The Philadelphia Eagles signed both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. So, what do we do about Jordan Matthews in fantasy football?
To answer that question, we must first attempt to figure out how these moves affect his potential workload.
Is there a wide receiver in the house?
Step one: Matthews vs. in-house options.
Here we see Matthews versus every other WR to earn 40 or more targets since Matthews joined the Eagles. As you see, Matthews bests all of them, with the exception of Jeremy Maclin’s 2014 campaign. (More on that later). In particular, he’s well ahead of Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor. So my first assumption will be that they will get pushed out of the top three WR spots, not Matthews.
Location, Location, Location
Next, let’s see how Matthews compares to his new competitors, Jeffery and Smith.
Actually, he compares darn well. Much more heavily involved than Smith and more efficient than Jeffery. His yards per target trails noticeably but in a roundabout way that might actually be okay. Taken from the AYA App, here’s where each player has been targeted over the past three seasons.
This graph shows the percentage of targets each WR received in the deep part of the field (greater than 15 yards downfield) versus the short part of the field (less than 15 yards downfield), and also breaks them down by whether the target was to the left, middle, or right side of the field.
The first thing that stands out: a whopping 81 percent of Matthews’ targets have been of the short variety. Jeffery and Smith, however, sport smaller short target ratios and similar deep ratios. This suggests the target competition is more between Jeffery and Smith for deep targets. That could leave Matthews with a relatively safe set of targets in the shorter zones.1
Ultimately, Smith may not be much of a factor. With declining target totals in three straight seasons and an inability to distinguish himself in a barren San Francisco WR corps, Smith seems like the clear third in this triumvirate. Insofar as he does compete for targets, he doesn’t threaten Matthews based on how they’ve been used recently.
It’s a big enough pie
But what about Jeffery? Doesn’t his presence hurt Matthews outlook? Maybe, maybe not. For Jeffery’s presence to really hurt Matthews, we first have to assume Jeffery stays healthy and doesn’t get suspended again. We already know that the Bears were willing to let Jeffery walk away. And we know that Jeffery was apparently unable to get a lucrative multi-year contract from any of the other 31 teams.2
Could Matthews targets get squeezed by Jeffery and Smith? Sure. But I’d argue that Matthews seems just as likely to squeeze them out of work. I refer you to the visual above that shows Matthews, Jeffery, and Smith over the past three seasons. Close enough that it’s not a slam dunk in favor of Jeffery. Looking at just 2016 on a per-game basis (thus forgiving Jeffery’s missed games).
Jeffery’s clearly a threat for bigger plays, as evidenced by the higher yards per target. But is he that far ahead of Jeffery?
Jordan Matthews has received targets primarily from three QBs: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, and Carson Wentz. Two of them posted the best adjusted yards per attempt of their careers when targeting Matthews. The third (Bradford) has only found more success with one other receiver. Matthews hasn’t attained the WR1 heights we hoped for when he entered the league, but he’s been a consistent performer, averaging 12.6, 14.5, and 12.2 PPR points per game in his three seasons. He’s also been successful playing with a “target hog” across from him.
Unless both return to their career peaks, the additions of Jeffery and Smith shouldn’t materially affect Matthews chances for being a WR2 / WR3 in 2017. His targets should be relatively safe, especially if the Eagles keep up last year’s fast pace and heavy pass-to-run ratio.
Let’s take a look quickly at how that could play out.
|PLAYER||2016 TARGETS||2017 TARGETS|
This scenario marginalizes Green-Beckham and Agholor, but there’s not much basis for expecting either to take a step forward, and the Eagles’ actions in free agency indicate they plan to move in a different direction. I’d also argue that any upside in the targets for DGB, Agholor, or Smith is off set by potential downside in the targets projected for Jeffery.
Keep an eye on Matthews trade value in dynasty leagues and also his redraft ADP. If he starts falling well into or below the WR3 tier, I’d happily acquire.