By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Transaction: The New England Patriots sign WR Jordan Matthews to a 1-year deal
2018 Fantasy Outlook: After an injury-riddled campaign in Buffalo after a trade from the Eagles, Jordan Matthews found himself on the free agent market with not a lot of interest. I’m sure he was thinking something along the lines of, “During my time in Philly, I was one of the best slot receivers in the game. How can I not find a team that wants me?” And honestly, he’d have a point.
From his rookie year in 2014 to 2016, Matthews was one of the most productive receivers in all of football, let alone slot receivers. He was 17th in receptions with 225; 23rd in receiving yards with 2,673; and tied for 18th in touchdowns with 19. Of wide receivers that ran more than 50% of their routes from the slot, he ranked 2nd, 2nd, and 10th in receiving yards from 2014 to 2016. In fact, Matthews ran over 90% of his routes from the slot in 2014 and 2015, the two best seasons of his career. In 2016, he ran only 67.1% of his routes from the slot which, before his his injury-plagued 2017, was the worst season of his career. In 2014 and 2015, Matthews finished as WR26 and WR16, respectively. In 2016, with 73 catches for 804 yards and 3 TDs, he finished as WR45.
Basically, Matthews is an average WR with little burst but good size. But from the slot, he’s a legit option at 6’3″ 206 lbs. The biggest knock on Matthews is drops. He’s finished top 5 at the position from 2014 to 2016 in drops, combining for 19. In three years! Last I checked, a wide receiver’s job was to catch the football, right? In moving to New England, he has a lot of competition for touches as Tom Brady is no stranger to spreading the ball around. From 2014 to 2017, the receiver on the team who ran the majority of their routes from the slot was Danny Amendola, never less than 79% of his routes. And in two of those seasons, he didn’t exceed 30 catches. Not sure if you heard, but Amendola just signed a free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins. There’s an opening to be filled folks!
I won’t be the one to tell you that Matthews is going to come in and have 1,000 yards receiving like the departed Brandin Cooks did. The Patriots get Julian Edelman back who, despite popular opinion, is more than a slot receiver as he runs only about half of his routes from the slot. Edelman will essentially take over the outside spot from the departed Cooks opposite Chris Hogan and the presumably healthy Malcolm Mitchell. Matthews should be able to handle the slot with ease. If the Patriots keep him in the slot and let him run over 80% of his routes from there, I see no reason he can’t exceed 800 yards on 70 catches in this pass-happy offense.
Matthews’ fantasy potential will ultimately be tied to how many touchdowns he can procure. If he can score 6-8, he’s a top 30 option. If not, he’ll move up and down from the waiver wire throughout the season. My colleague Joe Zollo thinks Matthews will have 1,000 yards. I think we should all be smoking what he is if that’s what he really thinks. I can however envision a scenario where he goes for 60 catches, 720 yards and 4 TDs, but that likely doesn’t crack the top 30, putting him as merely depth and the occasional bye week fill in.