6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 4
Since buying a house years ago, I’ve realized certain things about myself I never knew before. The main thing is that I’m not a “lawn guy.”
You know the type: every weekend, they strap on the baseball cap and the Reeboks, grab the mower, and meticulously shave down their greenery to the perfect length. After that, they scatter even more seeds to keep the carpet lush and thick, then gently sift the perfect combo of fertilizer and topsoil into their fresh-hewn field on top. Finally, their multi-setting sprinkler gets positioned just right, clicked into the right attachments, and they kick back on the patio to watch -- literally -- their grass grow.
I have that meticulous attention to detail, but I find far more satisfaction in watching a formula crunch numbers than I do in Mother Nature taking her sweet time rebuilding the brown patches on my property. That’s why I’m very lucky to get to put together this column each week, breaking down each wide receiver/cornerback matchup like snipping individual blades of grass with a pair of scissors.
Let’s make sure your lineups are lush this week too, with a dowsing of data. Which fantasy wide receivers have the best cornerback matchups in Week 4?
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: A.J. Brown (19.5) and Justin Jefferson (4.4). Even on a day where Brown was the clear support man to teammate DeVonta Smith, he still earned double-digit targets and turned them into 85 yards and a score. Philadelphia seems fairly matchup-proof this year, not that there was a question about Brown’s value. Jefferson’s team was the beneficiaries of a 52-point shootout environment, but Jefferson himself got locked down by a resurgent Jeff Okudah -- a former top-five draft pick who essentially shadowed JJ and took him out of the game.
Good Stocks: Tyler Lockett (16.6), Jakobi Meyers (DNP), Amari Cooper (23.1), and Nelson Agholor (4.1). The New England wide receivers were a trap, and I never should’ve trusted them to pass the ball well. That said, the game was a 63-point shootout. When Meyers was ruled out, I posted an update on Twitter that Greg Dortch was worth the look instead; he ended up with 17.0 points on 10 targets. Lockett remains a clear top target on his team, drawing 11 looks against a soft Atlanta secondary. Cooper also saw 11 targets and could’ve even had more points if not for an illegal touching penalty on a 20-plus yard masterpiece of a catch.
Smoking Craters: Bryan Edwards (DNP) and Jahan Dotson (3.0). Edwards was declared inactive before this game, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he had played; Atlanta skill-position players drew just 19 targets combined, and second receiver Olamide Zaccheaus earned just two targets and 6.9 PPR points. Washington got absolutely annihilated in the passing game, as they were constantly under siege from the opposing pass-rush. Dotson did see eight targets but caught only two for 10 yards as the fourth-most targeted player in the offense.
Two Lineup Locks
Stefon Diggs vs. Jalyn Armour-Davis – Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs still saw 11 targets last game and is now averaging 28.5 PPR points per game. Oh, but Week 3 was a “down” game for Diggs, you say? The Buffalo alpha receiver brought in only 74 receiving yards and missed the end zone, so he’s no longer averaging two touchdowns per contest? That’s a rough go of it for you Diggs managers, and I suppose you should all trade him to me in the leagues we’re in together.
Diggs remains the top receiver in fantasy football, and he’s clearly atop the pile for all of your season-long leagues; blah, blah, blah, Joe – we know to start him. You need to take a second, though, and really appreciate just how masterful Diggs has been despite taking a slight step back in Week 3 from his fantasy immortality. Heading into Week 4, the top threat on the Bills is drawing a target on 28% of his routes run (89th percentile among Week 4 starting receivers), securing 82% of those targets (84th percentile), and racking up 2.9 yards per route run (92nd percentile). Diggs is monopolizing looks in the high-octane Buffalo offense, to boot, coming in 11th in the league in team air yards share.
We should assume the Diggs domination will continue into Week 4 against Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis. JAD has gotten rocked in his debut season, getting targeted on 30% of his coverage snaps (98th percentile among Week 4 starting corners), giving up an 89% catch rate when targeted (98th percentile), and allowing 5.1 yards per cover snap (99th percentile). There’s a good chance Diggs sees half his day against Armour-Davis and half against veteran stalwart Marcus Peters, but Peters has also proven vulnerable (78th-percentile yards per route run). The Ravens’ corners versus Diggs are the best and eighth-best individual matchups, respectively, by my advantage formula.
Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Terrance Mitchell – The Indianapolis Colts have been playing things very smart with star wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. this year. The breakout candidate hasn’t quite yet broken big outside of a Week 1 outburst due to a quad injury that forced him to miss Week 2. Last week he rebounded almost as well as his kickoff performance with eight catches for 72 yards in spite of an abhorrently inefficient Indy passing attack. Week 4 might be his smash spot, however, as he faces the Tennessee Titans’ vulnerable secondary.
