Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 17 Matchups

Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 17 Matchups

This article is part of our Corner Report series.

This article will go game by game for the Week 17 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.

ATL vs ARI

ATLANTA WIDE RECEIVERS

This should be a good overall setting for Drake London, who is a very talented player with a huge share of the otherwise moribund Atlanta passing game, but the reasons London projects well don't have much to do with the cornerback matchups. The Cardinals have had to play a zone-heavy defense all year due to poor cornerback personnel, and injuries have only thinned them since then. London may well produce here, but he probably won't find himself in 1-on-1 man coverage situations as much

This article will go game by game for the Week 17 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.

ATL vs ARI

ATLANTA WIDE RECEIVERS

This should be a good overall setting for Drake London, who is a very talented player with a huge share of the otherwise moribund Atlanta passing game, but the reasons London projects well don't have much to do with the cornerback matchups. The Cardinals have had to play a zone-heavy defense all year due to poor cornerback personnel, and injuries have only thinned them since then. London may well produce here, but he probably won't find himself in 1-on-1 man coverage situations as much as he would against almost any other team.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Drake London

ARIZONA WIDE RECEIVERS

DeAndre Hopkins could/should see a shadow assignment from A.J. Terrell, but whatever happens between the former Clemson stars from there is a matter of some speculation. Hopkins is a better receiver than Terrell is a corner – that much is likely a given – but it's possible Hopkins' opportunity level lags anyway for the fact that Marquise Brown and Greg Dortch would necessarily have much easier matchups than Hopkins. Even Colt McCoy should be able to get Hopkins the ball if that's the priority, it just might be a little easier to get it to the other two against lesser corners.

Upgrade: Marquise Brown, Greg Dortch
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DeAndre Hopkins (upgrade if not shadowed by A.J. Terrell)

DET vs CHI

DETROIT WIDE RECEIVERS

DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds both set up well here, especially whichever of the two sees Jaylon Johnson the least. Neither Chark nor Reynolds need to truly fear Johnson, but he is a properly solid cornerback in a rotation that otherwise features marks. Chark in particular could be too tall and fast for Johnson to mirror down the sideline, but Reynolds too is capable of making a play, especially if Jared Goff is having one of his better days. Amon-Ra St. Brown is of course locked in either way. There's no reason for the Detroit passing game to disappoint here.

Upgrade: Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


CHICAGO WIDE RECEIVERS

Chase Claypool (knee) would be capable of beating the outside Detroit corners if healthy, but it's not clear what sort of state he might be in even if he plays here. The non-Claypool Bears wideouts are less likely to capitalize.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chase Claypool

HOU vs JAC

HOUSTON WIDE RECEIVERS

Brandin Cooks has a major advantage against the non-Tyson Campbell Jaguars corners, while Chris Moore merely has a clear one. Campbell can probably shut down Moore, on the other hand, and might even be an obstacle for Cooks. The Jaguars defense might not be at full attention and very likely won't deploy a full complement of blitz packages, however, in a game that ultimately won't matter for division title ambitions.

Upgrade: Brandin Cooks
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chris Moore, Amari Rodgers


JACKSONVILLE WIDE RECEIVERS

Desmond King had been having a good year from the slot but has been playing outside lately with Derek Stingley out, leaving journeyman Tavierre Thomas to step into the slot as a likely downgrade relative to King, while King is a relative downgrade outside from Stingley. Steven Nelson can play well underneath at one outside rep, but his ability to defend downfield isn't a given and with the way Trevor Lawrence is playing lately the abilities of King and Nelson might not amount to much of an obstacle.

Upgrade: Christian Kirk
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Zay Jones, Marvin Jones

KC vs DEN

KANSAS CITY WIDE RECEIVERS

Patrick Surtain might follow around JuJu Smith-Schuster to some extent, but the last time these teams played Smith-Schuster drew 11 targets on just 54 snaps. It seems the Denver defense would need to significantly change its approach from the first matchup to get in Smith-Schuster's way. Justin Watson continues to log starter-level snaps for sub-backup returns, so he's dependent on a busted coverage to do anything useful. Marquez Valdes-Scantling can run fast but has mostly settled into a decoy role.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquz Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson

DENVER WIDE RECEIVERS

Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton both set up reasonably well here. The Chiefs probably aren't going to use their playoff playbook against such a harmless opponent, so it wouldn't be surprising if the Chiefs get a lead and then allow the Denver offense to spin its wheels a bit to waste the time.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton

NE vs MIA

NEW ENGLAND WIDE RECEIVERS

Jakobi Meyers has quietly been excellent this year and shouldn't find Kader Kohou to be a prohibiting obstacle. The other Patriots receivers are less convincing. Tyquan Thornton is much too fast for Xavien Howard, but Thornton has a major speed advantage almost always and yet the production has only flickered. Nelson Agholor sees his playing time fluctuate often but is also a candidate to lead the team in receiving production whenever Meyers doesn't.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Tyquan Thornton


