Jordan Matthews, The 1.01 And Structural Bias
Jordan Matthews is the most productive WR that the SEC has ever seen. In the toughest football conference in the country, Matthews played for 4 years and set conference records for catches and for receiving yards, while catching passes from FOURTEEN different quarterbacks. Matthews destroyed the combine and landed in what is, ostensibly, one of the best scenarios for any offensive player in the entire league. We’ve seen some course correction on our communities evaluation, with Matthews getting selected somewhere in the top half of the 1st round of rookie drafts, but it is my contention that you can’t afford to pass him up with the 1.01. Let’s attack some myths to begin with:
1. The Eagles Aren’t A Great Landing Spot
While on the surface, I think the argument that Shawn Siegele used in this article is valuable analysis, I tend to disagree on the most basic of levels: Jordan Matthews is already the best pass catcher on this team. Matthews senior season Dominator Rating of .48 is 18 points higher than Maclin’s and 17 higher than Cooper’s. Then, take into account this nugget of knowledge from The Fantasy Douche.
— Fantasy Douche (@FantasyDouche) May 14, 2014
Seems not great for the “Cooper is better than Matthews” argument. But what about Maclin? He’s been in the NFL for 5 seasons and has been reasonably productive; however, his best season was the magic Mike Vick year and even then, all he could compile was 70 catches for 964 and 10 touchdowns. The touchdowns are nice, but you wouldn’t expect a 6’0, 200 pound WR to repeat that production, and he hasn’t. All of this analysis forgets that he’s coming off a torn ACL, which will probably impact his playing ability on some level.
Additionally, playing with Nick Foles, when compared to Sammy Watkins with EJ Manuel or Mike Evans with Josh McCown is another significant advantage. McCown might even be a good NFL quarterback, but as RotoViz analyst Jon Moore has argued, Foles is close to being an elite talent at the quarterback position. He had a 10.5 A/YA per attempt last year, which was best in the entire league. If we’re breaking ties there, Matthews has the best QB situation outside of Brandin Cooks or Cody Latimer.
Matthews was the most productive Eagles’ WR in college, he is the biggest/tallest/fastest/strongest member of the bunch and Chip Kelly has already committed to using him as a starting slot WR. While the Eagles may be dedicated to running the ball, and didn’t run as many plays last year as people thought they did, this is still a great place for Matthews to be.
2) Mike Evans Is Significantly More Athletic
|Name||Height (in)||Weight (lbs)||40 Yard||Football Outsiders Speed Score||Height-Adjusted Speed Score||Bench Press||Vert Leap (in)||Broad Jump||Shuttle||3Cone||Agility Score|
Evans is a freak, there is no denying that; but is he such a freak that he leaves Matthews in the dust? Evans has the size advantage, but even when adjusted for weight, they have similar speed scores. Evans has a better HaSS, but Matthews is superior in lateral agility and leaping ability, as well as strength. So if the argument for Evans over Matthews is reliant on athleticism (because it certainly can’t be production) then I think the argument needs to shift to upside. Matthews was a 4 year player at Vanderbilt, but Evans has only been playing WR for 3 seasons. I wouldn’t favor that argument either, because I think Matthews has just as much, if not more, upside than Evans, but still, it’s there to be made.
3) Matthews Isn’t As Talented As Number Crunchers Think
If I understand the argument from the anti-Matthews contingent correctly, it goes something like this: “Yes, his numbers are very good, but he was the only option on a bad team and he doesn’t have the skills to be a WR1 in the NFL.” First, I tend to gravitate towards guys who were very good on very bad teams; the ability to produce when the defense knows that you are getting the ball seems to be a trait that would translate well to the NFL. However, the belief seems to be that Matthews doesn’t do the things that NFL WR’s do. I don’t typically rely on watching games to draw fantasy football conclusions, but there are a few clips that would refute this arguments.
So, yeah, he just ran out of a cloud of 5 defenders and then hurdled a guy. Seems pretty skilled after the catch. What about contested catches, though?
I think it’s fair to say he can do the high point/contested catch thing reasonably well. I’ve watched all of his Draft Breakdown clips and didn’t see any evidence of him being athletically inferior to Mike Evans or technically inferior to Sammy Watkins. Just like every other highly touted NFL WR prospect, Matthews dominated inferior competition, which is what you want them to be doing, but you’d be hard pressed to find traits that Watkins/Evans have that Matthews doesn’t. In fact, there are several existing clips of Evans getting caught from behind (very troublesome) while on most of Matthews clips, you can find him out racing defenders to the endzone or splitting safeties. That’s about as unscientific as it gets, but that is the point: the only knock on Matthews is not falsifiable and not scientific. Even my amateur eye found evidence against it in a matter of minutes.
Why Wouldn’t You Take Matthews 1.01?
Fear. Watkins and Evans have the high draft position, which gives them a safe floor that Matthews would seem to lack on the surface. The way to think about this question is in terms of probabilities. My thoughts on Watkins are well known. I think Matthews is a superior prospect in every way, shape and form and the only advantage Watkins has is draft position. Evans, on the other hand, represents the upside of being a top 5 fantasy WR perennially… but so does Matthews. That’s what has gotten lost in this conversation. At the same time, Matthews is the safest pick at 1.01 and a pick that contains upside as well. When combining production, landing spot, and physical ability, I think Matthews is the clear choice.