6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 3
If you’ve ever played the Pokémon video games, you’ll know that the series is characterized by “trainers” who catch Pokémon -- pocket monsters -- and battle them against each other.
At this point in the series’ nearly 30-year existence, there are 18 “types” that your monsters can be, and each of those types has strengths and weaknesses against other types. Does your monster breathe flames? It’s probably a Fire-type, which is strong against Grass-types but weak to Water. In the same way, Grass is strong against Water, and Water is obviously therefore weak to Grass. Every type is balanced against others in various ways.
Football has a similar interplay in its rules, where the right kind of defensive scheme – and even the right style of cornerback – is needed to counter different kinds of offensive schemes and players. Even in fantasy football, you and I should be adjusting our strategies to account for the “level” of both the defender and the pass-catcher, just like Pokémon trainers do.
You wouldn’t want to go into a Gym Battle with a level 1 Pikachu and no clue whether you’re walking into a bad matchup or not; why would you set your Week 3 fantasy football lineups without all of the information in hand?
Which fantasy wide receivers have the best cornerback matchups in Week 3?
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: Stefon Diggs (44.8) and Michael Pittman Jr. (DNP). I’d never have said I “called” a 12-catch, 148-yard, three-touchdown day for Diggs, but it’s clear that his high talent can elevate even the juiciest on-paper matchups. Pittman ended up a Saturday scratch, but if you went with teammate Ashton Dulin in his stead, you were rewarded with a cool five catches for 79 receiving yards. Dulin’s 13.2 fantasy points wouldn’t have been enough to cross the Locks threshold, but it’s better than nothing (also known as what Parris Campbell is doing these days).
Good Stocks: Devin Duvernay (12.2), Robbie Anderson (4.2), Jarvis Landry (6.5), and Marquise Brown (12.8). Duvernay managers got a bit lucky that he returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a special teams score; that said, they also got a bit unlucky that he left the game with a concussion after just two targets. We’ll call it even on fantasy karma. Both Anderson’s targets and average depth of target dropped substantially from Week 1’s numbers, and he didn’t score; hard to project that big of an implosion on every front after a strong first showing. Landry should still see plenty of volume over the season, but even in a game where his team was chasing points, Landry was a short-area receiver with a low fantasy ceiling. Brown was just fine this week, drawing 11 targets with an 11.3 yards per reception rate. The only issue was he caught just six of those targets for 68 yards and could have had a much bigger day.
Smoking Craters: Robert Woods (7.9) and Darnell Mooney (0.6). Woods had his first five-target day in his new digs. That size of the role, even with the poor yardage he posted, was just enough to push him into usable territory. PPR scoring is the only thing keeping Mooney from a negative points day; he was completely washed out by the defensive attention in an offense that has thrown by far the least amount of passes in 2022. There should be few fantasy managers (if any) thinking about starting Mooney in the near future.
Two Lineup Locks
A.J. Brown vs. William Jackson III – It’s clear who “The Guy” is on the Philadelphia Eagles’ receiving depth chart now, only two games into the 2022 season. Sure, they threw last year’s first-round pick DeVonta Smith a bone in Week 2 to get him right after a season opener goose-egg, but wide receiver A.J. Brown has the third-highest team target share (33.3%) in the league. Brown is the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees, and the dog’s wag in Philadelphia for skill-position players; that’s not changing any time soon. Through two games, Brown has seen a target on 25% of his routes run (81st percentile), has caught 79% of those targets (77th percentile), and has converted those catches into 3.0 yards per route run (93rd percentile). In fact, the only Week 3 starting wideout currently outperforming him in every metric just posted a 12-catch, 148-yard, three-touchdown day; that’s how good Brown has been.
In his first NFC East scrap, Brown will be opposed the most by Washington Commanders cornerback William Jackson III. Despite getting made a high-dollar acquisition before the 2021 season, Jackson has rarely been steady as a pass defender in his second contract. Last year, WJ3 was targeted on just 11% of his cover snaps, allowed a catch rate on just 58.5% of those targets, and allowed just 0.7 yards per cover snap; he also allowed five touchdowns on just 31 receptions. This season, Jackson is forking over a still-paltry 13% target rate (32nd percentile), but the targets that get there are getting caught easily; Jackson has allowed a 90% catch rate (92nd percentile). His big-play blues also continue to dog him, as he has given up 1.7 yards per coverage snap (81st percentile).
The Eagles’ passing game thrives on extending plays and breaking defenses down, while Jackson’s coverage starts to crumble the more a play gets weird and wild. Combine those two tendencies and this is a great opportunity for Brown to keep the fantasy dominance rolling in Week 3.
Justin Jefferson vs. Mike Hughes – You don’t need me to tell you to start Justin Jefferson, do you? You know that the Minnesota Vikings getting shell-shocked on offense in Week 2 was more exception than rule, right? I don’t know how much more I need to do to convince you, but let me start with this: Jefferson is top-10 among wide receivers in team target share in 2022 (29.5%) and 11th overall in the metric. Jefferson had a scoreless week with just a 50% catch rate in his most recent game and he still provided a double-digit PPR fantasy showing with 10.8 points. Jefferson currently holds an elite combination of workload and talent, and that is emblematized by his 27% target per route run rate (88th percentile), 68% catch rate (54th percentile), and 2.8 yards per route run (91st percentile).
