10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 8
Last week we saw plenty of fireworks from our studs, but we were ultimately let down by DeAndre Hopkins. Unfortunately Brent Grimes shadowed Hopkins for the full game and played really well. All of this took place while our target, Jamar Taylor, gave up a huge game to the ghost of Nate Washington instead. But alas, the fantasy gods have gifted us a matchup with the fantasy favorite, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, to ail our grieving DeAndre Hopkins hearts.
Week 8 is going to be fun.
Keep in mind as you read through this column: numberFire has two advanced metrics for wide receivers that are important to use for wide receiver matchups. Target Net Expected Points (NEP) tells us the number of expected points a player is adding for his team on all targets, while Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) tells us the number of expected points a player is adding on all catches. You can read more about NEP in our glossary.
Fantasy points listed are in PPR (point per reception) format.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Blidi Wreh-Wilson - Even after a down week, Hopkins still ranks first overall by Reception NEP totals, and no one cures a down week quite like Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Nuk faced off against Blidi and this Tennessee secondary twice in 2014, finishing with 14 catches for 333 yards and 2 touchdowns -- including a Week 13 explosion with 238 yards and 2 touchdowns. That performance was the top overall fantasy game by a wide receiver in 2014 and officially crowned Blidi Wreh as fantasy footballers' favorite target. Some people (me) even went so far as to nickname him "Bleedy" because of the fantasy points he bled to wide receivers. Let's get him again.
Julio Jones vs. Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins - This season, in weeks where Julio Jones was not a full participant in practice, he has averaged 8.5 targets per game. In weeks when he has participated in at least one "full" practice he has averaged 15.75 targets per game -- including 17 targets last week. This week? Julio is finally off the injury report.
Verner and Jenkins have only faced two elite wide receivers this season -- Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins (with Ryan Mallett); They combined for 15 catches on 23 targets for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns -- 2.2 PPR points per target. If Julio sees his healthy average of 16 targets, that would be 35 fantasy points. Basically, we should expect Julio to have a really good game.
Eric Decker vs. D.J. Hayden - One of the biggest mismatches of Week 8 is 6' 3" Decker against the 5' 11" Hayden. The Raiders have the 31st-ranked pass defense according to our metrics and are allowing 64.16 points above expectation with Hayden as the weakest link. However, it hasn't necessarily showed on the stat sheets because the Raiders have not faced many primary slot receivers. Just remember, Hayden allowed Eddie Royal to record his only game over 50 yards, as well as his only touchdown on the season -- 40% of Royal's total 2015 fantasy production. Decker is much better than Royal.
When he had a great Week 2 matchup against Darius Butler, he had 11 targets. This matchup is similarly beatable, and we should expect Chan Gailey to pepper Hayden with heavy doses of Decker.
Keenan Allen vs. Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright - Keenan Allen runs the majority of his routes from the left side of the field, which would mostly put him in the coverage of Jimmy Smith. Over the last few years, Jimmy Smith was beginning to develop into one of the NFL's top cornerbacks; that is not the case this year. While shadowing A.J. Green and Amari Cooper in Week 2 and 3, Smith allowed 17 catches on 24 targets for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns. Then in Week 7, Baltimore allowed outside receivers, John Brown and Michael Floyd, to combine for 7 catches on 10 targets for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. We want to target this Baltimore secondary heavily, and relying on Keenan Allen's 12 targets per game average is a great way to do so.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes - Did you forget about Alshon Jeffery this year? I almost did. If we look back at the 2 games that Jeffery has played this year he has logged 11 targets each week -- 29% of Jay Cutler's throws. In those two games Jeffery has managed 13 and 29 PPR fantasy points. The Vikings pass defense is ranked 11th by numberFire's metrics and does not seem like a plus matchup for wide receivers -- it isn't, but Xavier Rhodes is. Rhodes has been a generous fantasy target when shadowing elite receivers. While shadowing the aging Calvin Johnson and the Peyton Manning-led Demaryius Thomas, Rhodes allowed more than 18 PPR points in each of the 3 contests. Rhodes should shadow Jeffery in Week 8, giving Jeffery the same matchup that allowed a struggling Calvin Johnson to score 19 and 24 fantasy points. Alshon is the 15th priced wide receiver on FanDuel this week but should finish well within the top 12 if the matchup is any indication.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay - Week after week, the Lions' secondary has failed the eye test. Now the numbers have finally caught up, and according to the numberFire metrics, Detroit is the 32nd-ranked pass defense. This bottom ranked unit has given up 23.7, 28.7 and 17.3 fantasy points to the primary outside receiver over the last three weeks. Two of those receivers were John Brown and Stefon Diggs -- both having similar skillsets to Maclin. As long as Maclin is active, he should be open often and push for his weekly 10-plus targets. Make sure to check his status on Sunday; he was a surprise inactive last week.
Stefon Diggs (Available in 39% of Yahoo Leagues) vs. Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter - The Chicago Bears secondary is numberFire's 26th-ranked unit, widely thanks to the play of Fuller and Porter. The duo just allowed Calvin Johnson to catch 6 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in Week 6. Diggs is spending the majority of his time on the outside and should see a lot of Porter and Fuller on Sunday.
Diggs doesn't just look the part on the film; the metrics back it up. His Reception NEP total extrapolated over six games would rank him as the fourth best wide receiver by Reception NEP this year, ahead of Larry Fitzgerald. Somehow Diggs is still only 61% owned in Yahoo Leagues; he should be 100% owned in fantasy leagues, and he should be started this week.
Rishard Matthews (Available in 41% of Yahoo Leagues) vs. the Patriots secondary - The Patriots consistently do what they can to stop the top playmaker on the opposing team -- this week those players are Jarvis Landry and Lamar Miller. Matthews has been a wide receiver who has been widely overlooked this season, quietly ranking as the 22nd wide receiver according to Reception NEP. The hope is that the Patriots overlook him as well, selling out to stop Landry. They have consistently allowed second options to beat them this season -- including Heath Miller (16 fantasy points), Allen Hurns (15 fantasy points) and Robert Woods (15 fantasy points). We should expect heavy coverage in the middle of the field to slow Miller and Landry, with Matthews drawing plenty of single coverage on the outside.
Brandon LaFell (Available in 46% of Yahoo Leagues) vs. Jamar Taylor - Last week we tried to target Taylor with DeAndre Hopkins, but he was shadowed by Grimes instead. In Week 8 we should expect Grimes to be shadowing Julian Edelman, which would leave Jamar Taylor to cover LaFell. We want to target Taylor who just allowed Nate Washington to catch 9 passes for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns.
LaFell was absolutely brutal in first performance, as he ended the day with five dropped passes. However, this will almost guarantee that he will be very low owned in daily formats, making him a strong contrarian play in tournaments. Remember that, while playing poorly, he still saw 8 targets in Week 7. We should generally expect him to play much closer to the level that allowed him to end as the 22nd highest scoring fantasy receiver in 2014. I love LaFell in tournaments this week.
Marvin Jones (Available in 59% of Yahoo Leagues) vs. Antwon Blake - The Steelers have seen surprisingly solid production out of Ross Cockrell this season helping to produce numberFire's 15th ranked passing defense. This week, based on where A.J. Green and Marvin Jones generally line up, we should expect Green to see the majority of Cockrell. Blake on the other hand, has struggled this season, constantly being targeted by opposing quarterbacks. Just search his name on Twitter; Steelers fans love him. Jones has been hit-or-miss this season but has been productive in his plus matchups, posting 10 or more fantasy points in four of his six games. He should get opportunities down the field against Blake.