Among all positions in fantasy, wide receiver remains the hardest to evaluate on a week-to-week basis. Wide receivers compete with more of the same position on the field at one time. Unlike running back and quarterback, they see far less opportunity in a game. Understandably, this makes the wide receiver landscape substantially more difficult to project week in and week out. Small nuance in the way gamers evaluate week to week match-ups can be monumental. With that said, evaluating wide receiver match-ups against total team defense is obsolete. Where the true value lies is in deciphering the wide receiver versus cornerback battles that ensue from week-to-week. Using advanced stats, metrics and analytics, this series will break down the top wide receiver vs cornerback match-ups each week. Identifying these marquee match-ups will give fantasy gamers an automatic edge in their line-ups.
Josh Gordon, NE vs Josh Norman, WAS
There’s a trend beginning to form here. Josh Norman could easily be a mainstay in this weekly column if it weren’t for trying to bring variety to the readers. However, this week’s matchup is just too good to go unmentioned. Josh Gordon has been up and down from a fantasy perspective this season, but this is finally the week that gamers have been waiting for. New England is running 38.2 (No. 15) pass plays per game on average, and Gordon is holding a stable 19.0-percent (No. 47 among qualified wide receivers) Target Share through four games. Against Norman and the No. 29 ranked Pass DVOA, per Footballoutsiders, Gordon is a lock button play in Week 5.
Check out Josh Gordon on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:
Looking at the individual matchup, Norman bleeds fantasy production to opposing wide receivers. On 122 (No. 55) Routes Defended, Norman has 19 (No. 58) Receptions Allowed for a total of 247 (No. 63) Yards Allowed. Per play, Norman is allowing 9.5 (No. 63) Yards Per Target and 13 (No. 40) Yards Per Reception. The 3.5-yard differential between those two metrics stands out. Gordon, who has 102 (No. 18) Yards After Catch, averages 8.2 (No. 48) Yards Per Target. However, he averages 15.8 (No. 24) Yards Per Reception. Comparing the two, Gordon thrives after the catch and Norman allows plenty in that area.
Norman’s 18.4 (No. 75) Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game and 2.83 (No. 79) Fantasy Points Allowed Per Target are enough to swing the pendulum in Gordon’s favor. Nonetheless, there’s another stat that makes this matchup enticing. Norman has five (No. 80) TDs Allowed through four games. Gordon has just one (No. 145) TD, which is primarily why he hasn’t lived inside the top 24 in WR scoring so far this season. Norman’s knack for giving up yardage and TDs make Gordon a smash play.
Adam Thielen, MIN vs Deandre Baker, NYG
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. There are two squeaky wheels in Minnesota, and the Giants provide Kirk Cousins and company with enough grease for both. With that said, Adam Thielen edges out Stefon Diggs for the better play of the week given his matchup with rookie Deandre Baker. Not to be misunderstood, Diggs’ matchup with Janoris Jenkins is one that should be exploited at equilibrium. However, Baker’s propensity to give up big plays down the field offers Thielen a higher ceiling.
Baker has been one of the least targeted CBs this season. On 98 (No. 26) Routes Defended, he’s only allowed 16 (No. 16) Targets for a 16.3-percent (No. 15) Target Rate through four games. The low rate of volume coming Baker’s way is perplexing. Digging deeper, gamers can see that he’s allowing massive production. On the 16 targets allowed, Baker has 12 (No. 30) Receptions Allowed for 255 (No. 67) Yards Allowed. Broken down further, He’s averaging 15.9 (No. 81) Yards Per Target Allowed and 21.3 (No. 80) Yards Per Reception Allowed. Assuming the volume is divided between Thielen and Diggs as usual, Thielen’s 13.8 (No. 35) Yards Per Reception and 13.5 (No. 29) Average Target Distance match up perfectly against Baker.
Baker’s average of 10.9 (No. 45) Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game grade out as average. Looking at his 2.72 (No. 78) Fantasy Points Allowed Per Target, gamers can see his PPG average is skewed by low volume. Thielen’s 12.2 (No. 41) Fantasy Points Per Game average is the absolute floor. Baker doesn’t need to be targeted a ton to give up fantasy points. In games where he sees four or more targets, he has yet to give up less than 100 receiving yards and less than 15 fantasy points.
Chris Godwin, TB vs Eli Apple, NO
Let’s bypass the semantics here and move on to the next section.
Kidding. In all seriousness, Chris Godwin has an opportunity to post back to back top-five fantasy finishes with this week’s matchup. With Mike Evans drawing coverage from Marshon Lattimore, Godwin will be left to eat against Eli Apple. Godwin has proven to be a must-start each and every week, and facing off against Apple in Week 5 will reinforce that even further.