As for the other half of the equation: just because the Detroit Lions are fun to watch again doesn’t mean they are unstoppably good on defense. That goes especially for cornerback Mike Hughes, a former Viking himself (#RevengeGame!). Hughes has bounced around from team to team lately, last year allowing a 61% catch rate and 8 coverage scores for Kansas City. This season, the Minnesota castoff has been almost average in deterring throws with a 16% target rate (55th percentile), but he has gotten exploited at the catch point (91% catch rate; 94th percentile) and given up a sizable number of big plays (1.9 yards per route run; 87th percentile).
Jefferson should also dominate his matchup with safety Tracy Walker when moved into the slot in Week 3.
You’re not ever benching Jefferson in season-long leagues, but don’t avoid JJ in single-week formats, either. There are still holes in the Detroit defense.
Four Good Stocks
Tyler Lockett vs. Erik Harris – Consider Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks a riskier version of Jefferson this week, given his excellent matchup both outside against Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell and in the slot against safety Erik Harris. Lockett has been more of a possession option in 2022 than in the past, with his 90th-percentile catch rate his highest metric so far. He’s still well above-average across the board, however, and in a game that could end up a non-defensive slap-fight, Lockett should make a meal out of Harris (96th percentile or higher across the board) and Terrell (94th-percentile catch rate) alike in PPR leagues.
Jakobi Meyers vs. Marcus Peters – Speaking of PPR heroes, New England Patriots slot man Jakobi Meyers actually looks likeliest to match up with Baltimore Ravens top cornerback Marcus Peters in Week 3. Peters is typically the shadow corner for the Ravens, so there’s a possibility that Meyers gets blanketed and game-schemed out of the action. Still, he’s seen a very healthy 91st-percentile target rate and 81st-percentile yards per route run, while Peters has allowed a 72nd-percentile target rate, 85th-percentile catch rate, and 97th-percentile yards per cover snap rate. Perhaps Peters needed his first game back to just get up to speed, but I like Meyers’ upside in this matchup where he could use his strength to bully the long and strong Baltimore defender.
Amari Cooper vs. Ahkello Witherspoon – Everyone in the Cleveland Browns’ offense still seems to be working on gelling, but wide receiver Amari Cooper showed last week that he’s still got it when they can get him the ball. The veteran pass-catcher reeled in nine of his 10 targets for 101 yards and a score, proving that he’s still a worthwhile fantasy WR2. The gaffes the Cleveland secondary has committed of late could also see the offense need to throw a bunch to keep up with even the Pittsburgh Steelers, which really benefits Cooper. He should be guarded the most by Ahkello Witherspoon, who is allowing a 78th-percentile catch rate and 60th-percentile yards per cover snap. I’m still not trusting Cooper as more than a WR3/FLEX if I can avoid it, but his 81st-percentile target rate and above-average other marks are compelling.
Nelson Agholor vs. Damarion Williams – I shouldn’t be doubling down on such a run-heavy offense, but let this be a point to you that the Baltimore secondary isn’t impenetrable this year. Rookie corner Damarion Williams has been starting in the slot and still looks quite raw; Williams has been targeted at a rate in the 97th percentile and is giving up a 72nd-percentile yards per cover snap. I wouldn’t trust Pats receiver Nelson Agholor too much -- he’s still running just the third-most routes among receivers on his own team -- but in this matchup, considering he’s racked up a 79th-percentile catch rate and 92nd-percentile yards per route run? He’s worth a look for sure.
Two Smoking Craters
Bryan Edwards vs. Tariq Woolen – The former Day 2 draftee by the Las Vegas Raiders seems to be doing nothing more than getting his cardio in at his new job with the Falcons. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards’ statuesque frame cuts an impressive figure, but his stat line -- 11% target rate (16th percentile), 33% catch rate (2nd percentile), and 0.1 yards per route run (1st percentile) -- tells a very different story. The massive marvel won’t get an off day in Week 3, either, consider 6-foot-4, 205-pound cover monster Tariq Woolen will be opposing him for the Seahawks. Woolen should probably be playing safety in the NFL, but no one has bothered to tell him that; his 12% target rate (23rd percentile) is his worst metric so far in 2022. Woolen also has limited opposing receivers to a 43% catch rate (12th percentile) and given them 0.6 yards per cover snap (20th percentile). Expect Edwards to keep running but not to do much more in Week 3.
Jahan Dotson vs. James Bradberry – The first-round rookie Jahan Dotson has burst onto the scene already this year as a low-volume touchdown machine. Through two games, the diminutive pass-catcher has just 10 targets on a bundle of routes run but has three touchdowns on those looks. Meager usage like this can’t sustain such a high scoring rate, and I’m more inclined to trust Dotson’s poor peripherals (15th-percentile target rate; 32nd-percentile yards per route run) than I am to assume his scoring prowess magically opens up the offense for him. This week could prove especially troublesome for the Commanders’ passing game, with the Eagles and cornerback James Bradberry looming. Bradberry allows a 23rd-percentile target rate and that’s his most permissive trait; he holds sixth-percentile marks in catch rate (36%) and yards per cover snap allowed (0.3) this season. Dotson has immense upside, especially in an offense that likes to throw now more than ever, but Week 3 offers a matchup you should shelter the young rookie from if at all possible.