10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 11
There’s a small subsection of the world’s population that has a condition know as caffeinus requitas, which -- from the Latin -- means “I need coffee” (it's not real; don’t look it up).
Yes, it is we elite few who struggle to wake up in the morning without the warm caress of a cup of inky black energy -- though, some use creamer, so it’s more of an inky tan energy. Regardless, when something disrupts that routine of bean-grinding, grounds-scooping, water filtering, and finally sweet savoring, we cease to function. When my coffee machine went on the fritz this morning, I knew it was time to find a different strategy.
So it is with our evaluation of offenses to use in wide receiver to cornerback matchups, even when our calls seemingly have bulletproof logic. Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers had a choice matchup against Detroit Lions’ reserve cornerback Nevin Lawson, but he converted just 10-of-21 targets in that game. Sometimes logic doesn’t hold, but we have to stick with our process.
Keep in mind as you read that we at numberFire have two advanced metrics that we evaluate wide receivers with: Target Net Expected Points (NEP) tells us how many expected points a player creates on all targets, while Reception NEP tells us how many expected points a player creates on all catches. You can read more about NEP in our glossary.
Which cornerbacks can wide receivers exploit best in Week 11?
Michael Crabtree vs. Nevin Lawson – We mentioned our coverage man here earlier in the piece, and while he held Green Bay’s Adams to 3.76 yards per target in Week 10, I don’t expect him to do the same against the resurgent Crabtree. Crabtree has run most of his routes from the right-side receiver spot for the Oakland Raiders this season (the “X” role), meaning he will likely draw Lawson, who has played the left cornerback role almost exclusively for the Lions, since Rashean Mathis went down.
As a unit, the Detroit Lions earn the second-worst Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play (0.24) and allow the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. While Lawson currently has a spectacular yards allowed per coverage snap by Pro Football Focus, those numbers are skewed by Adams’ lackluster Week 10 performance. Expect Crabtree -- currently ranked 27th in Reception NEP per target -- to help right that ship.
Calvin Johnson vs. David Amerson and Travis Carrie – Hopefully the man known as “Megatron” draws more assignments against the former of these cornerbacks than the latter, as Carrie -- an undrafted rookie from the 2014 class -- has turned out to be a coverage sensation. He started at right cornerback last week and turned in another stellar performance, not even being thrown at. His yards allowed per coverage snap is sixth-lowest (just behind Patrick Peterson), and if they start him at this spot again, he could thrive.
So why am I so bullish on Johnson? Amerson is the exact opposite of his teammate, allowing the 33rd-highest (out of 117 qualifying cornerbacks) yards per coverage snap. He occupied the position before Carrie, and could recoup it. The Oakland Raiders are allowing just the 15th-most fantasy points to receivers, but Johnson is no ordinary receiver. I’m a fan of his against the (admittedly improved) Oakland defense this week.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Jason Verrett – Verrett, the diminutive cornerback for San Diego has been torched time and again, by the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Amari Cooper, even Markus Wheaton. With Maclin matched up on him, his speed will be useful to hold the 6’0”, 198-pound receiver back from taking quick slants across the middle to the house. Verrett is allowing the 11th-highest yards per coverage snap mark of qualifying cornerbacks, and Maclin has the 38th-best Reception NEP per target among wide receivers with greater than 40 targets.
Dez Bryant vs. Brent Grimes – Grimes sat out of Week 10 with an undisclosed illness, but it shouldn’t be enough to prevent this leaky secondary leader from playing in Week 11. We know that Dez Bryant has been banged up, and still is hobbling through practices on his surgically-repaired foot, but his size and speed are too much for any cornerback to handle – even when he’s not 100 percent. Grimes isn't playing at his usual level, and with his quarterback back in action, Bryant is set up for a big day.
Brandon Marshall vs. Kareem Jackson – Jackson was also banged up in Week 10, and sat out the contest, but he should be back and ready to roll in Week 11. If he is, he will be welcomed back to the field by Brandon Marshall, who is romping all over defensive backs across the league for the 17th-best Reception NEP among wide receivers. Jackson, on the other hand, has the ninth-most permissive yards allowed per coverage snap mark among cornerbacks this year. Don’t be fooled by the Houston Texans’ low rank in points allowed to wide receivers; Marshall could eat.
Jarvis Landry vs. Dallas Cowboys’ slot cornerbacks – This one is too easy. Landry has become one of Ryan Tannehill's favorite security blankets in short order, so much so that he has supplanted Jordan Cameron as the most reliable middle-of-the-field option for this team. Landry runs 70.2% of his routes out of the slot, and will likely see a ton of Cowboys’ rookie Byron Jones and second-year yeoman Tyler Patmon, neither of whom look capable of slowing down the slot specialist.
Four Good Stocks
Golden Tate vs. D.J. Hayden – This is yet another way for fans of the Lions’ passing game (however many there are) to exploit the Raiders this week. Tate runs 66.3% of his routes out of the slot, where he will face cornerback D.J. Hayden. Hayden has taken the majority of the snaps for Oakland inside, and while he’s improved his perimeter coverage, his slot value (22nd-best out of 48 slot cornerbacks) is still lacking.
Devin Funchess vs. Chris Culliver – If starting wide receiver Philly Brown can’t play the left wide receiver role for the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 -- head coach Ron Rivera said he was “very doubtful” -- Funchess would get this spot. He has 5 catches on 6 targets for 112 yards and a score over the last two weeks, and Culliver's play from San Francisco hasn't lasted into this year.
Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff vs. Sterling Moore – This one is a pure home run call. If you remember how well the Philadelphia Eagles’ passing game improved last season when Mark Sanchez stepped in, you may want to chance that one of Agholor or Huff has a big game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ cornerback Sterling Moore, who is allowing the 15th-most yards per coverage snap this year.
Dontrelle Inman vs. Marcus Peters – I’ve been a huge Dontrelle Inman fan since he came out last year, and now his Canadian football Cinderella story continues, as he’ll start in Week 11. With Kansas City Chiefs’ veteran cornerback Sean Smith likely on Stevie Johnson, Inman will get rookie Marcus Peters. Targeting Peters has worked for offenses so far this year, and Inman should benefit.