Sunday, 03 August 2014 20:00

Prospect: Jordan Matthews

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You know when the stumble across a really good 2Pac video on YouTube. At first, you’re hypnotized by its greatness, and then you scroll down to read the comments section in hopes of finding somebody who agrees with your pre-meditated thought that 2:21-2:27 is also a sick rhyme scheme.

But that event rarely ever happens. Instead, the first commenter below is always some amateur rap artist trying to plug his album. Immediately upon reading that comment, your inner monologue says to you ‘c’mon man, if he was that good of a rapper he wouldn’t need to plug his stuff on YouTube.’

Deep down though, you know every great rapper was once an amateur. Jay Z used to sell his CD out of his car before he landed a record deal after all. So for all you know, this guy could be amazing.

Still, you don’t click his link. Then, you see one of your friends sent you a text message mentioning how he actually listened to that very same amateur rapper who commented on the 2Pac video and thought he was surprisingly good.

You’re still not sold yet since your time is so valuable and you can’t waste it after just one guy urges you to, though you’re starting to get intrigued.

Then, two of your best friends call you the next day and say the same thing about 2Pac commenter guy. Keep in mind, these are your best friends, the people you respect, so now you’re officially sold. You listen to the rapper.

That’s the general feeling going on in Philadelphia Eagles training camp right now with rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews. He’s only a rookie, and he wasn’t the most heralded pick in a draft filled with quality wide receivers, but several people are starting to plug him.

This isn’t just the usual ‘teammate talks up another teammate’ stuff you hear all the time in training camp either. Matthews’ first impression has led to a slew of glowing reports from his coaches and even some former NFL stars.

Though expectations must always be tempered for rookie wideouts, Matthews has officially entered the fantasy radar.

What he did in college

Matthews spent four years at Vanderbilt and become one of the most prolific receivers in SEC history. He set conference records in both career receptions (262) and receiving yards (1477). He ranked among the top 10 in the SEC for receptions in each of his four seasons.

In nine of 13 games during his senior year (2013), Matthews eclipsed 100-yards receiving, and saved his best performance for the most meaningful game of the year.

In the BBVA Compass Bowl against Houston, Matthews caught five passes for 143 yards, which included two 50-yard touchdowns in the first half.

Where he excels

At 6’3, 212 lbs, he has the size and speed you like out of any decent wide receiver, but where he really excels is locating and catching the ball in traffic, a trait many receivers like oh, say, DeSean Jackson, don’t have. In the video above, the 2:57 mark is perhaps the best example of that.

Notice how many of his catches come from plays where one of his hands is tied up with the defender, and how easily he makes a difficult catch look as he sticks his opposite hand out for a one-handed grab while cradling the ball into his chest.

His breakaway speed after getting past the safeties is also evident. Fast forward to 1:11 in the video for a good glimpse of that.

So far, so good

Matthews is simply doing his job in camp and doing it well, catching nearly every ball that comes his way in an almost boring fashion. He’s been praised for his ability to get off the bump and run coverage, a crucial trait that can’t be scouted pre-draft since college cornerbacks can’t jam. Often times, not being able to get off the bump and run is one of the primary reasons highly drafted wideouts become busts.

His role in Philadelphia

Matthews is expected to play primarily in the slot role for Philadelphia early on, where he can use his 6’3 frame to his advantage against typically smaller nickels and safeties. Previously mentioned as one of Matthews’ strengths, catching the ball in traffic is another crucial trait for slot receivers as they typically run routes over the middle where a sea of linebackers and defensive backs often lurk for big hits.

When it comes to his fantasy value in year 1, the amount of mouths to feed may prevent Matthews from being drafted in most fantasy drafts. There were 670 total targets among all wide receivers in Philadelphia last year, with DeSean Jackson gobbling up the most with 124. Expect a healthy Jeremy Maclin to replace Jackson in that category this season.

Riley Cooper returns to the No. 2 role and although he’s not the speedster or the leaper Matthews is, he’s a respectable blocker and compiled 47 catches on 84 targets last year and eight touchdowns of his own last season. While he likely won’t repeat those numbers, he’s still going to be on the field and when you’re on the field, you get targets.

Previous slot guy Jason Avant registered 76 total targets and caught 38 passes in 2013, which is probably the best comparison to what you’ll see out of Matthews this year. Running back LeSean McCoy is heavily involved in the passing game as well as he sucked up 65 targets of his own.

The Eagles are expected to use a lot more two tight end sets this season, with the athletic Zach Ertz continuing to grow as a blocker which could lead to an increased role in 2014 after a strong camp. Ertz was in on only 40 percent of the snaps last season, but he excelled down the stretch with 15 of his 56 total targets coming in the last three games. Plus, he proved his worth by catching a touchdown in the team’s only playoff game against New Orleans. Brent Celek might take the biggest fantasy hit of anybody from Ertz and Matthews development, though his ability to block keeps him in games and results in the occasional touchdown reward.

Final verdict

Matthews isn’t on the fantasy radar as of yet, but the accolades he’s accumulated in camp and his raw talent can’t go unnoticed. He’s likely to end up with 30-40 catches for 400-500 yards and 2-5 touchdowns his rookie season. He’s worth keeping an eye on in the preseason to see if he really does live up to what his players and coaches have been saying about him when the bright lights shine.

George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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