By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Well, we didn't have to wait long for a truly marquee cornerback vs. wide receiver battle in the 2019 NFL season. Sunday's early slate features a trip by the Kansas City Chiefs to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. And that means Tyreek Hill vs. Jalen Ramsey.

Get your popcorn ready. Remember, as Tyler Sullivan reported for CBS Sports, the last time this pair got together, Ramsey made headlines by referring to Hill as a "return specialist."

"I don't like how whoever has made it a matchup of me against Tyreek. He's good for what he does for a team," Ramsey said. "He made All-Pro as a return specialist. Let's get that right: as a return specialist his rookie year. He went to two Pro Bowls, as a return specialist -- return specialist. Two years, I made All-Pro in my position as a corner. I went to the Pro Bowl as a corner. So it's not a wide receiver versus corner matchup."

Jalen Ramsey shooting off his mouth. There's a stunner. Thing is, as he so often does, Ramsey backed it up. Yes, the Chiefs dispatched the Jaguars with ease a season ago 30-14, but Hill (with Ramsey shadowing him) was held to a pedestrian (by his standards) four grabs for 61 yards on seven targets.

Does this mean you should sit Hill in Week 1? Of course not—all it takes is one long score to bump that stat line from "meh" to "magnifico." But there's a very real chance that Hill's 2019 campaign gets off to something of a slow start.

With that, we are off and rolling with another season of The Shadow Knows at Football Diehards.

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (Desmond Trufant vs. Stefon Diggs, Xavier Rhodes vs. Julio Jones) It's a shadow double-dip that really isn't, because while Rhodes will probably follow Jones around Diggs will draw Trufant (presumably) more often than not only because they line up on the same side of the field.

Rhodes backslid from a performance perspective a year ago, but he told Andrew Krammer of the Twin Cities Star-Tribune that he has his eyes set on a rebound year—largely because he's learned to take better care of himself.

“Rest and keeping my weight down, those are my main goals. Everything else is going to pan out,” Rhodes said. “I’ve been playing football for so long, so I’ve got some of the fundamentals down. There are still some things I need to learn. At the same time, I’m a vet now. So it’s more about resting my body, recovering and keeping my mind clear.”

Like Hill, Jones is an obvious must-start. But it's worth pointing out that in three career games against Minnesota, Jones has averaged just over four receptions for 54 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown. There is a silver lining though—Calvin Ridley (Trae Waynes) and Adam Thielen (Isaiah Oliver/Damontae Kazee) should both benefit from much more favorable matchups playing on the other side.

Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns (Adoree Jackson vs. Odell Beckham) This Browns fan might just be a tad excited a little bit to see Odell Beckham suit up for the Browns in a game that counts at a stadium that will be off the chain Sunday. Ever so slightly.

However, there's also a part of me that's concerned. As Mary Kay Cabot reported for, so is Beckham—about a nagging hip injury that has dogged him for some time. "It’s like an extremely fast car with the alignment off,' he said. "The car can still go, but it’s dangerous. It’s something that prevents me from opening up and sprinting. "I don’t know how it happened. I came in one day after practice and it was feeling weird.'

Just as with the first two wide receivers we've talked about here, there's no doubt that if Beckham's on the field he should be in fantasy lineups. But while the others are in spite of the matchups they face, Beckham's is a bonus. Over the past two seasons (h/t to Ian Hartitz of Rotoworld), here are some of the stat lines Jackson has allowed in shadow coverage--T.Y. Hilton (9-155-2), Antonio Brown (10-144-3) and Marquise Goodwin (10-114-0).


Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers (T.Y. Hilton vs. Casey Hayward)
There's been plenty of hand-wringing over Hilton's fantasy prospects since Andrew Luck went all Steve Miller Band, but he told Stephen Holder of the Athletic that this Colts team is as good as any he's played on even with Jacoby Brissett under center.

"T.Y. Hilton, on two occasions today, said 'This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of,' Holder tweeted on September 4. "I circled back and asked him what impact Luck’s retirement had on that statement, and he didn’t waver one bit. 'We take nothing away from him. But this team is good.'"

