As I sat down to enjoy my morning cup of tea, (don’t judge me) I was shaken by this tweet from RotoViz podcast czar Matthew Freedman.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) July 27, 2016
I had to rub my eyes a couple of times and look again. Can it really be that the frequently besmirched Jordan Matthews is an arbitrage play on RotoViz love-child Allen Robinson? Well, probably not. It’s hard to consider the two to be similar fantasy quantities after Robinson’s breakout, Matthews’ plateau and their different skill sets. That said, they are similar enough where I think Matthews is a nice value play for 2016. Allow me to explain.
It looks as though both players’ careers are even more similar than I first thought.
Through two seasons, we have almost identical looks on a per-target basis. Matthews catches a higher percentage of his passes, while Robinson has a slightly higher yards per target. They also have the same TD rate, which I think would be surprising to most people since Robinson is generally considered a red-zone monster and Matthews isn’t.
The interesting item here for me is that Matthews has a much higher Fantasy Points Over Expectation Per Attempt. In other words, he has performed far greater than Robinson on a per-target basis in their first two seasons, yet we see Robinson as a fringe first-round pick right now (12.37 ADP according to the Best Ball ADP App), while Matthews sits at the end of the fourth round (46.96 overall). This is probably due to Robinson producing similar point totals in six less games, but doesn’t make Matthews’ performance any less impressive per-target.
Matthews Was the Better Prospect
The sophomore seasons for both WRs have many people forgetting that Matthews was probably the better prospect of these two players.
Robinson was probably better athlete of the pair, but Matthews was pretty strong in his own right. However, it is the production that really separates these two. Matthews bests Robinson by a large margin in career market share of receiving yards, and edges him out in final year production as well. In fact, he ends up in the most successful node of Kevin Cole’s regression analysis that showed production is everything in evaluating WRs.
Now that you’ve seen both players perform on an NFL field, maybe you don’t believe that Matthews was the better prospect outright. But considering their comparable production, it would also be rather difficult to suggest that Robinson is the vastly better player.
Philly Isn’t As Bad As You Think
In order for Matthews to end up a value, he needs to be able to actually produce in 2016. In Philadelphia, there are certainly some concerns to be had as the team moves from up-tempo offensive genius Chip Kelly to the slow, run-oriented coaching style of Doug Pederson.
That said, the under is currently favored on the 7.5 2016 Bovada win prop for Philly, and if the team isn’t winning games, that probably makes it more difficult to run the ball like Pederson did in Kansas City. Something like the 550 pass attempts Fantasy Douche projected for the team seems reasonable. However, I think Matthews could definitely see a higher percentage of the targets in 2016, similar to what happened to Jeremy Maclin last season.
As you can see, Maclin only saw 23 percent of the Eagles targets under Kelly, but then saw 28 percent of Chief targets under Pederson. I’m not really sure that the Eagles’ situation outside of Matthews (Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Zach Ertz) is any better than what the Chiefs had to work with outside of Maclin last year (Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley), so a similar target bump could be in order.
Just as a reference point, 26 percent of 550 would be 143 targets. That’s 15 more targets than Matthews saw in 2015, and would have been top 13 a year ago. In other words, Matthews’ situation could work out much better than it has been presented over the course of the off-season, and he could outproduce his 2015 campaign at a much lower price than he was going a year ago.
Matthews is someone that seems easy to pass up on due to the coaching change and his letdown last year. However, people are forgetting just how good Matthews was as a prospect, and that Maclin finished as the WR15 last year playing in a Doug Pederson offense for a team that threw just 473 passes, 29th in the league. If you love a good deal,1 then you need to be scooping up Matthews at his current ADP.
- And why wouldn’t you? (back)