6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
My day job has had me working 10-hour days at a minimum lately. I understand that a lot of people have tougher, longer days on the job, but trust me: carrying a 30-pound satchel while walking nine miles a day for 10 to 12 hours in the humid 90-degree heat of Minnesota’s dog days of summer is not an ideal situation. Jobs like that can really get on top of you if you’re not taking care of your body; you need to keep stretching, hydrating, and getting rest to stay fit through tough times.
The NFL season can also get brutal quickly with injuries if you’re not staying abreast of the news. Stars like Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Tee Higgins, Chris Godwin (again), and Rondale Moore find their seasons already beginning to “cramp” due to injuries leading into Week 2. If we don’t do some stretching to find good matchups to replace these guys in our lineups, we’ll be sweating our eyes out come Sunday morning.
Let me be your fantasy football electrolytes then: 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: CeeDee Lamb (4.9) and Jaylen Waddle (17.7). It’s hard to produce when you’re constantly getting double-teamed and then you have to catch passes from Cooper Rush; Lamb should give us better this season than what he did in Week 1, but that might not happen until his star quarterback returns. Waddle did just what we thought, and belly-slid his way into the end zone to boot.
Good Stocks: Mike Williams (3.0), D.K. Metcalf (8.6), Christian Kirk (17.7), and Terry McLaurin (13.8). Williams should have been the focal point of his offense when the aforementioned Allen left the game, but it all of a sudden became a committee. Who knows why, but Mike Will’s rollercoaster volatility seems to be back, and that’s concerning. Metcalf got oh-so-close to our threshold, which I will take as a win for the process -- but I can’t take it as a material win; oh well. Kirk and McLaurin were both benefactors of their contest’s sneaky shootout, just as expected, though Kirk saw more targets thanks partly to a weaker supporting cast.
Smoking Craters: Nelson Agholor (3.8) and Randall Cobb (3.4). Agholor saw a healthy five targets, catching three for less than 30 yards receiving. He was a distant third on his team in wide receiver snap share, and nothing seems likely to change about that in the near future. Cobb saw a paltry three targets while participating in the second-most routes among receivers, which was still under three-quarters of his team’s pass plays. He’s nowhere near usable in a wide receiver-by-committee’s amorphous blob of roles.
Two Lineup Locks
Stefon Diggs vs. Kristian Fulton – The Tennessee Titans did surprisingly well in their first game of the season, given that this defense lately hasn’t been known for stout stands by their secondary. Underlying the stellar 156 passing yards allowed, however, is the fact that cornerback Kristian Fulton allowed 78 of those himself.
Fulton is a recent second-round NFL Draft pick who now has a true bookend to help him in last year’s first-rounder Caleb Farley, the former got roasted by the peripheral metrics. Fulton allowed just a 14% target rate (36th percentile among Week 2 starting cornerbacks), with just three targets coming his way -- and that’s good. The problem is what happened when those targets did come. First, Fulton allowed his coverage assignment a cushy 3.0 yards of separation per target. He also allowed his receivers to bring each of their targets in for a 100% catch rate (86th percentile), finally allowing them to turn the catches into 2.9 yards per coverage snap (96th percentile). With Farley working into a lockdown corner on one side, it’s only a matter of time before NFL offenses start scheming to get their best receiver on Fulton.
Transition to Week 2, where the Buffalo Bills and Stefon Diggs look like they haven’t missed a beat in the offseason. Diggs in Week 1 drew a target on 30% of his routes run (88th percentile among Week 2 starting receivers). He also caught 89% of his targets (75th percentile) and racked up an absurd 4.1 yards per route run (96th percentile) on those plays. We love when a wide receiver’s strengths align perfectly with their cornerback’s weakness, and that’s what we have here in the Diggs-Fulton matchup. Bear in mind that Buffalo should move Diggs around the formation, so he may see Fulton for only 20 to 25 snaps in Week 2; that said, he still holds the advantage over Farley, as well, and Diggs may do enough on 40% to 50% of a game’s snaps against Fulton to lock him in as a true fantasy star yet again this week.
Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Shaquill Griffin – Keep an eye on Michael Pittman Jr.'s Friday practice activity after Pittman was limited Wednesday and not seen by media at Thursday's practice, but if he plays, he can feast in this spot. The target hog and number-one wideout will be a focal point all season. If the Indianapolis Colts are just giving him a rest, Pittman deserves it after the showing MPJ put up in Week 1, turning in a strong 25% target per route run rate (79th percentile), and despite catching just 69% of his targets (55th percentile), he was top-10 in intended air yards last week; we can give him a bit of a pass. The nine catches he did make turned into a solid 2.3 yards per route run (73rd percentile), as well.
Pittman gets another divisional game back-to-back, as the Jacksonville Jaguars will send out cornerback Shaquill Griffin to do battle with him. Pittman ran 55% of his routes from the left side of the field, while Griffin guarded that side on over 80% of his defensive snaps, so it’s likely these two will see a lot of each other Sunday. Griffin was much stingier than the aforementioned Fulton but was still vulnerable in Week 1: he allowed an 18% target rate (68th percentile) to his assignments but limited them to a 62% catch rate (38th percentile) on those targets. When they did secure the ball, however, Griffin forked over 1.6 yards per coverage snap (70th percentile).
