Drafted with the 10th pick in the second round in 2014 by the Philadelphia Eagles, Jordan Matthews has been a polarizing player in fantasy and dynasty circles. Standing 6’3” and weighing 212 pounds, Matthews, the cousin of Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, spent four productive seasons at Vanderbilt before declaring for the NFL Draft. In college he set SEC records by turning 262 receptions into 3759 yards and 24 touchdowns, never missing a game during that span. Over the past four NFL seasons, Matthews has managed a respectable 250 receptions for 2955 yards and 20 touchdowns, spending his first three seasons with the Eagles before a pre-season trade sent him to Buffalo for the 2017 season. While fairly productive from an NFL standpoint, Matthews’ potential has led to inflated values in the dynasty community in each of the past two off seasons. This is generally where polarizing opinions on him arose, as many in fantasy circles claimed that the price to acquire or draft him outweighed his on-field production.
Matthews’ March 2015 ADP according to DLF was WR18, ranking him as the 28th overall player off the board in start up drafts. In March of 2016 his ADP was WR22, ranking him as the 27th overall player taken in start ups. Dynasty writers expressed doubt that paying this premium of a price would net the kind of returns owners were looking for when spending a top 30 pick on a player. These concerns seemed warranted when comparing Matthews’ on-field production to other receivers from his illustrious draft class which included Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, and Jarvis Landry. Matthews was constantly being teased as a complete receiver that could deliver top-tier fantasy stats if given the opportunity to play a more traditional outside receiving role rather than being relegated strictly to slot duties. If the coaching staff would have allowed him the opportunity to run more outside routes, there was no reason to believe Matthews couldn’t challenge the stats being put up by any of his fellow 2014 draft classmates. Unfortunately, these stats never seemed to materialize even when Matthews was given the opportunity under new Eagles coach Doug Pederson in 2015. The Pederson regime quickly realized that Matthews was most useful to the team operating out of the slot. During the 2016 offseason, the team addressed the need for help on the outside by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The pre-season emergence of Nelson Agholor as well as Jeffery and Smith becoming acclimated to the offense suddenly made Matthews expendable, and he was shipped out in an August trade with the Bills.
Last season was a difficult one for Matthews in Buffalo; injuring his sternum during his very first practice with the team forced him to miss the entire preseason. Returning week 1, he battled a variety of thumb, knee and ankle injuries before finally landing on IR in December. Shortly after being placed on IR, he underwent surgery on both his knee and ankle to repair lingering issues that he claims have plagued him since early in the 2016 season. Supposedly ready in time for off-season programs, Matthews has seen his ADP drop dramatically following his lost 2016 season, currently being selected as the WR66 and an overall rank of 143. (based on ADP data at DLF) Players selected in this range include Julian Edelman, John Ross and Ty Montgomery. If Matthews is able to sign on with a team in these later stages of free agency, and spend a full off-season getting acclimated to the playbook, he should return good value based on what it would cost to acquire him in dynasty leagues.
The key will be landing spot of course, a team (and fantasy owners) need to see Matthews for what he is: A talented slot receiver best suited as a secondary option in the passing attack. Matthews led the NFL in receiving yards from the slot between 2014 and 2017, surpassing traditional slot receivers like Landry and Doug Baldwin’s numbers from that timeframe. For teams in need of additional weapons in the passing game, but that already have established #1 receivers on the outside, Matthews could be an amazing bargain. Prior to their recent Eric Ebron signing, I would have suggested a team like the Indianapolis Colts as a perfect situation for a player of Matthews’ talents. Other options include the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, or Miami Dolphins. Each of these teams have well established primary weapons, taking pressure off of Matthews to be ‘the man’ while still having a large enough target share available to ensure he has statistical success. In fantasy leagues, owners would need to have a similar outlook. Counting on Matthews to be a primary receiving option on your team would be ill advised, though having him as your WR3 with potential to deliver WR2 upside is certainly a viable strategy. With the free agency market slowing down, and options drying up, expect Matthews to start receiving more interest from around the league. Pitch a trade for him now while his value is depressed, this way if he ends up in a bad landing spot, you haven’t invested a ton into acquiring him. Still just 25 years old, Jordan Matthews has ample opportunity and upside to provide quality depth to your dynasty squad.