How High Is Jordan Matthews' Ceiling?
Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, and Marqise Lee were the first six wide receivers in order selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. The first five mentioned all were taken in the first round.
Jordan Matthews was taken right after the six aforementioned receivers; others from this class include Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, John Brown, Jeff Janis, and Quincy Enunwa (who might just be the steal of the class).
For his first two NFL seasons, Matthews has been held under a very thorough microscope. As a rookie, he had the fortune of playing alongside Jeremy Maclin to help ease his transition from college to the NFL. Last year, he jumped to the top of the Philadelphia Eagles' depth chart when Maclin left Philadelphia to reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City.
Matthews' ascension to the top of the depth chart caused critics to look at him even closer and harsher than before, as they wanted to see what he could do as the lead dog. Dropping passes at an alarming rate was the main cause for such rough critique; however, Evans, Brandon Marshall, and Amari Cooper join Matthews near the top of the list in terms of dropped passes.
If you read the work of NFL.com's Matt Harmon at all, then you know that drops are rooted in negativity bias based on what we see and how we take in info. They should not define how good a receiver is.
Aside from being related to the all-time best receiver, Jerry Rice, Matthews carved out a name for himself with his play in his first two seasons.
Using Pro Football Reference, we can find that 120 catches for 1,600 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns -- about 80% of Matthews production over two years -- before the age of 23 has only been accomplished by 17 total wide receivers.
Matthews is in a very exclusive group here. Including himself, six wide receivers come from his 2014 draft class alone. Another receiver is the previously mentioned Maclin. Finally, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Randy Moss are already Hall-of-Fame worthy based on their career-long success.
This list alone should dispel the negativity rooted in looking at his drops to define the quality of receiver that he is. More so, digging deeper, we can look at his progress through the years and see what type of receiver he should be moving through his career.
Soaring to New Heights
Based on traditional statistics, and our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, we can see how Matthews has done year by year as well as extrapolate his first two games into a 16-game season.
|Year||Tar||Rec||Yards||TD||Rec NEP||Rec NEP/Tar||Rec Success Rate|
Based on traditional statistics, Matthews has shown steady increase from year one to two, and now, in year three, he is showing off his massive breakout potential. Furthermore, this is reflected in his NEP.
Because of increased opportunity, Matthews also increased his Reception NEP over his first two seasons, and is now on pace to obliterate last year's Reception NEP. Although his efficiency dropped from year one to two based on Reception NEP per target, his Reception Success Rate remained the same, showing that he created positive plays just as often as the year before.
Now, his Reception NEP per target has jumped back to his rookie year level, and he has improved his Reception Success Rate, showing that this is the product of improved consistency.
Currently, among 76 wide receivers with at least 10 targets, Matthews ranks 32nd with his Reception NEP per target, leading to the 7th-ranked Reception NEP. Moreover, his Reception Success Rate is 46th, but due to low overall target and reception numbers for the league, this should appear better compared to the league as the season rolls on.
With Matthews' athletic profile being that of the prototypical split end and his ability to be used everywhere in the offensive formation, he is on the cusp of superstardom. The sky is the limit for Jordan Matthews, and he is a must-have for your fantasy team.
Drop your negativity bias because of his drops and enjoy watching him play while you can.