Most weeks, Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Case Hayward is too good to be of much use to Individual Defensive Player (IDP) owners.
Hayward’s a classic example of the disconnect that exists between “NFL good” and “IDP good.” From an NFL perspective, Hayward is one of the best players at his position in the NFL most casual fans aren’t aware of.
But in IDP leagues — even the ones that require his position — Hayward’s an afterthought. In The WALL IDP-Only Showcase League here at Fantasy Sharks, Hayward ranks 65th at the position in fantasy points through 12 weeks.
That’s … not good.
Hayward’s NFL acumen actually hurts his IDP value. Most opponents, given the option, would just as soon not throw in Hayward’s direction. For the season, he’s been targeted 40 times — 71st among NFL cornerbacks.
With target numbers like that, it’s no wonder Hayward’s fantasy production has been blah.
So why is the 29-year-old leading off Cornering the Market in this all-important Week 13 — the final week of the fantasy regular season in most IDP leagues?
Because his opponent, Pittsburgh, is not most opponents.
On Sunday night, Hayward will be tasked with Mission: Impossible — covering Antonio Brown. No wide receiver in the AFC has been targeted more times than Brown, who has been thrown at 123 times this season.
That’s just better than 11 targets a game, in case math isn’t your thing.
Hayward’s going to see as many throws in his direction in Week 13 as he usually does in a month. And with all due respect to the two-time Pro Bowler, Brown’s probably going to get his. He always does.
Every catch Brown makes is an opportunity for Hayward to notch a tackle. Maybe he’ll even pick up his first interception of the year.
The stage is set for Hayward to come up big just when IDP owners need it most — in a matchup with a Pittsburgh team that leads the AFC in fantasy points allowed to cornerbacks.
Here are a few other cornerback streamers to consider as you make a last push for the IDP playoffs.
Prince Amukamara, Chicago (at New York Giants)
“I haven’t gotten the chance to go against many former teammates, but Prince was like a brother when he was here,” Beckham said with a smile. “I honestly, I can say I love Prince, that’s my guy. I have to try and stay focused when I’m in the game with him lined up across from me. He’s always been a good corner, but it’s just Prince – I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just Prince, and he’s there, and he’s a goofy guy. I’m gonna have to snap back early in the game and be able to compete against him, and I know he’s excited as well.”
IDP owners in need of a Week 13 spot starter at cornerback should perhaps be the most excited of all. Not only has Amukamara been on a nice rip lately (22 total tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles over his last three games), Amukamara is fantasy’s highest-scoring corner since Week 10 and a Top 5 IDP overall, but Sunday he gets a matchup with one of the league’s five most-targeted wide receivers. If Amukamara is available in your IDP league, he shouldn’t be.
James Bradberry, Carolina (at Tampa Bay)
The last time Bradberry faced Tampa Bay, he held Mike Evans to a single catch for 16 yards — a performance that drew kudos from Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter.
“Bradberry definitely got the best of Mike in that last game, he played a heck of a game,” Koetter said, via Marcel Louis-Jacques of the Charlotte Observer. “Mike was a little banged up in that game, Mike’s always played well against Carolina in the past. That game was not indicative of how Mike’s played against Carolina, but it was definitely not his best and Bradberry got the best of that one.”
Given Evans’ lack of success in that game and Bradberry’s paltry stat line (2 solos, 2 assists, 2 passes defensed), it might seem odd to see him included here. But Bradberry has struggled big time over the last few weeks, and Evans knows as well as we do that Bradberry got over on him last time. He’s going to be out for payback, and with Jameis Winston under center you know that the targets are going to be there for Evans.
Chris Harris, Denver (at Cincinnati)
Per Jon Heath of (Denver) Broncos Wire, Harris is looking forward to locking horns with one of the NFL’s best receivers in Cincinnati.
“Man, I’m up for the challenge,” Harris said. “To be All-Pro, you’ve got to play everybody. You can’t run from anybody and I want to show everybody that I can cover number ones — I can cover anybody in the slot. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got a lot to prove. He’s been great since he got in the league. High pointing the ball, he can do that. Great route running. Pretty much the total package for a receiver. This is my eighth time battling him, so it’ll be fun.”
Like Hayward, Harris is one of the more underrated corners in the NFL. And like Harris, in many weeks he’s essentially too good at what he does to merit IDP consideration. But as Harris has shown with 14 total tackles and two interceptions over the last two weeks, he can produce with the best of them when the matchup’s right and he’s locked on an elite receiver. That will be the case this week in the Queen City, even with Cincinnati starting backup quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Jason McCourty, New England (vs. Minnesota)
As Julian Benbow reported for the Boston Globe, McCourty’s versatility on the back end has impressed head coach Bill Belichick.
“He plays multiple spots on the defense, so he really has moved around probably more than any other player in the secondary over the 10 games we’ve played,” Belichick said a week ago. “But even at corner, he’s played inside. He’s played outside, unlike really any other player we have. He played safety. He’s a smart guy. He’s a versatile player. He’s shown a lot of versatility considering he missed the spring, but from training camp on, he’s done a lot of good things for us. He’s been very dependable, and tough, and durable, and played multiple positions for kind of the newest member of the secondary, if you will. He’s had a lot of responsibilities that guys like [Patrick] Chung or Devin [McCourty] have had. As a corner, he’s actually taken the brunt of those.”
McCourty started out as a subpackage player for New England, but as the season wore on his role grew — so much so that in each of New England’s last two games the 31-year-old has been on the field for every defensive snap. McCourty hasn’t done much in those games (five total tackles), but against a Minnesota team that’s third in the NFL in fantasy points surrendered to cornerbacks, McCourty may just turn back the clock to a time when he was the No. 1 corner in fantasy football.