I have a secret to share with you, intrepid reader — a dark secret.
When making player recommendations in fantasy football, I’m wrong — a lot.
It goes with the territory. Between “start” calls and “sit” calls on offense and defense, I write about dozens of players every week for 16 or 17 weeks. There’s logic behind every decision, whether it’s talent, matchup, some other factor or a combo platter. But while they seem a good idea at the time, some of those calls go horribly, terribly wrong.
However, I’m also occasionally right about a player. In fact, once in a while I hit a call out of the proverbial park — like I did with my Week 1 suggestion in this column to start Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward against Cincinnati.
Hayward didn’t just have an OK outing in Cincinnati. Or a good one. He went ballistic — 12 solos and two passes defensed. The veteran corner finished the week second at his position in fantasy points in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. Fifth among all defensive backs. And the 31-year-old was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
For cornerback streamers who rostered Hayward in Week 1, it was a great start to the season. And there’s little reason not to stick with Hayward in Week 2 when the Chargers play their first-ever game at SoFi Stadium against Kansas City.
Admittedly, Kansas City wasn’t a great fantasy matchup for cornerbacks in 2019 — the team ranked outside the Top 25 in fantasy points given up to the position in most IDP (Individual Defensive Player) scoring systems. Hayward was quiet in the first meeting against Kansas City last year and missed the second.
But Hayward will also draw Tyreek Hill in coverage Sunday. And after what he did in Week 1, I’m willing to roll the dice on that matchup.
If I’m wrong, it won’t be the first time.
If you don’t have Hayward on your IDP roster, here are some other streaming options at cornerback to consider in Week 2.
Holton Hill, Minnesota (at Indianapolis)
A third-year pro from Texas, Hill was thrust into the starting lineup for Minnesota after the team lost its top three corners in the offseason. There were some, including Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus, who thought that the youngster could be a surprise star for Minnesota in 2020.
“Some of his best work has come in tight coverage,” Treash said, “where he brings physicality and allowed just two of 16 targets to be caught while forcing eight incompletions. Minnesota needs multiple of the young corners on its roster to step up in 2020, and Hill looks like he can fulfill that.”
Hill was something of a star in the season opener against Green Bay — just not in the way some thought. Aaron Rodgers attacked Hill in coverage, targeting him 11 times. Those targets resulted in seven receptions for 87 yards and a score — and seven solo tackles for Hill. After that Week 1 outing, it’s not hard to imagine that Philip Rivers and Indianpolis will go after Hill Sunday in Indianapolis — and the young undrafted free agent has shown that he can at least make the tackle after allowing a catch.
Donte Jackson, Carolina (at Tampa Bay)
With James Bradberry now in New York, it fell to Donte Jackson to assert himself as the No. 1 cornerback in Charlotte in 2020. As Myles Simmons reported for the team’s website, after working out with Jackson in the offseason, former NFL safety and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark believes that Jackson is more than capable of doing just that.
“Everybody knows, if Donte gets out of his cut the same time you do, he’s getting to the ball first,” Clark said. “Unless your name’s Tyreek Hill, you’re in trouble. So that’s what we worked on. He has to get the ball, not give up big plays, and not rely so much on his speed, but be able to rely on technique — his eyes, his discipline,” Clark said. “That’s what we worked on more than anything, and I think he’s ready to execute those things.”
Jackson’s season opener didn’t go according to plan — he missed most of the loss to Las Vegas with an injury. But the 24-year-old was a full participant in practice on Friday and is believed to be in line to start Sunday in a favorable IDP matchup with Tom Brady, Mike Evans and Tampa Bay.
Avonte Maddox, Philadelphia (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
At just 5-foot-9, third-year pro Avonte Maddox is on the small side for a boundary corner. But Maddox played big enough in camp to win the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Darius Slay in Philadelphia. And per David Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said opponents who underestimate Maddox based on his diminutive size are making a mistake.
“He brings some things to the table that maybe some of the taller guys don’t have,” Schwartz said. “He’s got great quickness and change of direction ability. He can get up to speed super quick, which allows him to play a little bit different technique on the outside. And the thing he’s probably most deceiving with is he’s really strong.”
Maddox played 87 percent of the Philadelphia’s defensive snaps last week against Washington, tallying four solos, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed. The Los Angeles Rams led the NFC in fantasy points given up to cornerbacks in 2019, and it’s not at all difficult to imagine Jared Goff avoiding Slay and targeting Maddox early and often on Sunday.