With Alshon Jeffery being franchise tagged, most believe this year’s free agent wide receiver class to be pretty underwhelming. Travis Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Rueben Randle, and Anquan Boldin are the biggest name free agents to hit the market, but none of them are actually the best receiver available. Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews quietly had one of the most efficient seasons in the league last season. Matthews is only 26 years old, and should be entering the prime of his career. With good college production, excellent efficiency, and solid workout numbers, Matthews fits the profile of a receiver on the precipice of a breakout campaign.
Matthews was extremely efficient for the Dolphins last season. While he received the fourth most targets on the team, he had the second most on a per game basis, as he missed five games due to injury. Here’s how he stacked up to his teammates based on the AYA App:
Matthews blows his teammates out of the water in terms of AYA. He nearly doubles supposed deep threat Kenny Stills‘ AYA, and is clearly an above average option in that facet of the game. Even though he looked elite next to his teammates, his overall efficiency when compared to the league is even more impressive.
|Name||Team||Targets||% TM TAR||reEP||reFPOE||reFPOPT|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||158||0.272||226.41||92.99||0.59|
Matthews finished fourth in the league in receiving fantasy points over expectation per target. For comparison’s sake, his teammates Stills and Jarvis Landry finished with 0.02 and 0.03 reFPOEPT. Matthews also compares favorably to Tyler Lockett, as they had nearly identical seasons from an efficiency perspective, and had similar college production.
Matthews originally committed to Oregon out of high school, but ended up attending junior college for two seasons before ending up at Nevada. In his two seasons at Nevada he had above average production, generating a 44.1 percent dominator rating, placing him in the 86th percentile of all receivers entering the league. While Matthews didn’t test well at the combine, he did have a much better pro day. His numbers were good enough that he generated a 75th percentile SPARQ-x score of 114.9 (PlayerProfiler). Let’s take a look at his comparable players from the Box Score Scout:
There are some very good players listed, including Sammy Watkins, Alshon Jeffery, Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, and Jordan Matthews. Rishard Matthews has a similar build to that of Watkins and Cooper, but Matthews is slightly heavier than both. Because of this, he gives teams versatility to line him up inside at slot receiver, or outside as the X or Z receiver. Lastly, Matthews also had some nice special teams production at Nevada, which Jon Moore illustrated is important to the success of smaller receivers. With 551 punt return yards and two punt return touchdowns in two seasons at Nevada, he displayed the production needed to be successful as a smaller receiver drafted in the late rounds. He finished 10th in punt return yards in 2011, and 19th in 2011.
Best Landing Spots
Dallas Cowboys – Matthews would step in as the Cowboys’ WR2 and would likely continue his amazing efficiency in this role. Playing opposite Dez Bryant will allow Matthews to face lesser corners, fewer double teams, and he could also learn a great amount from Bryant. Matthews would likely see an increase in targets, as the Cowboys lack many options besides Bryant in the passing game.
New York Giants – Matthews would likely replace fellow free agent Rueben Randle as the Giants WR2, and would get to play in a downfield passing game that will allow him to thrive. Much like in Dallas, Matthews would play opposite an elite receiver in Odell Beckham. The team also doesn’t have many other great options at receiver, as Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris would be his primary competition for targets.
San Francisco 49ers – While this may seem like an odd fit, Matthews has plenty of connections to the Bay Area. He grew up in California, and attended junior college there. He originally committed to Chip Kelly’s Oregon team out of high school before going to said junior college. He also played with quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his two seasons at Nevada, and while it’s uncertain if Kaepernick will be with the team or not the two certainly have a connection. On a team lacking many receiving threats, he could challenge Torrey Smith to be the team’s top receiver.