Fantasy Impact: Jordan Matthews Traded to the Bills
About the same time the Bills were trading away their No. 4 overall pick from 2013 (Sammy Watkins), they were also working on replacing him. In another blockbuster move, the Bills have acquired Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round draft pick from the Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby.
Who’s in the Slot?
We’ve heard rumblings about Matthews being traded all offseason, but I don’t think anyone expected the Bills to be the team to jump on him, especially when they signed Anquan Boldin just last week. The reason this is confusing is because Boldin has been a slot wide receiver almost exclusively over the last two years playing over 70 percent of his snaps there. Meanwhile, Matthews played 93 percent of his snaps out of the slot in 2014-2015, and then 67 percent in 2016. We haven’t even mentioned Zay Jones, who was supposed to man the slot prior to the Boldin signing and Watkins trade. Something has got to give, and it’s got to be Matthews playing on the perimeter.
Taking a look at the targets Matthews has seen while outside the slot over his three years in the league hasn’t been ideal. He’s received just 42 targets while playing on the outside, accumulating 27 receptions for 284 yards and one touchdown on those targets. What that has amounted to is 0.82 fantasy points per target, compared to his almost 300 targets from the slot that have yielded 1.22 fantasy points per target. Now is that a statistic you should take to the grave and convince you that Matthews can’t play the perimeter? No, but it’s noteworthy because it’s been a question about Matthews since he came into the league.
Increase in Bills Pass Attempts
The underlying story in all of these offseason moves for the Bills is that their secondary is going to be pretty brutal after losing Stephon Gilmore via free agency, and now Darby in this deal. Those were their top two players in the secondary, and keep in mind that they allowed opponents 23.6 points per game with those two, which was the 16th most in the league. With that number almost certainly rising in 2017, you can expect a bump in pass attempts, which wasn’t hard to do to begin with, seeing as the Bills have ranked in the bottom-two for pass attempts in each of the last two years.
Still, new head coach Sean McDermott is a former defensive coordinator, so this will likely be a run-heavy team, trying to hide the inefficiencies of the defense. So when trying to project this offense as a whole, it’s hard to say they’ll throw the ball more than 500-520 times. And keep in mind that would be a 30-50 pass increase over last season. There were just 26 wide receivers who saw at least a 20 percent share of their teams targets last year, and with the company surrounding Matthews, it’s difficult to say he’d even get that. But playing devil’s advocate, let’s say they throw the ball 520 times and he gets a 20 percent target share, we’re looking at 104 targets. That’s not going to get it done as a WR2/WR3 as Matthews has been in two of his three seasons.
What’s Most Likely to Happen
So the best case scenario for Matthews in 2017 is as a No. 3 wide receiver on fantasy teams, as there was just one wide receiver who finished inside the top-24 with fewer than 108 targets, and that was Tyreek Hill who also had 24 carries and a bunch of special teams touchdowns. Even trying to project Matthews as a No. 3 wide receiver is tough with Boldin on the roster, as he’s been one of the more dominant red zone wide receivers over the last few years, including 2016 when he scored eight touchdowns, ranking eighth among wide receivers. Matthews himself scored three of them, ranking 60th at wide receiver. You want to say it’s a good thing for Matthews to get out of Philadelphia, but in this case, it doesn’t increase his fantasy value a whole lot. Look at him as a No. 4 wide receiver who has No. 3 upside.
If you’ve missed any of the player profiles that have gone up, I urge you to check them out right here.