FADING Michael Thomas: Week 1 WR-CB Matchups

by Aaron Stewart · Matchups Start/Sit

Fantasy football is a game all about matchups. Identifying weekly matchups to fade and play can be the difference between a victory and a loss for the week. This weekly series will identify wide receivers that I am fading or playing. PlayerProfiler has cornerback rankings that will update regularly. I will use these rankings for my decision-making along with advanced stats and metrics of wide receivers AND cornerbacks. I’ll also use the spreads and point totals that Vegas has set for games to identify players and games to play and fade.

I’ll put more emphasis on fading players that are starting in over 50-percent of Sleeper leagues. In addition, I’ll put an equal amount of emphasis on starting players that are rostered in less than 50-percent of Sleeper leagues. The players I recommend fading are players who I believe will finish outside the top-36 WRs. The players I recommend playing are players I believe will finish inside the top-36. Let’s dive into the Week 1 WR-CB matchups to find out which WRs I’m FADING or PLAYING.

FADE – Michael Thomas (CB Matchup: A.J. Terrell – No. 3)

Michael Thomas Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The last time that Michael Thomas and A.J. Terrell faced each other, Terrell allowed eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. But that was back in 2020 when Terrell was a rookie. Since then, Terrell took the leap as a top, young cornerback. Terrell finished 2021 ranked No. 1 in Coverage Rating, Catch Rate Allowed, Passer Rating Allowed, and Fantasy Points Allowed Per Target. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas has gone on to play in one game since their Week 13 matchup in 2020.

A.J. Terrell Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Here are the facts. Michael Thomas missed the entire 2021 season because of ankle surgery and rehabilitation. In fact, he was STILL rehabbing his ankle earlier this offseason. Thomas also suffered a hamstring injury this offseason. While it’s a nice story to welcome Thomas back to the NFL after missing over a full NFL season, this comeback story isn’t going to start on a high note.

Michael Thomas Injury History

Outside of the tough WR-CB matchup, the game script is not optimal for Thomas. Only two other games on the Sunday slate have lower totals and the Saints are a 5.5-point favorite in this game. The last four games that Thomas played where the Saints were greater than a 5-point favorite, he scored under 10 fantasy points three times and never finished inside the top-20.

FADE – Amari Cooper (CB Matchup: Jaycee Horn – No. 9)

Amari Cooper Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Amari Cooper had three top-10 scoring weeks last season. Two of those cornerbacks primarily tasked to guard him are out of the NFL. Outside of those games, Cooper had ZERO top-24 performances in 2021. And that was while playing in a Dak Prescott-led Dallas Cowboys offense! While Cooper dominated much inferior competition, he was a virtual no-show when matched up against a top cornerback.

Jaycee Horn Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

He was held under 35 receiving yards in two games against current top-10 ranked cornerbacks, Darius Slay and Patrick Surtain. In Week 1, he gets Jaycee Horn and an underrated Panthers secondary. Before going down with a fractured foot, Horn had an impressive +30.2 Coverage Rating, 66.7-percent Man Coverage Success Rate, and a 40-percent Catch Rate Allowed. Fellow Panthers cornerbacks C.J. Henderson (No. 34) and Donte Jackson (No. 57) round a trio of solid cornerbacks.

The Panthers and Browns game is the lowest projected scoring game on Sunday, and the Browns were a bottom-five Pace of Play team last season thanks to their 28.4 Team Run Plays Per Game. With Jacoby Brissett under center, and the Browns arguably having the deepest running back core in the NFL, would it be surprising if Cooper wasn’t featured much in Week 1?

PLAY  – Jakobi Meyers (CB Matchup: Nik Needham – No. 88)

Jakobi Meyers Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Teams that drafted Michael Thomas and Amari Cooper will be tempted to start them based on where they drafted them in their fantasy football drafts. But Jakobi Meyers is positioned to have a better Week 1 than Thomas and Meyers. On top of that, Meyers is available in more than 50-percent of redraft leagues on Sleeper.

Meyers was top-20 in Target Share, Air Yards, and receptions last season. His 50.3-percent Route Win Rate was No. 6 among all wide receivers, and he was No. 5 in Win Rate Vs Man Coverage. Mac Jones loves Meyers. In his final five games (postseason included), Meyers had eight+ targets in each game. He was No. 26 in Expected Fantasy Points Per Game last season. Even if you opt against starting Meyers, you NEED to roster Meyers if he’s available.

Nik Needham is expected to guard Meyers and his 58.1 (No. 2) Shadow Rate ensures that wherever Meyers goes, so will Needham. Needham finished 2021 No. 64 in Man Coverage Success Rate and had a 67.4-percent Catch Rate Allowed. The Patriots are a 3.5-point underdog on the road and will need Jakobi Meyers to take advantage of his matchup to overcome the odds and beat their division rivals on the road.