Pittman will get targeted plenty and should be able to make Griffin pay when he makes a catch, even if it might be a frustrating day to watch him battle his cornerback foe. In what might now be a more pass-positive Colts offense, Pittman combines strong peripherals with intense pass play volume against an exploitable secondary. That makes him a perfect Lineup Lock for Week 2.
Four Good Stocks
Devin Duvernay vs. Nik Needham – I don’t necessarily buy that the version of Devin Duvernay we saw in Week 1 is going to be the one we see all year -- remember Kevin Ogletree? That said, the Baltimore Ravens have to recognize that Duvernay has the talent to blow open exploitable matchups, and they should keep him involved in the passing game. Duvernay posted a 63rd-percentile target rate, along with a 78th-percentile catch rate and 84th-percentile yards per route run. You love to see those kinds of numbers -- even in a low-volume Baltimore passing game -- against a cornerback like the Miami Dolphins’ Nik Needham. Needham allowed 74th-percentile or greater marks across the board in Week 1 and has been a feature of this column in the past. All Duvernay needs is one deep ball to have a big fantasy day for you, so I’d consider making him a low-salary DFS play or a sneaky waiver wire plug-in if you don’t mind the risk.
Robbie Anderson vs. Darnay Holmes – Speaking of risk, let’s take a look at Carolina Panthers deep threat Robbie Anderson as a potential boom candidate this week. Anderson was left for dead in a lot of fantasy circles this offseason after his dismayed social media response to rumors of a trade for quarterback Baker Mayfield went viral. Clearly, the relationship wasn’t too badly damaged as Anderson posted about average marks in target rate and catch rate in Week 1, and he lit up the efficiency siren with an 86th-percentile yards per route run mark. Anderson is by no means a failproof fantasy star, but in going against New York Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes (a frequent guest in this column), he may be able to see a greater rate of targets (Holmes allowed a 98th-percentile target per cover snap rate) while continuing to break off chunks of yardage (93rd-percentile yards per cover snap allowed). The "Squire to Sir Purr" should be a fine flier option this week given his compelling matchup.
Jarvis Landry vs. Antoine Winfield Jr. – As a dedicated follower of the cult of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) formats, when I think of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr., I think of an exciting, young defensive back who plays a prolific fantasy role for himself. When I look at his coverage marks for Week 1, however, it’s clear that the Bucs’ slot defender may be a place we can exploit their difficult defense going forward for fantasy receivers. Winfield wasn’t bad by any means -- he allowed just a 38th-percentile catch rate and a middling 59th-percentile yards per coverage snap. Those came coupled with a 74th-percentile target rate, however, as the Tampa Bay outside corners seem to be funneling the ball inside with their play.
That means we could see a big day for New Orleans Saints slot receiver Jarvis Landry, who already posted solid numbers in the season opener. Landry was 74th percentile and above in all metrics, and his precise route-running savvy should keep the hard-hitting Winfield on his heels here. Landry is a safer Week 2 play than either Duvernay or Anderson but might have a lower ceiling.
Marquise Brown vs. Rock Ya-Sin – Probably the highest-upside play among Good Stocks this week is Marquise Brown of the Arizona Cardinals. “Hollywood,” as is he is known to friends, didn’t have quite the coming-out party in the desert that we all hoped he would in Week 1, getting superseded by Greg Dortch. This week, while the redbirds aren’t playing chaos catchup against Patrick Mahomes, they might be able to stick to the script more and get the ball to Brown, who posted truly underwhelming peripherals -- all below the 45th percentile. The upside here is in his cover man, Rock Ya-Sin. RYS gave the Las Vegas Raiders a horrific Week 1 showing, allowing a 94th-percentile target rate and 91st-percentile yards per route run. The floor for Brown in fantasy is hopefully his first-week hitch; this is a great get-right spot.
Two Smoking Craters
Robert Woods vs. Dane Jackson – I love the Bills’ side of this showdown, but the Titans’ offensive options are definitely more limited due to Buffalo’s swarming defense. That’s why offseason acquisition Robert Woods remains an avoid recommendation in Week 2 after he posted 12th-percentile or worse marks across the board for our purposes. Cornerback Dane Jackson should see the most of Woods this week, and he smothered his assignments last week; Jackson allowed just a 16th-percentile target rate (10%), 32nd-percentile catch rate (60%), and 15th-percentile yards per cover snap (0.5).
Sure, someone needs to catch the ball in Tennessee, but until Woods shows he’s back up to snuff (or in a better matchup), I’m looking elsewhere.
Darnell Mooney vs. Jaire Alexander – This benching recommendation is the one that could really bite me. The Chicago Bears didn’t have a lot going on through the air in Week 1, but quarterback Justin Fields didn’t stop hucking the rock downfield in spite of the monsoon-esque conditions at Soldier Field. Fields and the Bears had the highest rate of deep passes attempted to start the year, and that’s a place where wide receiver Darnell Mooney thrives. Still, Week 1 saw the young and electric Mooney post a second-percentile catch rate, sixth-percentile yards per route run, and a just below-average 41st-percentile target rate.
If the Green Bay Packers are smart, they’ll realize that Mooney is the only real receiving threat Chicago has, and star cornerback Jaire Alexander will be attached to Mooney’s hip all game. Alexander, in spite of some embarrassing team results in Week 1, held up in coverage himself; he allowed a first-percentile target rate and sixth-percentile yards per coverage snap. I’m willing to believe Chicago has a better passing day in Week 2 than they did in Week 1, but I’m not banking on it being Mooney who has a big game.