6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 12
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 the next week.
Don’t flip your lineups upside-down in frustration; which wide receivers have beneficial cornerback matchups in Week 12?
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 Stefon Diggs. Chase (13.0) nearly met our threshold, and still fit the process well enough. His Bengals romped over the Raiders, however, which might have limited his workload to just six targets and a touchdown look in only the fourth quarter. Diggs (18.3) was a central part of the Bills’ red-zone antics, catching two scores, but also only saw six targets as Buffalo got shut down here.
Good Stocks: D.K. Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, Christian Kirk, and Brandin Cooks. Metcalf (7.1) was the highest-targeted Seattle wideout, but still fell by the wayside as he was the focal point for the Cards’ defense. Johnson was one of the stars of the week, hauling in seven-of-thirteen targets and a score, and going over 100 receiving yards for just the second time all year. Kirk (4.5) did end up with five targets, but that was third-most on the team and he couldn’t do much with them. Cooks (3.8) and the entire Texans’ passing game took a bath – sort of literally. Monsoon conditions forced Houston to abandon the pass fairly early.
Smoking Craters: Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers. Pascal (0.9) and Rogers (6.1) both got shuttered in their contests, but Rogers saw increased volume due to A.J. Brown’s injury and surprising negative game script.
Two Lineup Locks
Deebo Samuel vs. Bashaud Breeland – Two things in this NFL life are true: one, we always start our fantasy receivers against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland; two, Deebo Samuel is lighting the world on fire and there is no sign that anyone can stop him. The San Francisco 49ers’ all-purpose weapon has been playing out of his mind in 2021 and is second in receiving yards per game only to Cooper Kupp – who has also gone ballistic. Making Samuel even more potent is the highly-efficient play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, perfectly timed for what could end up a sneaky shootout with the Vikings in Week 12.
Samuel isn’t all fluff propped up by quarterback play, however: going into this week’s games, he has been targeted on 27% of his routes run (91st percentile rate among Week 12 starting receivers), has a 67% catch rate (58th percentile), and 3.3 yards per route run (99th percentile). Samuel is doing a ton of work deep, on catch-and-run, and with some gadget plays to boot. There’s no way I can imagine the aforementioned Breeland – our favorite coverage straw-man – preventing a blow-up fantasy week from Samuel. Breeland has seen a target come into his coverage on 20% of his cover snaps (95th percentile rate among Week 12 starting cornerbacks), given up a catch on 69% of his targets (61st percentile), and allowed 1.8 yards per coverage snap (92nd percentile). It’s Samuel SZN.
Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Sean Murphy-Bunting – Going into this season, I was optimistic on Indianapolis Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr., but I don’t think I envisioned him playing his way into being in the “Locks” category of this column. He has been the conduit for an Indy offensive revival, to the tune of a 20% target rate (60th percentile), but a 75% catch rate (82nd percentile), and 2.0 yards per route run (81st percentile).
He and the Colts will face off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers too, one of the defenses imposing its will on the ground game and forcing opponents to throw to beat them. That might end up increasing the overall volume for the Colts this week as well, adding to Pittman’s ceiling. The cherry on top is an individual matchup with cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who is drawing a target on 30% of his coverage snaps (99th percentile), allowing a 69% catch rate (61st percentile), and forking over 2.3 yards per coverage snap (97th percentile). Pittman is typically more a floor than ceiling guy, but this week the ceiling is also sky-high.
Four Good Stocks
Brandin Cooks vs. Isaiah Dunn – Let’s run it back with Brandin Cooks this week. The Houston Texans’ offensive potential was spoiled by freaky weather in Tennessee in Week 11, but this week should be better for them. The defensive matchup is also much easier, given that he’ll be covered by New York Jets cornerback Isaiah Dunn. Who is that, you ask? Exactly. Dunn is allowing a 77th percentile target rate and 98th percentile yards per coverage snap, while Cooks still has an 82nd percentile target rate and 78th percentile yards per route run. This is a boom-or-bust recommendation, but – c’mon – it’s the Jets’ defense; it’ll be boom.
Ja’Marr Chase vs. James Pierre – Ja'Marr Chase came through for us pretty well last week, and this week might be just as good. The context of this game isn’t as juicy as Week 11’s looked, but the Cincinnati Bengals should torch their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers – just as Chase should torch cornerback James Pierre. Chase has a 73rd percentile target rate and 94th percentile yards per route run, while Pierre has given up an 80th percentile yards per cover snap. Another strong week for the rookie receiver is inbound.
Sammy Watkins vs. Greedy Williams – Dependent on his health, Sammy Watkins should expect to have a big day in another AFC North divisional rivalry match in Week 12. Watkins is a little shaky by target rate and catch rate, but those are mostly a function of his deep-threat role in the Baltimore Ravens’ offense. Another function of that role? A 72nd percentile yards per route run. Cleveland Browns cornerback Greedy Williams will be tasked with Watkins’ coverage, but Williams allows a 95th percentile target rate and 79th percentile yards per coverage snap. This could be a surprise boom week for whichever Ravens’ receiver draws the deep assignments.
Ja’Marcus Bradley vs. Chris Westry – On the flip side of this contest, Cleveland wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones still looks unlikely to play in Week 12. If he’s out, practice squad promotee Ja'Marcus Bradley could factor in as the Browns’ field-stretcher, and (in very limited action) he has displayed a 99th percentile catch rate and 78th percentile yards per route run. This could be a good bargain bin DFS option since Baltimore cornerback Chris Westry will likely cover whichever of DPJ or JMB is in there. Westry so far has given up a 98th percentile target rate and 99th percentile yards per cover snap.
Two Smoking Craters
Nelson Agholor vs. Kristian Fulton – At various points this year, New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor has been a featured pass-catcher, a deep threat, a short-area security blanket; he does it all. In Week 12, though, we shouldn’t expect him to do much. Tennessee Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton presents an incredibly tough matchup, allowing just a 21st percentile target rate, first percentile catch rate, and 16th percentile yards per coverage snap. Agholor, on the other hand, is in the 16th percentile in target rate and 32nd in yards per route run. Look elsewhere this week for fantasy value.
Tre’Quan Smith vs. Taron Johnson – Death, taxes, and 2021 Taron Johnson destroying slot receivers. The Buffalo Bills’ slot man is relentless this year and remains the toughest cornerback to match up against in a week. Johnson is allowing a third percentile catch rate and seventh percentile yards per coverage snap. That’s tough news for New Orleans Saints wideout Tre'Quan Smith, who sits in the 16th percentile in target rate and the 34th percentile in yards per route run. The Saints are starting to figure things out in the wake of a spate of injuries, but the ball isn’t going Smith’s way here.