MIAMI WIDE RECEIVERS

Tyreek Hill is matchup-proof and Jaylen Waddle is pretty close himself. With that said, the Patriots have an at least occasionally lively pass rush that makes it difficult to throw deep, and they have some cornerback personnel capable of covering ground well up to that point. Jonathan Jones in particular is about as close as you'll get to a corner who mirrors the traits of Hill and Waddle, while Jack Jones lacks Jonathan's long speed but thrives in the underneath and intermediate. Slot corner Myles Bryant is the one easily beaten here.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle

NYG vs IND

GIANTS WIDE RECEIVERS

Darius Slayton can outrun the cover-3 coverage of Stephon Gilmore, but whether Daniel Jones can strike with that sort of range is unclear at best. Meanwhile, Slayton is probably not going to get the better of Gilmore underneath or in the intermediate. Slayton needs to get Gilmore lined up in a proper race – that's where it would sooner suit the receiver. Isaiah Hodgins isn't losing anyone and especially would be unlikely to produce against Gilmore, but against Brandon Facyson Hodgins might be able to continue providing a chain-moving presence. Richie James doesn't have an obvious advantage over Julian Blackmon in the slot, but James has held his own pretty much all year.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Darius Slayton (arguable downgrade if shadowed by Gilmore), Isaiah Hodgins (arguable downgrade if Gilmore does not shadow Slayton), Richie James

INDIANAPOLIS WIDE RECEIVERS

Adoree' Jackson appears back for the Giants and figures to shadow Michael Pittman, but it's unclear whether that matters much. Jackson almost never makes a play on the ball and Pittman is rarely open, so even if Jackson sticks to Pittman it shouldn't be a condition that discourages Indianapolis from throwing Pittman the ball. Parris Campbell and Alec Pierce can both dust the other Giants corners but whether the Colts will prioritize them is an unpredictable matter.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce

PHI vs NO

PHILADELPHIA WIDE RECEIVERS

If Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) can play then he would present a tougher matchup for A.J. Brown than most corners do, but probably not in any way that slows Brown much. If Brown were to disappoint against Lattimore it would probably be less because Smith failed to get open and more just that DeVonta Smith got open more quickly against the remainder Saints corners, be it Paulson Adebo or Alontae Taylor in coverage.

Upgrade: DeVonta Smith
Downgrade: N/A
Even: A.J. Brown (arguable upgrade if no Lattimore), Quez Watkins


NEW ORLEANS WIDE RECEIVERS

Chris Olave would be an interesting faceoff against Darius Slay – it would be hasty to write off Olave on the basis of Slay's reputation, because Olave's own reputation is one to fear. He's drawing a target roughly once every five snaps. Rashid Shaheed would be an unlikely volume candidate but he might be a surprisingly challenging assignment for James Bradberry, who's among the league's biggest corners and would probably prefer to grapple with a Mike Evans type than a small, blurry burner like Shaheed.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed

TB vs CAR

TAMPA BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

It's happened over and over so it's safe to say by now that Mike Evans just isn't getting much help from Tom Brady, with Brady specifically failing to get Evans the ball when open deep. With Brady limited to the underneath that wastes Evans' best talents and leaves more slack in the offense to fall to Chris Godwin and Russell Gage.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage


CAROLINA WIDE RECEIVERS

DJ Moore can lose a corner like Jamel Dean laterally, but Terrace Marshall probably can't get anything going against Dean. Sean Murphy-Bunting can probably get beaten by either. Antoine Winfield isn't likely to let much get going from the slot.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DJ Moore, Terrace Marshall (the less Dean the better)

WAS vs CLE

WASHINGTON WIDE RECEIVERS

Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome are quite talented and are capable of limiting Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, respectively, especially with Carson Wentz at quarterback. Then again, McLaurin is a true WR1 and has beaten better corners than Ward in the past. Jahan Dotson is a tough cover for the rookie Martin Emerson.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Curtis Samuel
Even: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson


CLEVELAND WIDE RECEIVERS

There's nothing concerning about this matchup for Amari Cooper or Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Browns offensive line should be able to manage the Washington pass rush well enough that the secondary has to actually cover, and in that case Cooper at least probably has the advantage.

Upgrade: Amari Cooper
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Donovan Peoples-Jones

LV vs SF

LAS VEGAS WIDE RECEIVERS

Davante Adams and the entire Raiders roster are upset about Josh McDaniels' decision to scapegoat Derek Carr by switching to the wretched Jarrett Stidham, but the corner matchup specifically isn't really a concern here. Even the otherwise strong Charvarius Ward isn't well-suited to tracking Adams' lateral movements, while the other corners are simply likely to struggle. But if Adams gets open, will the ball get there? Stidham generally makes things hard on his receivers.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Hunter Renfrow, Mack Hollins
Even: Davante Adams