This unit is spearheaded on the outside by cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Kristian Fulton, the former of which should see Pittman the most in this contest. Just a few days ago, Mitchell got the start over last year’s first-round draft pick Caleb Farley -- a pretty notable move by head coach Mike Vrabel after signing Mitchell to the active roster midweek. He responded by forking over 102 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches (eight targets). For the season, Mitchell is allowing a target on 23% of his coverage snaps (76th percentile), a 75% catch rate (67th percentile), and 2.4 yards per coverage snap (96th percentile).
Pittman, for his part, doesn’t have elite peripherals; that said, every metric falls in the 72nd percentile or higher. Pittman has drawn a target on 23% of his routes run (72nd percentile), is catching 77% of those targets (76th percentile), and turns those into 2.0 yards per route run (75th percentile). He’s a clear number-one receiver in his offense and is facing an incredibly weak secondary. This time next week, Pittman's profile might look even better.
Four Good Stocks
Tyler Lockett vs. Amani Oruwariye – Let’s go back to the well here with Tyler Lockett and the Seattle Seahawks in a projected shootout with the Detroit Lions. Lockett should actually split his time between Amani Oruwariye and Mike Hughes, whether he’s out wide or in the slot. Lions shutdown man Jeff Okudah will likely be assigned to bully D.K. Metcalf all day, leaving gaps for Lockett to exploit. Lockett’s metrics are all 78th percentile or above, while Oruwariye allows a 94th-percentile target rate and 83rd-percentile yards per route run and Hughes’ numbers are all 71st percentile or higher.
Drake London vs. Martin Emerson – In some high-stakes rookie-on-rookie action, Atlanta Falcons top-10 wide receiver Drake London should draw significant coverage from Cleveland Browns cornerback Martin Emerson. Emerson is actually one of the better cornerbacks in this column this week, with his weakest point a 71st-percentile target rate and a 52nd-percentile catch rate. That said, London has been an absolute nightmare for defensive backs to date, with a 93rd-percentile target rate (31%) and 90th-percentile yards per route run (2.7). He’s a little more boom-or-bust in a game that will likely center on rushing for both squads, but London has immense upside here.
Michael Thomas vs. Cameron Dantzler – New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston is playing through a cavalcade of injuries that would bench even the most stalwart iron men, but Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is still a good play this week. Thomas has middling to above-average peripherals right now, most notably a 60th-percentile target rate and 68th-percentile catch rate, but gets one of the easiest matchups on the week. The Minnesota Vikings have been gashed through the air in 2022, and cornerback Cameron Dantzler is allowing a 76th-percentile target rate, 91st-percentile catch rate, and 84th-percentile yards per cover snap. Especially if the popgun-armed Andy Dalton gets called into service, Thomas has sleeper value.
Richie James vs. Kyler Gordon – It’s a surprisingly bare week for unheralded options in this column, but Richie James is getting a promotion to the starting lineup with the injury to the New York Giants’ Sterling Shepard. The speedy slot receiver has run a just below-average number of routes prior to this point but should now be a starter in two-receiver sets. James’ top skill is secure hands; his 90th-percentile catch rate should help his inaccurate passer continue to move the chains. He’ll be covered by Chicago Bears slot corner Kyler Gordon, a second-round rookie. Gordon is adjusting to the NFL poorly so far, allowing a 96th-percentile target rate, an 85th-percentile catch rate, and 98th-percentile yards per cover snap. This should be a breakout day for James.
Two Smoking Craters
Kenny Golladay vs. Jaylon Johnson – On the flip side of the Giants promoting James, they have basically tried to bury high-salaried wideout Kenny Golladay to this point. They may have no other choice but to start him, however, with injuries across their receiver room. In 2022, Golladay holds a putrid 12th-percentile target rate (12% of his routes run), a 2nd-percentile catch rate (40%), and 5th-percentile yards per route run (0.5).
He’ll see a fair amount of Bears boundary corner Jaylon Johnson, who grades out as the best cornerback in the league by all three metrics this week. He allows a target on just 5% of his coverage snaps, allows a catch on just 33% of his targets, and gives up just 0.1 yards per snap. The Giants haven’t looked Golladay’s way much yet this year. They won’t this week, and neither should you.
George Pickens vs. Sauce Gardner – Pittsburgh Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens has been the toast of the fantasy community to start the season, especially thanks to an Odell Beckham-esque catch that put him squarely on the radar of even the most casual fan. Outside of the highlight reel, however, Pickens has been mediocre with his peripherals; he’s seeing a 16th-percentile target rate (13%), the worst catch rate in the league (38%), and turning in a 7th-percentile yards per route run (0.6).
He’ll also be matched up against New York Jets cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed this week, both of whom are among the three worst individual matchups in Week 4. They are both allowing target rates under 15%. Reed allows a catch on just 33% of his targets (tied for best with Jaylon Johnson), and both allow under 1.0 yard per coverage snap. Expect the Steelers to batter the Jets on the ground and avoid the flashy Pickens in this matchup.