With the NFL being such a pass heavy league, there are more tosses to go around to multiple receivers than ever before. Fullbacks are being phased out, tight ends are more known for their receiving skills rather than blocking, and running backs can lead their team in receptions.
The slot receiver is no longer one reserved for the small and quick playmakers like Wes Welker and Percy Harvin. They now come in all shapes in sizes for matchup purposes. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly loves taking advantage of these types of matchups, as his offense has several different options on each play depending on how the defense reacts.
Kelly's Eagles drafted Jordan Matthews in the second round of the draft this year, and Chip has gone on record saying he likes Matthews in the slot in three-receiver sets, while Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper play on the outside. Matthews wasn't brought in to play the DeSean Jackson role on the outside. And that's not necessarily a bad thing because Matthews can use his size to his advantage when lining up with a close proximity to the quarterback.
Naturally, a slot player with big size draws direct comparisons to Marques Colston. Let’s see how Matthews compares.
|Height||Weight||40 Time||Vertical||3 Cone Drill|
In the above table, height and weight are rather self-explanatory. The 40-yard dash time measures straight line speed, vertical measures peak jump, and the three-cone drill measures quickness and agility. In terms of pure metrics, these players are comparable, as their agility is pretty much identical while Matthews was slightly quicker and Colston had a slightly greater jump.
And as we all know, Colston has turned those metrics into production.
Although he plays the majority of his snaps in the slot, Colston is the number one receiver for the New Orleans Saints (depending if you consider Jimmy Graham a tight end). When we look at his numbers from last season, we can see that he was more productive and more efficient while playing inside the numbers.
|Outside of Slot||53||31||353||58.49%|
Can a Rookie in the Slot Produce?
Many people are reluctant to draft rookie receivers that are not highly touted. Colston was a seventh round pick in the 2006 draft, and he produced right out of the gate. If you recall, his rookie campaign saw 115 targets for 70 receptions, 1,038 yards and 8 scores.
And in his rookie year, Colston was sixth in the league in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), meaning his catches were massively contributing to his team's point output. The five players with a higher Reception NEP score had between 82 and 95 catches, while Colston had 70, making him the most efficient receiver of the bunch.
That's not to say that Matthews is a lock to produce similar numbers as a rookie, but Colston is proof that a bigger slot receiver can produce as early as his rookie year. Matthews is the first receiver handpicked by Chip Kelly, and his competition is an oft-injured Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, who took advantage of Maclin being off the field last year. Jackson was the Eagles leading receiver in 2013, and 25.56% of the team's targets went his way. With Jackson and Jason Avant out of the picture, that frees up 200 passes to go around.
In leagues that have already drafted, according to Fleaflicker, Matthews is one of the top waiver wire pickups, so getting him now would be wise. He's going in the late 11th round for standard 12-team leagues, which is later than both Maclin and Cooper. At that price, he has my attention, and could end up being the most valuable asset in the Eagles' offense this year.