Wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups can often be overrated in fantasy and reality. Offensive coaches nowadays are better than ever about moving their receivers around, scheming their guys away from tough coverage and getting layup looks. The number of corners who are both elite shutdown players and shadow No. 1 wideouts is quite small.
We might need to add Pat Surtain to the group of exceptional cornerbacks fantasy managers MUST account for.
Surtain plays 65 percent of his snaps at right corner and 30% at left. So he does count as one of the guys that aren’t tethered to just one side of the field; he'll track a guy across the field. We’ve seen it at times this season.
Mike Williams' dud on Monday Night Football last week helped put this on the national radar. Number-one receivers are really struggling against Denver.
Here are what top perimeter receivers have done against the Broncos:
Week 1: DK Metcalf had seven catches on seven targets fro 36 measly yards.
Week 2: Brandin Cooks caught just four of 10 targets for 54 yards.
Week 3: I'm counting Brandon Aiyuk here because he saw more of Surtain and Deebo Samuel was playing some running back. He caught three balls on eight targets for 39 yards and a score but was 0-for-5 in Surtain's coverage.
Week 4: Davante Adams had a big game with nine catches on 13 targets for 101 yards. It was a big-time battle — but only five of those catches — on nine targets — for 55 yards came in Surtain's coverage.
Week 5: Michael Pittman went for five catches on eight targets for 59 but caught just one pass for four yards in Surtain's coverage.
Week 6: Mike Williams caught two passes on six targets for 17 yards and was 0-for-4 when Surtain was covering him.
That’s an insane hot streak against some extremely talented wide receivers. Surtain is a legitimate shutdown corner. He has a case to be regarded as the best player at his position. Surtain is a legitimate problem for No. 1 receivers in fantasy football.
49ers target share last two weeks
26.8% Deebo Samuel
22.5% George Kittle
21.1% Brandon Aiyuk
Aiyuk has led the team in receiving yardage during this stretch, likely because he paces the team in air yards per target. He’s also playing extremely well on an individual level.
We love a highly concentrated passing attack and that's what the 49ers have in this trio absorbing 70% of targets. It makes sense too, because it seems like whenever the ball goes to the Charlie Woerner or Ray-Ray McLoud types on the roster, it's a big missed opportunity.
The 49ers will never be a pass-first team under Kyle Shanahan. However, with some of their defensive injuries, they may be forced into more trailing situations. That would push them north of the 28th spot in neutral passing rate they currently hold.
There could be a higher fantasy ceiling for their trio of pass-catching stars in that scenario. Be warned, though: I might just be wish-casting here.
Late addition: The Panthers traded for Christian McCaffrey after I wrote the above notes. Adding another verifiable target commander to this mix further muddies the waters. We absolutely need this unit to even approach around 15th in neutral passing rate. Adding McCaffrey brings some insane mismatch potential to this offense but it makes the math in the passing game even more difficult to work — unless Shanahan changes the way he calls plays.
Kenyan Drake has a 64.3% rushing success rate in the last two weeks
Drake ranks second among all running backs with double-digit carries in that span. I know his appearances have been a thorn in the side of J.K. Dobbins' backers but he's been playing well and giving the Ravens no reason to force it with their young back.
The Ravens have desperately been searching for an answer in the ground game this season. Their rushing attack overall has been good but it was no thanks to their backs in the early part of the season.
The hope was that Dobbins would be that guy for the rest of the season but with his knee complications, that’s looking more like a dream than a reality. Drake is a mercurial player who has been known to enjoy random stretches of good play before falling off the map. We may be in the middle of one of those stretches right now.
It might come to an end — especially with Gus Edwards due back at some point — but there's no need to fade while the ride is hot. That's especially true this week with the Browns' hideous run defense on the docket for Baltimore.
Ken Walker 70% of the team carries in Week 6
With Rashaad Penny out for the season the Seahawks didn't mess around with anything else in their backfield and just straight-up made the rookie their feature back.
Fellow running back DeeJay Dallas only accounted for 6.7% of the team rush attempts. The rest went to Geno Smith. Walker was on the field for 69.7% of the snaps and totaled 110 yards from scrimmage. That's the definition of a workhorse.
The most important part of all of this was that Walker played well. He looked like a uniquely gifted runner who got what was blocked for him, plus a little extra. All running back coaches emphasize that their players don't leave meat on the bone. Walker made sure to leave nothing behind.
I can hear reasonable arguments for why Walker should be considered in rankings right in the same range as some big-name backs who went in Rounds 2-3 this summer.
If you have him on your team, congratulations.
The Chiefs lead the NFL with a 67.8% passing rate
The Bills rank second with 65.6%. They are two of only five teams north of 60% on the season.
It's wild that the Chiefs are passing the ball this much and yet only Travis Kelce has been consistently productive early in the season. Patrick Mahomes said his wide receiver room was going to be a committee approach and he's been mostly right.
However, teams have also changed how they’ve played the Chiefs this season.
Mahomes has taken the most dropbacks against man coverage among quarterbacks with 107 (that's by a lot). We’ve even seen a team like the aforementioned Bills change their approach exclusively to beat the Chiefs:
Spot on here. No QB hace faced more man coverage this year than Patrick Mahomes. Long-term Skyy Moore is their best man coverage beating WR (by a lot). https://t.co/nyhPJjMifH— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) October 17, 2022
It all makes sense. None of the Chiefs veteran wide receivers have ever been good at beating man coverage. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a good zone-beater but they aren't playing him in the slot enough for it to matter much. That's why he's been inconsistent. MVS just isn't good enough as a separator to command a high target share.
All this is actually a reason to still be bullish on Skyy Moore as a potential second-half-of-the-season breakout candidate. He was a high-end man-beater in college. He's been eating into reps for the last few weeks and should only continue to expand his portfolio.