NFL Week 3 WR/CB Matchups: Can Casey Hayward Jr. Shut Down DeAndre Hopkins?
- Matthew Freedman breaks down Week 3's most important WR/CB matchups, highlighted by Casey Hayward Jr. vs. DeAndre Hopkins.
Football is a team sport, but often games are determined by the individual matchups of offensive vs. defensive players.
Perhaps no clash on the football field is as iconic as that between wide receivers and cornerbacks. Size, speed, touchdowns, turnovers, trash talk — this matchup has it all.
In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus to project NFL Week 3 WR/CB matchups.
Although many players in today’s NFL move across the formation, it’s not uncommon for receivers and cornerbacks to line up primarily wide to the right, wide to the left or in the slot.
With these tendencies in mind, I am projecting matchups based on where receivers and corners have most frequently lined up in recent games. There are a few exceptions, though, most of which have to do with shadow matchups, which I touch on at the end of the piece.
For more on the Week 3 WR/CB duels, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide all sorts of basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.
Also consult our Week 3 injury report for status updates on each receiver and corner entering the week with an injury.
Of all the projected WR/CB matchups in Week 3, here’s the one I’m most excited about.
WR/CB Matchup of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Casey Hayward Jr.
Ever since joining the Chargers in 2016, Casey has been one of the best shutdown corners in the league, frequently shadowing opposing No. 1 wide receivers.
While Hayward doesn’t have the hype of someone like Jalen Ramsey, his consistency speaks for itself at a position marked by year-to-year volatility. While most corners struggle to put together even two consecutive seasons with a PFF coverage grade above 70.0, Hayward has hit that mark every season of his career.
- 2019 (two games): 78.1
- 2018 (16 games): 74.5
- 2017 (16 games): 92.1
- 2016 (16 games): 83.6
- 2015 (16 games): 77.5
- 2014 (16 games): 86.0
- 2013 (three games): 73.2
- 2012 (16 games): 91.6
Last year, the two-time Pro-Bowler played nine games in shadow coverage, and for the most part, he held his opponents in check.
- Week 2: Kelvin Benjamin, 1-16-0 receiving on two targets
- Week 3: Amari Cooper, 1-10-0 receiving on one target
- Week 6: Antonio Callaway, 2-9-0 receiving on three targets
- Week 7: Corey Davis, 1-5-0 receiving on four targets
- Week 10: Jordy Nelson, 0-0-0 receiving on zero targets
- Week 11: Courtland Sutton, 2-69-0 receiving on three targets
- Week 12: Christian Kirk, 1-9-0 receiving on three targets
- Week 13: Antonio Brown, 4-84-0 receiving on four targets
- Week 17: Courtland Sutton, 1-25-0 receiving on two targets
This week, the Chargers host the Texans, and Hayward seems likely to tail wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who almost always gets the shadow treatment whenever he faces a defense with a top-tier cover man.
What should we expect from this matchup?
In their one prior meeting in Week 12 of the 2016 season, Hayward held his own. Against him specifically, Hopkins had a modest 4-54-0 receiving performance on eight targets, one of which was intercepted and two more of which were broken up.
In total, Hopkins was held to 70 scoreless yards and five receptions on 10 targets.
For this rematch, Hopkins has Deshaun Watson instead of Brock Osweiler at quarterback — and that’s an important difference — but Hayward still represents a significant challenge.
NFL Week 3 Potential Shadow Matchups
Here are the primary shadow matchups I’m projecting, listed by time of kickoff.
Titans WR Corey Davis vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey: It’s hard to know what’s going on with Ramsey, who requested a trade after the team’s Week 2 loss, but fellow shutdown corner and teammate A.J. Bouye (hip) is dealing with an injury, so I could see Ramsey shadowing the No. 1 receiver.
Jaguars WR D.J. Chark vs. Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson: Last year, Jackson shadowed speedy WRs Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton and Robby Anderson — and Chark is one of the league’s fastest guys.
Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard: Last year, Howard held Cooper (then with the Raiders) to just eight yards and one reception on three targets.
Packers WR Davante Adams vs. Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.: Based on Weeks 1-2, Adams and Harris will face off plenty even if Harris doesn’t strictly shadow Adams — but he might follow him into the slot, where Harris has earned All-Pro accolades and played most of his career.
Raiders WR Tyrell Williams vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes: The X-Man faced off with Julio Jones and Davante Adams in Weeks 1-2, so there’s no way he’s not manning up against the comparable Tyrell the Gazelle in Week 3.
Jets WR Robby Anderson vs. Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore: In their two shadow matchups last year, Gilmore held Anderson to a combined 2-11-0 receiving line on 11 targets.
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Giants CB Janoris Jenkins: The Giants over the past year have routinely used the 2016 Pro-Bowler to shadow top-tier receivers — Nuk, Michael Thomas, Hilton, Amari — and Evans falls into that category.
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.: When they first met in Week 12 of the 2016 season, Hayward held Hopkins to just four receptions for 54 scoreless yards on eight targets in his coverage.
Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore: The 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year has made a habit of matching up with sizable guys — he shadowed Nuk in Week 1 — and Metcalf might be the biggest receiver in the league.
Rams WR Brandin Cooks vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward: I expect Ward to see plenty of both Cooks and Robert Woods on the outside, but last year he tended to shadow smaller, speedier receivers, such as John Brown, DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown and Calvin Ridley, so he might stick to closer to Cooks than Woods.
Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman: The Redskins have been using Norman in shadow coverage almost every game since Week 8 of last season, and Robinson is clearly the top wideout for the Bears.
NFL Week 3 WR/CB Matchups
Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
% = percentage of player’s snaps at position
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED
Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.