SAN FRANCISCO WIDE RECEIVERS

Nate Hobbs is a good corner but Kyle Shanahan can probably call up a game plan that basically removes Hobbs from the box score if only by attacking the other parts of the Raiders defense instead. If Hobbs can trip up a 49ers player it would probably be Brandon Aiyuk, if only because Aiyuk is the 49ers pass catcher who does the most traditional route running. Deebo Samuel has such novel and varied usage that a so-called shutdown corner can struggle to get lined up against him.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings

SEA vs NYJ

SEATTLE WIDE RECEIVERS

Sauce Gardner only plays on the left side, so while he would be a disaster matchup for DK Metcalf the Seahawks could simply line him up on the offense's left, where instead he would run against the 5-foot-9 D.J. Reed. Reed has gotten excellent results in the Jets defense this year, but he has had a lot of structural support and there's only so much a small, slowish corner can do about someone like Metcalf. Then again, if Tyler Lockett (hand) and Marquise Goodwin (shoulder) can't play then the Jets will be free to roll all their safety coverage toward Metcalf.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DK Metcalf (arguable downgrade if Lockett is out), Tyler Lockett, Marquise Goodwin


JETS WIDE RECEIVERS

Garrett Wilson shouldn't have any trouble creating lateral separation against Tariq Woolen or Mike Jackson. The Jets finally committed to Elijah Moore as a three-down player last week and cut out the useless Braxton Berrios, but Zach Wilson's poor play made it impossible to capitalize. Perhaps that changes here with Mike White throwing the ball instead. Moore should otherwise be a very challenging cover for these Seattle corners. Corey Davis might struggle against big corners like Woolen and Jackson, on the other hand.

Upgrade: Garrett Wilson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Elijah Moore, Corey Davis

GB vs MIN

GREEN BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

Allen Lazard doesn't have an obvious trait advantage against Patrick Peterson or Cam Danztler but from the slot Lazard could prove just about impossible for Duke Shelley to cover. Big volume seems unlikely for Lazard, but explosive plays or/and touchdowns are on the table. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs can both probably run away from Peterson and Dantzler, though Watson of course is especially fast.

Upgrade: Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


MINNESOTA WIDE RECEIVERS

Justin Jefferson need not fear any corner in the league, and Jaire Alexander hasn't proven himself to be particularly close to the level at corner that Jefferson is at receiver. If Jefferson gets cracks at the other Green Bay corners all the better then – Alexander is still easily the best of them. Adam Thielen would likely struggle against a corner of Alexander's caliber, though, and maybe even against Rasul Douglas. K.J. Osborn doesn't dictate anything.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen (the less Alexander the better), K.J. Osborn

LAC vs LAR

CHARGERS WIDE RECEIVERS

Jalen Ramsey lines up everywhere so he shouldn't be any one Chargers receiver's problem much more than the others. Keenan Allen can expect to find competent slot coverage be it from Ramsey or Cobie Durant, so it's arguably Allen who has the toughest matchup. Allen is much bigger than Durant, though, so that would certainly be the preferable matchup. Troy Hill can probably hold up fine against Joshua Palmer, but Mike Williams might have too much of a size advantage for that to work out well for the Rams.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Keenan Allen, Mike Willliams, Joshua Palmer

RAMS WIDE RECEIVERS

Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell have no obvious advantages over the Chargers pass defense, which tends to pad against the pass while conceding a bit against the run. If someone gets open it will probably be because of a mistake in a zone coverage handoff.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell

BAL vs PIT

BALTIMORE WIDE RECEIVERS

It's difficult to imagine the Steelers corners letting Demarcus Robinson create much separation, but Robinson never has separated from anyone and still pops up with production occasionally. Sammy Watkins is much better.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson

PITTSBURGH WIDE RECEIVERS

Marlon Humphrey hasn't been used much in a shadow capacity this year so Diontae Johnson and George Pickens should each see Humphrey whenever they line up on the offense's left side. The non-Humphrey corners are not imposing for Baltimore, though Marcus Williams can close off the seam from the free safety spot.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Diontae Johnson, George Pickens

CIN vs BUF

CINCINNATI WIDE RECEIVERS

Tre'Davious White might or might not shadow Ja'Marr Chase, but it's probably inconsequential to the Bengals wideouts either way. Chase is a safely better receiver than White is a corner, and White might not have fully shaken off the rust yet from his 2021 ACL tear. Tee Higgins is much bigger than any of the Bills corners, so he can present a viable target even without separation. Tyler Boyd gets maybe the toughest matchup against Taron Johnson.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd


BUFFALO WIDE RECEIVERS

Cam Taylor-Britt might one day be capable of holding serve against a receiver like Stefon Diggs but probably can't in the meantime, and Eli Apple definitely can't. The Bengals might need to roll safety help toward whoever is matched up against Diggs, especially since Taylor-Britt and Apple are bigger corners who might be able to match the imposing build of Gabe Davis better than most corners. Then again, Davis can probably beat either player too and might warrant some additional safety attention himself. Isaiah McKenzie probably doesn't have an advantage on Mike Hilton.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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