentile), and 2.8 yards per route run (86th percentile). Fuller, while no extreme pushover, is allowing an 83% catch rate (68th percentile) and 1.5 yards per route run (63rd percentile). This is a tougher matchup than others, but I give the edge solidly to the receiver here.
Van Jefferson vs. Travis Carrie – As expected, the Los Angeles Rams debut of quarterback Matthew Stafford was a tide that raised most of the pass-catchers’ boats. One significant beneficiary was wide receiver Van Jefferson, who put up a highly efficient 3.5 yards per route run (91st percentile) in Week 1. He’ll draw the coverage of Indianapolis Colts corner Travis Carrie, who is himself allowing a yards per coverage snap of 1.8 (78th percentile). We have to hope Jefferson irons out his catch rate in the coming games, but even if he’s not a reliable fantasy asset, weeks like this are where he could give you strong upside.
A.J. Green vs. Bashaud Breeland – For some reason, people are piling dirt on the grave of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green's career after a Week 1 where he saw the second-most targets on the team. His 19% target rate was league-average (50th percentile), and while a 33% catch rate (3rd percentile) and 0.8 yards per route run (20th percentile) aren’t ideal, his workload is typically what we look for in fantasy options. There’s a decent chance for him to improve on his Week 1 numbers, too, with a game against Bashaud Breeland of the Minnesota Vikings. Breeland last week was targeted on 29% of his coverage snaps (94th percentile) and gave up 3.8 yards per coverage snap (98th percentile). That sounds like the perfect recipe for a get-right game for the veteran Green.
Two Smoking Craters
Emmanuel Sanders vs. Xavien Howard – Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard held out of workouts for most of the offseason, claiming that he was clearly a top-tier cornerback in the NFL and wasn’t being paid like it. His 10-interception, 20-passes defended performance last year made a strong enough case for the ‘Phins to up his rate, and he’s continued to make it worth their while since. In Week 1, the lockdown star of South Beach held opposing receivers to a target on just 8% of his coverage snaps (10th percentile) and gave up just 0.5 yards per coverage snap (10th percentile).
Unfortunately for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, that’s the puzzle he has been given to crack in this upcoming contest. Sanders did fine in Week 1, drawing in four receptions and 52 yards receiving. In advanced metrics, though, that was just a 13% target rate (21st percentile), 57% catch rate (25th percentile), and a paltry 1.0 yards per route run (25th percentile). I’d expect Howard to leave Sanders alone for some of the day, instead opting to switch onto Stefon Diggs at points, but banking on a big week from Sanders especially isn’t a good idea.
Kenny Golladay vs. William Jackson III – Giants' new arrival Kenny Golladay finds himself in a similar situation to Sanders above: facing a top-tier shadow cornerback in William Jackson III of Washington – a new arrival himself. Per PFF, Jackson was the top cornerback in the league last year at wide receiver value prevention when in shadow coverage. This year, he hasn’t missed a beat: Jackson in Week 1 dissuaded the opposition from throwing his way on all but 14% of his coverage snaps (35th percentile), held his receivers to a 50% catch rate (41st percentile), and gave up just 0.6 yards per route run (9th percentile).
Golladay is no slouch, but he has not yet found his rhythm in his new setting. Last week, he was targeted on 16% of his routes (50th percentile), caught 67% of his targets (50th percentile), and earned 1.7 yards per route run (50th percentile). As a vulnerable number-one receiver who might face significant positive game script and a terrifying corner matchup, Golladay is a major fade heading into a Week 2 divisional rivalry.
Week 2 Potential Shadow Situations: Kenny Golladay (NYG) vs. William Jackson III (WAS); Emmanuel Sanders (BUF) vs. Xavien Howard (MIA); Zach Pascal (IND) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR); Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) vs. Darious Williams (LAR); DeAndre Hopkins (ARZ) vs. Patrick Peterson (MIN).