Matchups to Attack
Jamison Crowder vs Jalen Mills/Patrick Robinson
Crowder is going to take on a bigger role for the Redskins this season, which is why he will be lining up against multiple cornerbacks this weekend. Crowder is expected to play as an outside receiver on two receiver sets before sliding into the slot on three receiver sets. The Eagles added a solid cornerback in Ronald Darby this offseason, but he is likely to shadow Terrelle Pryor this week. That leaves Crowder to take advantage of the Eagles weaker cornerbacks.
Crowder is likely to matchup against Mills on the outside and Robinson on the inside. Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, Mills graded out as the worst cornerback in the NFL. Robinson also struggled quite a bit, ranking 91st of out of 110 qualifying cornerbacks. Across 689 combined passing snaps, neither Mills nor Robinson recorded an interception. This is a matchup that the Redskins will likely be attacking with Pryor being shadowed by Philadelphia’s top cornerback.
Julio Jones vs Marcus Cooper/Prince Amukamara
The Bears will be featuring two new cornerbacks this season, as they signed Cooper and Amukamara in the offseason. Both were big name signings, but neither possessed shutdown ability last season. Jones is an elite wide receiver, and he will be able to take advantage of less than elite play. Jones could also take advantage of the slot, but he will likely be shadowed by Cooper or Amukamara for the majority of this game.
Pro Football Focus had 110 qualifying cornerbacks last season, and while Cooper played well on surface, he graded out as the 101st cornerback last season. Amukamara also struggled, as he graded out as the 43rd cornerback, which is the highest grade on the Bears team. There have been no indications that the Bears will use any cornerbacks to shadow Jones, which means the Falcons will be able to pick and choose who they want him to run against. While he will likely see double coverage this week, no cornerback on the Bears team will be able to keep up with Jones.
Sammy Watkins vs Vontae Davis
Watkins is an ultra-talented wide receiver that will be making his debut in a new offense. The Rams revamped their offense with head coach Sean McVay, which will result in double digit targets multiple times this season. He gets a great matchup against the Colts, who will be using Davis as a shadow cornerback this week.
Davis shadowed other teams top receivers last season, and he had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. He also graded out as the 99th overall cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Surprisingly, Davis graded out as the worst cornerback in Indianapolis last season. Watkins has proven throughout his career that he can dominate elite cornerbacks, and he gets a matchup against Davis, who is aging and could be fading out of his prime. Watkins always comes with risk, but he will be low owned because of the question marks surrounding his role in the Rams offense and he comes with tremendous upside in this matchup.
Matchups to Avoid
DeAndre Hopkins vs A.J. Bouye/Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars are in a position that they are not going to have to move either cornerback, as they have two elite corners. That does not bode well for Hopkins, who will be forced into a tough matchup regardless of where he lines up on the field. Bouye graded out as the second best cover corner in the NFL last season, while Ramsey finished as the 22nd best cornerback, but also continually progressed as the season moved on, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Texans have very little help outside of Hopkins in the receiving game, as Will Fuller is injured, Jaelen Strong is suspended, and Braxton Miller is suspended, but expected to play. The Jaguars can put their full attention on Hopkins, who will be receiving passes from Tom Savage, who has less than 100 career pass attempts. Savage was only able to record one passing touchdown in 36 attempts during preseason after failing to record a passing touchdown in 73 attempts last season. Simply put, Hopkins is not only battling two of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL, but he is also battling his own team.
Dez Bryant vs Janoris Jenkins/Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant has one of the hardest schedules in the NFL this season, and it starts this week. He’ll be facing one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL, as Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie both finished last season in Pro Football Focus’ top-10 coverage corners. Last season, Rodgers-Cromartie graded out as the fourth best cornerback, while Jenkins finished as the eighth best corner. It is the same matchup Bryant saw last season, and in two games against the Giants, he totaled two receptions for 18 yards on 14 targets.
The Cowboys are a team that is known for moving Bryant around the formation in order to get him the best possible matchup. This was most notable last season when Dallas lineup Bryant up on the opposite side of the field as Josh Norman on nearly every play against the Redskins. They will not have that luxury, though, as Jenkins or Rodgers-Cromartie will be able to follow him in any position. Bryant is priced as one of the wide receivers on the slate, which is enough to avoid him in this particularly difficult matchup.
Larry Fitzgerald vs Darius Slay
Fitzgerald looks like a volume play this week, but volume does not always simply outweigh the matchup. He will likely be shadowed by Slay, who graded out in the top-20 of coverage cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus. Fitzgerald was often times overlooked in tough matchups last season, as he saw less than double digit targets in games against dominant cornerbacks, such as Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, and Richard Sherman. He also struggled at times when given high volume against dominant corners, including a catch rate under 35% against Byron Maxwell.
Fitzgerald is a player that feels comfortable playing all over the field, but he is expected to be shadowed by Slay, who found success shadowing wide receivers last season. Slay had a few rough games last season, but he also shined against other top stars, such as Allen Robinson. Fitzgerald averaged only 9.6 yards per reception last season, while recording a dominant 71.3% catch rate. He will continue to see plenty of volume, but his catch rate will drop against Slay, and Fitzgerald is a fantasy player that is dependent on receptions.