Last year, no wide receiver in the NFL was targeted more than Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Evans was thrown at 173 times for the year – an average of almost 11 targets a game. In news that should surprise absolutely no one, all those targets equated to more than a few hefty stat lines for the cornerbacks assigned to cover him.
In Tampa’s 2017 debut against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, that task will fall to Marcus Cooper, who told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times that the Bears need to take advantage of Jameis Winston’s penchant for throwing interceptions.
‘‘Jameis is a guy who believes in his arm and believes in his receivers, so he’s going to throw into double coverage,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘He’s going to make some throws that we’re going to have opportunities to pick off. So, we’re going to take advantage of those opportunities. If you want to be a great defense, a great secondary, you’ve got to have takeaways. We need to get those takeaways if we want to be what we want to be.’’
Between that tendency to force passes (33 interceptions the past two years) and the fact that he looks to Evans so consistently (DeSean Jackson isn’t going to change things that much), Cooper is one of my favorite Week 2 cornerbacks for fantasy owners who stream the position.
If he isn’t available, here are some others to consider.
Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots (at NOS)
Gilmore was the first to admit the Patriots defense didn’t play well in Week 1 while speaking with Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire. “Just got to play harder, got to focus on what we can control, and the stuff that we messed up on — it’s us,” he said in the locker room. “It’s nothing they did. We’ve just got to go out and play harder and put in a better attitude. Just gotta go out and play with a hungry attitude. We’ve got to be hungry out there on the field. I don’t think we’ve done that as a team.”
It won’t get a bit easier for the New England defense this week, as they head to the Big Easy to battle Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the Saints. It’s a game that has the makings of a good old fashioned shootout, and last season only one team surrendered more fantasy points per game to cornerbacks than the Saints.
Byron Maxwell, Miami Dolphins (at LAC)
Maxwell told Alex Donno of CBS Miami that he’s used the trade that sent him from Philadelphia to Miami as both motivation and a learning experience. “I think the things that happened in Philly made me a better leader for Miami,” Maxwell said. “It made me a better football player and a better person. I was able to handle getting benched in Miami and bounced back. I would be lying if I told you I don’t want to do better than the Eagles do. I do. I want to win more games than them. I want to prove them wrong.”
Maxwell was nearly benched again this summer in favor of Alterraun Verner, but it appears the 29-year-old will at least open the season as a starter for the Dolphins. In a Week 2 matchup against a Chargers team that gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to cornerbacks last year and wideout Keenan Allen, who was targeted 10 times in a Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Rashaan Melvin, Indianapolis Colts (vs. ARZ)
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano admitted to Mike Wells of ESPN that not having Vontae Davis on the field has been a major setback for Indy’s beleaguered secondary. “It stinks not having Vontae out there. He’s our No. 1 corner,” Pagano said. “It’s unfortunate, but injuries happen. It’s next man up. We have guys in here, some that are really young, some that are new. It’s my job to get them ready to play winning football.”
With Davis on the shelf in Week 1, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams torched the Colts for over 300 passing yards. Melvin racked up six solos in that game as the Colts top corner, and it’s not hard to imagine the fifth-year journeyman bettering that this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Cardinals were the No. 1 fantasy matchup in the NFL for cornerbacks last year – and that was when the Redbirds had a healthy David Johnson on the field.
Jalen Mills, Philadelphia Eagles (at KCC)
After making nine total tackles and intercepting a pass in last week’s win over the Washington Redskins, Mills garnered some praise from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “He made a lot of strides from the beginning of training camp until the end of training camp,” Schwartz told Rob Maadi of the Associated Press. “Very competitive. He’s long, he can get his hands on the football and he’s tough. He’ll tackle.”
That ability to tackle is one of the things that makes Mills an attractive fantasy option, even in a less-than-ideal IDP matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. But the real Week 2 appeal with the second-year pro lies in this little nugget – last week Mills was targeted a staggering 15 times. That was the most of any cornerback in the NFL.