6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 5
Sometimes, when you’re looking at the same information for the hundredth time and it’s not clicking, you just need a different perspective on the situation.
I’ve heard from friends that when they’re writing and get stumped, it helps them to stand up, do a lap of the house, and let their fingers rest while their minds puzzle through the writer’s block. I myself have learned that if I sit upside-down on a couch or chair, that helps me literally get a different angle on what I’m doing. Something about it -- blood flow, spinal comfort, maybe laughing at myself -- helps me shake things out of stasis and get back on track.
These are physical ways to get different perspectives on something. My goal, however, is to help you find a different perspective on fantasy football. Each week, I hope to offer you information and rationale that confirm your hunches -- or stress test them and force you to reconsider your assumptions about certain wide receiver matchups with cornerbacks. My hope is that this zoomed-in angle at least gets you thinking about the minutiae and individual components of what makes a good wide receiver play as we head into Week 5.
Don’t flip your lineups upside-down in frustration; which wide receivers have beneficial cornerback matchups in Week 5?
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: Ja'Marr Chase and Calvin Ridley. Chase (13.7) nearly met our mark and was a good process play. He saw nine targets, catching six of them for 77 yards receiving. The one blemish was that he didn’t score, while teammate tight end C.J. Uzomah went ballistic with two touchdowns. That won’t happen every week. Ridley (15.0) barely eked his way over the bar but should’ve been much better. He earned 13 targets in the 64-point shootout, catching seven for 80 yards. In a similarly confusing manner, teammate “offensive weapon” Cordarrelle Patterson caught three touchdown passes, including one red-zone look where quarterback Matt Ryan only had eyes for him (and not a wide-open Ridley).
Good Stocks: Tyler Boyd, Marquise Brown, Jaylen Waddle, and Jakobi Meyers. Boyd (20.8) actually out-targeted Chase with 11 looks and was able to rack up yards after the catch to turn those into 118 receiving yards. If Tee Higgins remains hampered, that makes every other pass-catcher in Cincinnati more fantasy-viable. Weirdly, Brown (19.1) was just fifth in the target pecking order behind even depth receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche as the Denver defense smothered him. We got a little lucky that he tied for the team lead in Week 4 air yards share and caught a touchdown pass: good result, lacking process. Waddle (6.3) took a backseat to both DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki for the first time since Week 1. He should bounce back in a more prolific game script in Week 5. Meyers (16.8) earned 1.8 of his points on trick plays where he ended up the passer on reverses, but he still would have crossed the mark for Stocks without them thanks to a team-leading 12 targets.
Smoking Craters: James Washington and A.J. Green. The Green Bay secondary and pass rush are bad, and I need to stop underrating that. Washington (10.9) showed why, as his five targets went for a not-so-nice 69 yards. Green (17.7) might just be back to the matchup-proof sensation he once was. He bullied his way through a tough defense to earn the second-most targets on the team in Week 4, saw the second-most air yards, and caught a touchdown. He good?
Two Lineup Locks
Davante Adams vs. Eli Apple – Despite the Green Bay Packers’ rocky offseason, wide receiver Davante Adams hasn’t missed a beat from last year’s tremendous performance. Through four weeks, Adams is top 10 among wideouts in half-PPR fantasy scoring with the third-highest target share in the NFL. He’ll look to pile it on in Week 5 when the Pack heads to the Cincinnati Bengals and Adams faces cornerback Eli Apple.
Former first-round pick Apple hasn’t quite found a long-term NFL home, bouncing around for a few years now with below-average success. In 2021, he’s been slightly better, allowing a target rate of 18% (targets per coverage snap; 77th percentile among Week 5 starting cornerbacks), a catch rate of 65% (44th percentile), and 1.0 yards per route run (33rd percentile). This may seem a daunting profile to start our Locks section with, but Adams has the talent to blow Apple out of the water.
The Packers’ star receiver is earning target on 35% of the routes he runs (99th percentile among Week 5 starting wide receivers), a 69% catch rate (51st percentile), and 2.9 yards per route run (94th percentile). Don’t be perturbed by the low-ish catch rate; that’s just a function of Green Bay being comfortable using Adams as an occasional deep route runner. Add in that Apple is allowing one of the highest average target separation rate in the league (2.7 yards per target), and Adams should be able to break open the game for Green Bay and your fantasy roster.
Amari Cooper vs. James Bradberry – The Dallas Cowboys’ passing attack has gotten back on track in a big way in 2021, thanks to the return of quarterback Dak Prescott. More available quality through the passing game has meant good news for the sustained production of the Dallas receivers, including Amari Cooper. Cooper right now is 18th in per-game half-PPR scoring, turning in a 21% target rate (63rd percentile), 76% catch rate (72nd percentile), and 1.9 yards per route run (64th percentile). None of these peripherals are overwhelming, but they show the pattern of a reliable receiver who just needs to continue getting volume to be a fantasy success.