Godwin is posting top-20 stats in nearly every receiving opportunity metric we have here at RotoUnderworld. Particularly his 33 (No. 19) Targets, 90.6-percent (No. 15) Route Participation and 24.6-percent (No. 18) Target Share. The reason they stand out this week is that Apple is yet another CB who has a low rate of volume thrown his way. When he’s tested though, he’s easily beaten. On 15 (No. 9) Targets Allowed, Apple has 11 (No. 24) Receptions Allowed for 222 (No. 54) Yards Allowed. In fact, his -26.1 (No. 73) Coverage Rating sums up how bad he’s actually been despite not being targeted often.
Godwin walks into Week 5 averaging 22.2 (No. 3) Fantasy Points Per Game, while Apple has only allowed an average of 8.3 (No. 25) Fantasy Points Per Game. Again, another situation where lack of volume has skewed the results. His 20.2 (No. 79) Yards Per Reception Allowed amount to 2.21 (No. 70) Fantasy Points Per Target when thrown at. Apple is a moveable object meeting an unstoppable force. Godwin’s volume already gives him a high floor this week, but Apple’s coverage provides him with a ceiling of a top-three WR play.
Will Fuller, HOU vs Isaiah Oliver, ATL
Showdown. Shootout. Duel. Whatever we want to call this game between the Texans and Falcons, we need to keep Will Fuller at the forefront of our expectations. The narrative of this game is two bad passing defenses holding the recipe for plenty of fantasy production. Over the last three games, Atlanta ranks No. 21 in passing yards allowed with an average of 254. In what’s projected to be a high scoring offensive game, Fuller’s individual matchup with Isaiah Oliver makes him a top-five play of the week.
Fullers 23 (No. 47) Targets for an 18.5-percent (No. 48) Target Share might give gamers some pause. However, his 399 Air Yards are second only to Deandre Hopkins, with the next closest being Kenny Still at 186. Given his Air Yards total and his 17.1 (No. 7) Average Target Distance, Fuller is a huge boom play this week. Oliver has allowed 18 (No. 54) receptions for 224 (No 56) Yards Allowed on 105 (No. 36) Routes Defended. Keeping the aforementioned data in mind, Oliver has a 7.4-percent (No. 75) Burn Rate. Fuller’s 105.3 (84-percentile) Speed Score and eight (No. 9) Deep Ball Targets present a huge problem for Oliver, who struggles to stick with WRs.
Oliver is averaging 13.1 (No. 59) Fantasy Points Per Game Allowed and 1.94 (No. 59) Fantasy Points Per Target Allowed through four games. He has yet to hold opposing WRs to less than 10 fantasy points in any games this year. To put this matchup simply, Fuller’s profile suggests that he won’t need 15-plus targets to exploit Oliver and his deficiencies. Given the overall game script and the struggles of Oliver in coverage, Fuller is in line for his biggest fantasy day of the season.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB vs Chidobe Awuzie, DAL
Davante Adams suffered a foot injury last week against Philadelphia and was pronounced out for this week’s game. Insert Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the next man up for lead WR duties in Green Bay. Valdes-Scantling is having a productive sophomore season despite being behind Adams. His 29 (No. 31) Targets and 21.-percent (No. 37) Target Share are second among Packers receivers only to Adams. Now, he gets the full Aaron Rodgers WR1 treatment in a plus matchup against Chidobe Awuzie.
Awuzie grades out near the bottom in most productivity metrics for all CBs here at RotoUnderworld. On 136 (No. 71) Routes Defended, he has 19 (No. 58) Receptions Allowed for 231 (No. 60) Yards Allowed. Awuzie’s efficiency metrics follow close behind. Through four games, he’s allowed an average 67.9-percent (No. 53) Catch Rate to opposing WRs and 102.5 (No. 40) Passer Rating to opposing QBs. His production and efficiency allowed have earned him a -5.3 (No. 49) Coverage Rating among all CBs this year.
With the expectation of increased volume, Valdes-Scantling’s 10.9 (No. 49) Fantasy Points Per Game is a conservative floor this week. Awuzie is averaging 12 (No. 52) Fantasy Points Per Game Allowed and has three games this season where he’s allowed 10 or more fantasy points to WRs. Valdes-Scantling’s 13.6 (No. 38) Yards Per Reception and 7 (No. 14) Deep Ball Targets paired with volume should allow gamers to expect a big fantasy day for him in Week 5. Aaron Rodgers is averaging 36.5 pass attempts per game, 5.2 of which are deep ball attempts. Valdes-Scantling is a must-start this week as the Packers’ lead WR against Awuzie.