Terrance Mitchell is the poster child for the value of matchup plays at the cornerback position in fantasy football.
Over the first seven weeks of the 2017 season, Mitchell was fantasy’s highest-scoring player at his position. The 26-year-old piled up 39 total tackles and two interceptions, coming from nowhere to emerge as an every-week starter in CB-required IDP leagues.
The problem is that Mitchell was making all those tackles because he was getting lit up like a Christmas tree, and Kansas City benched him. In the blink of an eye, the ride was over.
A Chiefs team as desperate for CB help as any team in the NFL made no effort to retain Mitchell this offseason, and he would up making his way to Cleveland – where he’s climbed to the top of the depth chart for the Browns.
“Every team that I have ever been on, I felt like there was an opportunity there (to start), Mitchell said via the team’s website. “It will all add up if I do what I need to do to make it happen. There is still a lot or work to be done. It is still really early.”
That Mitchell’s on his fourth team in five NFL seasons tells you quite a bit about what kind of starter he is. He’s the type that opposing quarterbacks target early and often. And in IDP leagues, those targets equate to opportunities for fantasy points.
In Week 1, Mitchell and the Browns play a Pittsburgh Steelers team reeling from the continued absence of tailback Le’Veon Bell. A Steelers team that could be throwing the ball more as a result of that absence. And a Steelers team that gave up the second-most fantasy points to cornerbacks in 2017.
If I liked Mitchell any more this week, it would be uncomfortable.
Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at NOS)
Per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Davis has impressed head coach Dirk Koetter from the moment he arrived at One Bucs Place. “Carlton (got) off to one of the fastest starts of the rookies,” Koetter said. “He gets thrown out there a lot just because of who’s here and who’s not here at corner. He’s getting a lot of reps against some good receivers. What he’s shown is that he plays the ball probably better than I thought he did coming off his tape. We knew he was a good bump-and-run player.”
We aren’t going to have to wait long to see just how good the second-rounder is – with Brent Grimes looking unlikely to play in Week 1 with a groin injury Davis is in line to make his first career start in New Orleans Sunday. Against the Saints high-octane offense. And quarterback Drew Brees – who will all but certainly go after the youngster. There’s all kinds of “rookie corner rule” potential here.
Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears (at GBP)
Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago believes Fuller has the potential to become one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks in 2018. “The Bears need Fuller to take hold of elite status this year,” he said. “He’s just as important to the defense’s success as the pass rush is. He has to make Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford think twice about throwing in his direction. He needs to shrink the field. Fuller isn’t that guy yet, but if he blossoms into one of the league’s top cover guys, Chicago’s defense will challenge for an even better status than the top-10 finish they enjoyed a year ago.”
Fuller’s getting thrown into the deep end right off the get after signing a four-year, $56 million extension in the offseason – a Sunday night prime time affair against Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team that surrendered the mist fantasy points in the NFC to cornerbacks in 2017. In Fuller’s last two starts against the Packers, the 26-year-old has accrued 11 total tackles (10 solo) and two passes defensed.
Shaquill Griffin, Seattle Seahawks (at DEN)
Earlier in the summer, Griffin told the Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News-Tribune that he learned a lot by studying under Richard Sherman last year. “Last year, my rookie year, everything was new for me. My whole thing was I wanted to stay poised in different situations and scenarios,” he said. “That’s something that I took with me and he’d continue to just teach me the ropes and how to do things and how to be a professional. I think that was the most important thing that he taught me was how to be a professional.”
With Sherman now in San Francisco and Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary in tatters, it’s Griffin who is now Seattle’s de facto No. 1 cornerback. In Week 1 that means a meeting with Denver’s wideout duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. A year ago, no NFL team gave up more fantasy points per game to cornerbacks than the Broncos.
Rashaan Melvin, Oakland Raiders (vs. LAR)
Per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area, Melvin enters Monday night’s season opener against the Los Angeles Rams with a king-sized chip on his shoulder. “My motivations have grown tremendously,” Melvin said. “It’s the same grind, but I’m really excited to perform after the opportunities available to me in free agency. There was respect I wasn’t given based on my injury history and being undrafted and the fact that my track record wasn’t so long. That gave me the extra motivation I needed to get me ready for a big year. I’m making strides every day.”
Melvin’s another well-traveled cornerback (Oakland marks his fifth team) who has shown both flashes of talent and a maddening inability to stay healthy. The 28-year-old is healthy now and arguably Oakland’s best cornerback heading into a matchup with a loaded Los Angeles Rams offense that is certain to challenge Oakland’s mediocre secondary down the field.