That should be attainable in this NFC East clash, as the New York Giants’ James Bradberry will likely be assigned to cover Cooper for much of Week 5. Bradberry is allowing a 16% target rate (58th percentile), 76% catch rate (77th percentile), and 1.4 yards per coverage snap (68th percentile). The Samford alum is allowing an average of 2.0 yards of separation per target, as well, which should allow the precise route-runner Cooper to get around him and find space in this contest.
Cooper is currently questionable (hamstring) after getting in a limited Thursday practice session, but he’s trending in the right direction. If he sits, consider CeeDee Lamb a great replacement for him in this spot.
Four Good Stocks
Tyler Boyd vs. Chandon Sullivan – The Bengals' receivers smashed up the room last week like they were a British rock band on a world tour. Tyler Boyd, as mentioned above, paced the team in targets and yards despite going scoreless. This week, Boyd and company host the Packers in what is likely to be a negative game script against a defense without top cornerback Jaire Alexander. Boyd currently holds an 89th-percentile target rate, 78th-percentile catch rate, and 86th-percentile yards per route run. He’ll be covered by slot corner Chandon Sullivan, who is allowing a 58th-percentile target rate, 93rd-percentile catch rate, and 88th-percentile yards per route run. This is another smash spot to start Boyd.
Hunter Renfrow vs. Duke Shelley – I’m of the mind that Las Vegas Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow has basically made himself must-start (or at least “must-consider”) every week in PPR formats. The Raiders’ possession man has a 78th-percentile target rate, 72nd-percentile catch rate, and 73rd-percentile yards per route run -- solid marks across the board. He’ll square off with the Chicago Bears’ Duke Shelley for most of Week 5, and the still relatively raw Shelley is allowing an 81st-percentile target rate, 89th-percentile catch rate, and 82nd-percentile yards per route run from the slot. Renfrow is a sneaky-good play who should get you a steady flow of points this week.
Josh Reynolds vs. Tyson Campbell – With a strong 2021 debut of six catches (nine targets) for 59 yards in Week 4, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Josh Reynolds will look to build on that as he fills in for injured wideouts Julio Jones and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Reynolds’ rates don’t look great yet, but he’ll take on Jacksonville Jaguars rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell -- whose rates are very favorable. The 2021 second-rounder is allowing a 91st-percentile target rate, 82nd-percentile catch rate, and 96th-percentile yards per route run. Reynolds is all systems go in this matchup, but if Julio Jones plays, he’s our starter in this spot instead.
Marvin Jones vs. Janoris Jenkins – No matter what team he goes to, no matter how bad the situation, Marvin Jones always finds a way to produce. Through four abjectly terrible games for the Jaguars, Jones has earned a top-30 placing in half-PPR points per game among wide receivers and could now see even more volume due to D.J. Chark's fractured ankle. Jones currently holds a 63rd-percentile target rate, which should increase this week, and he will have the attention of Titans corner Janoris Jenkins, who is allowing an 88th-percentile target rate and 89th-percentile yards per route run.
Two Smoking Craters
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Bryce Callahan – It’s been a rough year so far for believers in Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has put up just 8.6 half-PPR fantasy points per game this season. Among Week 5 starting receivers, his target rate is 47th percentile (17%), but his catch rate ranks in the 17th percentile (62%) and his yards per route run is in the 18th percentile (0.9). Making things tougher for him in Week 5 is a date with Denver Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan, who -- in addition to an average target separation in the bottom 40 of qualifying NFL cornerbacks (1.2 yards) -- is allowing a 9th-percentile target rate (10%), a 1st-percentile catch rate (33%), and a 2nd-percentile yards per coverage snap (0.4). JuJu is a total fade this week, both for his own usage and an incredibly difficult matchup.
Bryan Edwards vs. Jaylon Johnson – Things haven’t gotten back on track for Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards. After the shine of rookie sleeper-dom wore off, some believed Vegas would make Edwards the next big thing in their offense. In short, he hasn’t been. Edwards has a 7th-percentile target rate (10%) as well as a 45th-percentile yards per route run (1.5). The real stay-away element of his Week 5 profile for me, however, is Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Johnson is also a second-year pro, but his trajectory is going in the opposite direction. To date, Johnson is allowing a 20th-percentile target rate (13%), 3rd-percentile catch rate (42%), and 23rd-percentile yards per coverage snap (0.9). Targets should funnel to Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller this week as Vegas looks to avoid Johnson’s side of the field.