The Shadow Knows 2016 week 6

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport NFL receivers versus the opponents shutdown cover corner.

The first game of Week 6 of the 2016 NFL season looked to be an object lesson in the making regarding the impact that cornerbacks can have on the fantasy value of the wide receivers they cover. On one hand, you had Denver’s Aqib Talib (one of the best in the business) set to match up with San Diego’s Travis Benjamin.

On the other, you have Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos --- and an injury ravaged San Diego secondary short its top two cornerbacks.

Talib did his part, holding Benjamin to three catches for 17 yards. His counterparts on the Denver offense? Not so much – Thomas and Sanders managed only nine catches for 75 yards combined.

Sometimes things follow the script and conventional wisdom wins the day. Sometimes they most certainly do not.

That’s why each week at Football Diehards we take a look at some prominent fantasy wideouts who have matchups upcoming with some of the best cover corners in the National Football League. This isn’t to say that upon seeing a player’s name on this list you should instantly glue said player’s behind to your fantasy bench.

But at the very least you should temper expectations for that receiver – and depending on your alternative options, you might just have a decision to make.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. ATL – Desmond Trufant)
Sunday’s matchup between first-place teams in Seattle features a couple of potential showdowns between high-end fantasy wideouts and top cover men. But as Sheil Kapadia of ESPN reported, there’s no guarantee Desmond Trufant of the Falcons and Doug Baldwin will spend the entire afternoon locking horns. “Trufant enters the game coming off a wrist injury,” Kapadia said, “although it checked out OK on Monday. We’ll see if Trufant spends time on Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks’ top receiver.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Opposing quarterbacks haven’t been shy about targeting Trufant in 2016 (his 32 targets rank 6th in the league), but the fourth-year pro has held his own, allowing fewer than half those targets to be completed. If Baldwin is shadowed by Trufant it’s a slight hit to his Week 6 prospects, but between the uncertainties over whether that will happen and Trufant’s wrist I’m starting Baldwin as I usually would.

Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders (vs. KC – Marcus Peters)
As Joel Thorman of SB Nation reports, there is apparently no love lost between the veteran wide receiver for the Raiders and the 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year. After their matchup last January (in which Crabtree found the end zone), he said, “I was just tired of the No. 22 talking noise like he was that great. So, we just went deep on him for six. He was mad after that. He’s a good football player – competition.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: What makes Crabtree’s crabbiness (Sorry, couldn’t be helped) all the more curious is that on the play in question Peters wasn’t even covering him. And that’s the thing – it’s unlikely that Peters will “shadow” either Crabtree or Amari Cooper exclusively, since Derek Carr could then just throw away from him to the other guy all day long. In any event, while Peters did have eight interceptions as a rookie, he also allowed his share of big plays, and the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t hesitate to attack him two weeks ago. Given the budding rivalry this feels like a Cooper week, but I’ll confess that’s as much hunch as anything.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (vs. IND – Vontae Davis)
Per Kevin Bowen of the Colts’ website, Indy head coach Chuck Pagano isn’t telling if Vontae Davis and Nuk Hopkins will spend a lot of time together Sunday. “Would you like me to just call (Texans) coach (Bill) O’Brien and tell him?” Pagano quipped.

Bowen allows he isn’t sure himself if that will be the case. “Using Davis as a shadow is something they experimented with a bit last season,” he wrote. “Having Davis in that role on Sunday makes sense at first glance, given Hopkins’ pedigree. But it could also depend on just what the Colts have opposite Davis this week. Will Patrick Robinson and/or Darius Butler be ready to go this week? Houston does have a very explosive No. 2 wide receiver in rookie Will Fuller.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The Texans have stated this week they need to get Hopkins more involved in the offense, and the last team these teams met in Houston Hopkins had 11 catches for 169 yards. I think that stat line just about speaks for itself. If the first round fantasy disappointment can’t get it going Sunday, it’s fair to wonder when he might.

Julio Jones. Atlanta Falcons (at SEA – Richard Sherman)
As Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus reported, Sunday’s big matchup in Seattle could be an exception to the rule that Sherman usually stays on the left side of the formation. “Sherman does sometimes track receivers,” Monson said. “Every now and then, Seattle decides it wants to put him on a specific receiver, and he follows that player throughout the game. It happens more than you probably think, and you don’t need to go back any further than the last game Seattle played to see it in action. Against the Jets in Week 4, Sherman tracked WR Brandon Marshall all game.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Marshall actually fared pretty well in that game, reeling in four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. This isn’t to say Jones will have the same success (playing in Seattle is a much different animal), but it’s Julio freaking Jones – you gotta start him.

Brandon Marshall, New York Jets (at AZ – Patrick Peterson)
With Eric Decker now on injured reserve, there’s little question that Marshall’s going to be targeted a ton for the rest of the season. But as the Sports Xchange wrote, it also means a Week 6 matchup with a Pro Bowl cornerback who will likely have help. “Like he did with Seattle’s Richard Sherman two weeks ago,” they said, “Marshall can expect shadow coverage from the All-Pro Peterson. Marshall is Fitzpatrick’s favorite target but coverage has been more difficult since Eric Decker was lost to a shoulder injury. That means Quincy Enunwa, Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson must win their individual battles.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: You’d have to have a ridiculously deep bench to consider sitting Marshall, but he’s more WR1 than WR2 this week. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see Enunwa out-point Marshall in PPR formats – Arizona’s opponents have had success targeting Marcus Cooper in 2016.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (at WAS – Josh Norman)
Norman allowed to John Keim of ESPN that playing this week with a cast on his heavily sprained wrist will be a challenge. "We just have to fight through it and be tough," he said. "Numb the pain out by going out there and fighting with my teammates regardless if I have to go out one-handed and get the ball out, that's what we'll have to do. That's how it is. ... Just trying to win, any means necessary. If I can do that and have my concentration and don't worry about pain and hurts, then I'll be fine. That will carry me through. I don't live my life being slow at stuff. I go full speed, head-on and see what kind of collisions I can make."

THE SHADOW SAYS: It’s a good bet the Eagles already would have schemed to get Matthews lined up opposite Bashaud Breeland, as Norman plays almost exclusively on the left side. Now. Matthews will be taking on a Washington secondary that’s banged up at nearly every position. On paper at least, it’s a matchup that sets Matthews up for his best outing since tallying 114 yards in the season opener.

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.