Much of fantasy football is about exploiting matchups. Sure, there are your guys you start automatically without even thinking, regardless of what defense they’re going up against, but sometimes weeks are won and lost by exploiting good matchups and avoiding tough ones.
In this article, I’ll take a look at some wide receiver/cornerback matchups that could be useful for your fantasy team, and some matchups that could hurt it.
It’s important to note that every team is different, these are just suggestions. Use your best judgment for your team.
Terry McLaurin (Washington Redskins) – The Redskins as a whole haven’t been the most inspiring team to watch this year, but Terry McLaurin certainly has been fun to watch, as he’s posted at least five catches, 60 yards, and a touchdown in all three games so far this year. This week, the Redskins are going up against the New York Giants, and McLaurin is likely to be paired up against Janoris Jenkins. Now, I don’t know if you caught the Giants/Bucs game last week, but Jenkins was covering Mike Evans and things like this happened:
Now, look, McLaurin is not Mike Evans. But Jenkins got absolutely torched last week, giving up eight catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns. The week before, he gave up seven catches (on seven targets) to the Buffalo Bills. So Jenkins hasn’t exactly been good, and now McLaurin gets to go up against him? I’m all for it.
Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) – We all know Cooper Kupp and Jared Goff have a special connection rivaled only by Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, but that connection was even more heavily emphasized last week, as Kupp caught 11 balls on 12 targets for 102 yards. This week, Kupp will be matched up against M.J. Stewart in the slot, who last week gave up six catches for 67 yards against the Giants. Also, for what it’s worth, Kupp is three inches taller than Stewart, giving him an obvious advantage in one-on-one situations.
Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers) – Basically whenever anyone is playing the Miami Dolphins, you take advantage of those offensive players, but this week, I think Mike Williams could be an interesting guy. He’ll match up against Eric Rowe, who in Week 1, gave up six catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns against the Baltimore Ravens, and in Week 2 gave up four catches for 54 yards against the New England Patriots. Now, last week Rowe was better, shutting down Devin Smith for only one catch (though just four targets), so I give him credit there, but overall this year, he hasn’t been all that great, and Williams is a talented player, who happens to also be taller and bigger than Rowe. Williams has gotten 12 targets over the past two games, if that happens again here, he could be in for a decent game worthy of a flex play.
D.J. Moore (Carolina Panthers) – D.J. Moore has looked pretty solid this year, racking up at least seven catches or a touchdown in every game this year. Now, he was bailed out last week by one big 52-yard play, but other than that, he’s been very heavily targeted in this Panthers offense. Now he’ll get to go up against the Houston Texans and specifically will likely face Lonnie Johnson Jr. most of the time. Johnson is a rookie who’s played two games this year and has not looked great. Last week against the Chargers, while he only gave up three catches, they were for a total of 45 yards and he was routinely getting beat. Not beat deep, but definitely beat. If Moore gets his targets, I could see a nice game from him.
Larry Fitzgerald – Unsurprisingly, Fitz has been heavily targeted in the Cardinals offense, racking up 31 targets so far this season, and while he had a somewhat quiet week last week from a yardage standpoint, I could see him having a good week this week. He’ll be up against Jamar Taylor in the slot most likely, and while Taylor hasn’t been targeted a whole ton so far this year (just seven times so far), Taylor looked really rough in coverage last year. In 2018, he gave up an 81.5% catch rate and a 131.1 passer rating against. It’s also worth noting that Fitz is four inches taller and over 20 pounds heavier than Taylor, giving him a pretty sizable physical advantage.
John Brown (Buffalo Bills) – In general, I like John Brown with a quarterback like Josh Allen who loves to throw deep, and Brown has been pretty useful so far this year. However this week, I’m worried about him. The Bills go up against the Patriots and Brown will likely draw shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore. Last week, Gilmore shadowed Robby Anderson and ave up just two catches for 11 yards. But Brown is better than Anderson, right? Well, in Week 1, Gilmore shadowed JuJu Smith-Schuster and allowed just four catches for 43 yards. I think Brown will be targeted, and his speed always gives him potential for a big play, but he’s a risky flex to me.
Dede Westbrook (Jacksonville Jaguars) – While the Jags’ offense may not be the most incredible thing in the world, Westbrook has been getting looks, and that’s useful in fantasy regardless of the offense. So far he’s been a decent flex play, but I worry he might not be all that useful this week against the Denver Broncos. Westbrook will likely draw Kareem Jackson in coverage, who hasn’t given up more than four catches in a game and only gave up two catches the previous two weeks (though one of those was a 40-yard play, so he can be beat). Dede will likely get targets, so there could be some value forced through there, but I think this could be another down week for him.
John Ross (Cincinnati Bengals) – The Bengals are going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, a team that’s given up a good amount of fantasy points to opposing offenses. But more than likely, Ross is going to draw Joe Haden in coverage, and while Haden isn’t the shutdown corner that he used to be, he’s still quite good, allowing no more than 37 yards in a single game so far this year, and he has yet to allow a touchdown. Similar to Brown, Ross’ ridiculous speed obviously means he has big-play potential, but if last week’s two-catch, 22-yard performance on six targets showed us anything, it’s that Ross is a peaks and valleys guy, and I worry that this week might be more of a valley.
Mecole Hardman (Kansas City Chiefs) – Hardman is another guy who just needs one big play to make your fantasy day, but this week he draws a potentially tough matchup in the slot against Rashaan Melvin of the Detroit Lions. So far this year, Melvin has looked pretty solid, giving up just a 47.6% catch rate, a 79.3 passer rating against, and zero touchdowns. That being said, he has been beaten, giving up a long 47-yard catch in Week 2 against the Chargers. Still, he’s looked good, and it wouldn’t shock me if Hardman doesn’t have a massive explosion this week like he has the past two weeks.
D.J. Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Yea, that’s two Jags I’m worried about this week. I like Chark a lot as a talent, and he’s looked pretty good this year, but this week he draws the toughest matchup he’s had yet against Chris Harris Jr. Harris was killer last year, giving up just a 63.5% catch rate and a 64.6 passer rating against, and he’s been solid this year. He’s yet to give up a touchdown and his worst game was last week, giving up two catches for 36 yards. Chark is a talented receiver, but Harris is a tough draw in coverage.
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