10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 12
One of my favorite media to play with when I was creating theatre in college was the use of shadow puppetry, one of the oldest forms of performance in history. I saw it as a very intricate and delicate way of storytelling when done right. It’s a beautiful way to show a narrative with little to no speech.
“Shadowing” takes on a very different meaning in another sphere.
When news broke over the wire last weekend that Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was going to be shadowing Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in Week 11, it seemed like the fantasy world would erupt. Everyone knew that, at his best, Davis was a lockdown corner and one of the best in the league.
It didn’t matter, though, as Jones took a candle to the shadow show, and absolutely torched Davis for nine catches on 15 targets. Jones totaled 160 receiving yards in the week. Sometimes players are just matchup-proof, and we overthink the guy lining up across from them.
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?
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Brandon Browner – This recommendation comes to you via the “don’t overthink it” rule elucidated above. Hopkins has not had a game with fewer than 11 targets in 2015, and I don’t expect the New Orleans Saints defense -- Rob Ryan coordinating it or not -- to be able to stop him. Brandon Browner is a big, physical cornerback with the ability to play great cover defense at his best, but he has not been at his best this year, ranking middle-of-the-road in most coverage metrics.
The Saints themselves offer only the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, but they rank dead last in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. Hopkins should feast again in Week 12.
Odell Beckham vs. Chris Culliver – Culliver was a fairly decent cornerback in his time in San Francisco, but now with Washington he has completely fallen apart. Over the last four weeks, Culliver has allowed the most Receiving Yards per Snap of among the 100 cornerbacks with at least 50 coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Odell Beckham should be very able to take advantage of the Washington secondary, ranked 20th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Vincent Jackson vs. Greg Toler – It was surprising to see Jackson finally able to play in Week 11, and while it was clear that he needed to shake the rust off, he still caught 4 of 6 targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. Now he and the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense get to go against the Indianapolis Colts’ defense. The Colts rank 22nd in numberFire’s per-play pass defense metrics, and they’re allowing the eighth-most points to wide receivers. Jackson may see fewer targets than his teammate Mike Evans, but he could still capitalize on a bad secondary.
Pierre Garcon vs. New York Giants’ secondary – The last time these two teams played in 2015, Washington’s highest scoring wide receiver was Rashad Ross. The only other two significant wideouts were Jamison Crowder and Garçon. Now, however, Washington returns to take down the Giants with DeSean Jackson back and healthy. Jackson should draw a matchup with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, allowing Garçon to deal with whoever is left, of Jayron Hosley or Trevin Wade. Whoever it is, is in for a tough day. Crowder is also a sneaky play against the Giants’ slot corners.
Allen Robinson vs. Jason Verrett – I could actually put both Allens from Jacksonville on here, as Allen Hurns will likely see Brandon Flowers of the San Diego Chargers, and both of these matchups are great for the receivers. Verrett and Flowers are both top 20 (out of 100) in receiving yards per snap over the past four weeks, and it doesn’t seem likely that that will change against a Jacksonville offense that is progressing in the air. Quarterback Blake Bortles is on pace for nearly 4,200 passing yards and 32 touchdowns, and Robinson will continue to be the beneficiary of that in Week 12.
Amari Cooper vs. Perrish Cox – It’s weird to say this, since he’s so young, but Amari Cooper is just as reliable as DeAndre Hopkins this week. Have you lost your mind, Joe? Well, yes, but I’m serious here. Despite getting blanketed by budding shutdown cornerback Darius Slay in Week 11, Cooper should find his time much easier against the Tennessee Titans’ faltering Cox. Cox ranks second in Receiving Yards allowed per Snap among the 100 cornerbacks with at least 50 snaps over the past four weeks. Don’t be worried by the Titans’ paltry 20th-most fantasy points surrendered to wide receivers; this should be a good day for Cooper.
Four Good Stocks
Kenny Stills vs. Antonio Cromartie – If Darrelle Revis covers Rishard Matthews in this Jets versus Dolphins tilt, as I expect he will, Stills will likely be whom Cromartie matches up against. Cromartie has been ailing with a number of injuries this year, and has clearly lost a step due to age. Stills is worth a flier.
Chris Givens vs. Tramon Williams – With a similar player profile to Stills, Givens is a deep-bomb threat for the Baltimore Ravens, who will have the near-useless Matt Schaub under center. That said, if Schaub can just get the ball out to Givens, he may be able to burn Tramon Williams, who is giving up a ton of receptions to opposing wideouts.
Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Oakland Raiders’ secondary – Green-Beckham has been inconsistent this year, but the rookie is coming on more and more. He played 84% of the Titans’ snaps in Week 11, and figures to draw one of the Raiders’ lesser cornerbacks, whether David Amerson or D.J. Hayden, if Titans' wideout Kendall Wright returns to take pressure away. Both of these cornerbacks have shown in the past that they can be beaten all over the field.
Doug Baldwin vs. Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary – I don’t think anyone wants to invest in the Seahawks’ offense right now, but wide receiver Baldwin has 13 catches for 194 yards and a score on 16 targets over the last two games. He could go up big against the Steelers’ defense, who is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2015.