This team is obviously better than the one Brissett went 4-11 with in 2017—a season in which Hilton failed to hit 1,000 receiving yards for only the second time in seven seasons. AS if that wasn't depressing enough, over half of Hilton's yardage that year came in three games.

Add in Hilton's tendency to underperform in outdoor stadiums (at least relative to under a roof) and a matchup with one of the league's most underrated cover men, and Hilton has the feel of a middling WR2 in Week 1—maybe.

Thanks, Steve.

San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Richard Sherman vs. Mike Evans) Richard Sherman and Mike Evans have faced off more than once over their respective careers. Unlike most of the other wideouts who have spent a lot of time around Sherman, Evans told Scott Smith of the team's website that he's looking forward to battling again.

"I always look forward to going against Sherm," he said. "He's my favorite defensive player in the history of the NFL, so I love going against Sherm. They have some really good corners outside of Sherm – [Ahkello] Witherspoon, [Jason] Verrett. We're going to have our hands full, but I'll take our receiver room against any DB room in the world."

Evans might be looking forward to the reunion because in his last two meetings with Sherman he's averaged seven grabs for well over 100 yards and a score. That didn't all come against Sherman, but they are numbers that should allay concerns about Evans in Week 1.

I also really like Chris Godwin here, but that's a story for another day.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Janoris Jenkins vs. Amari Cooper) Cooper was a huge part of the Cowboys late-season surge and trip to the playoffs last year, but Kristi Scales of the Dallas Morning News believes that Cooper's 2019 season will be that much more impressive as he closes in on a massive extension.

"I'm expecting even more success because Cooper and Dak Prescott have had a full offseason together," Scales said. "Cooper is also surrounded by better weapons in the passing game this year thanks to the progress of Michael Gallup (entering his second NFL season, having a great training camp) as well as the return of Jason Witten and continued development of Blake Jarwin at tight end. Randall Cobb takes the place of Cole Beasley, but will be utilized in more places in the passing game (Beasley was mainly restricted to the slot in Scott Linehan's offense)."

Given that Jenkins--while still a quality cornerback--isn't the player he once was, the Giants may well shade some safety help to Cooper's side as well. But that just makes Michael Gallup an interesting sleeper target in addition to Cooper having legitimate top-10 upside this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Stephon Gilmore) There's little question in the mind of fantasy owners that JuJu Smith is ready to ascend to the ranks of the league's best wide receivers. But Gilmore told Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire that he's not so sure—while simultaneously not tipping his hand regarding whether or not he's shadow Smith-Schuster Sunday night.

“We’ll see. I don’t know,” Gilmore said. “You’ve got to prove yourself every year. Everybody has to. That’s the fun part about this game. You’ve got to do it. That’s a we’ll-see thing. Everybody has to prove themselves. He can make big catches. He’s getting better and you can see that on film. He’s a great player. He’s earned everything he has. I’m just looking forward to playing my technique as best I can. If it’s on him, if it’s on (Donte) Moncrief, if it’s on (James) Washington, I’m just trying to win that snap.”

If Gilmore doesn't shadow Smith-Schuster (with help) while Darth Hoodie takes his chances with single coverage elsewhere, I will eat kale. OK, I won't—but I'll be surprised. If 2019 really is JuJu's coming-out party, he's going to have to work to get it rolling early.

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Marshon Lattimore) After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors two years ago, Lattimore's play slumped in a big way early in the 2018 season. However, per Larry Holder of the Athletic, Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn said it's all just part of the maturation process of a young corner in the pros—budding star or not.

“It’s the position. Hell, I played it,” Glenn said during training camp. “You’ve got to have a certain mentality to play that position. It’s not a position for everybody. Definitely not a position for the weak-minded. At some point, you’re going to get beat. He tasted that last year. Just speaking from experience, sometimes when you go into this league and you have a really good year, you tend to lose focus on what got you there."

Lattimore's admittedly a wildly talented young cornerback, and he rebounded last year as the season wore on. But more often than not in 2018, big-name wideouts got the better of matchups with Lattimore. And Hopkins is about as big as names get at the position.

Oh, and Will Fuller gets Eli Apple. But again—story for another day.