Jordan Matthews, Slot Percentage, and aDOT
It has been a wild offseason in Philadelphia that has seen Chip Kelly essentially overhaul his entire group of offensive skill position players. Gone are Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, and Jeremy Maclin; in their place now stands Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, and Ryan Mathews.
Those additions to the roster are noticeably lacking a pass catcher to claim the 140-target void that Maclin’s departure has created. While Kelly is sure to address this deficiency in the upcoming draft, it appears that the biggest statistical beneficiary of all this (along with Zach Ertz) will be Jordan Matthews, the second year wide receiver who Kelly traded up for in last year’s second round.
While Mathews is an obvious candidate for a rise in production, what may not be so obvious is why his upside was barely tapped in a rookie season that saw him finish as the 24th wide receiver in standard scoring leagues. Considering he only averaged six targets per game while playing just 65 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, his final stat line of 62 receptions for 872 yards (14.1 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns is very impressive.
It’s not just an increase in volume that should bolster Matthews’ fantasy production but also the types of targets that he will receive moving forward. The sophomore out of Vanderbilt stands at 6’3”, prototypical outside wide receiver size, yet ran the vast majority (92.4 percent) of his 2014 routes from the slot, the highest percentage in the league among qualifying receivers.
While Matthews should continue to see most of his snaps from the slot, that extremely high percentage is going nowhere but down, which Chip Kelly already hinted at when he spoke at last week’s owner’s meetings. Even Marques Colston, whom Matthews is most often compared to as a bigger slot man, only ran 75.6 percent of his routes from the slot last year.
As a result of running so many routes out of the slot, Matthews’ average depth of target (aDOT) was a paltry 9.4 yards down the field. The fact that he was able to average over 14 yards per reception despite this low aDOT is a rather incredible display of efficiency.
Playing more on the outside will inherently increase a receiver’s aDOT because of the type of routes he will be running. That means more chances to make big plays down the field. Just look at the production of the Eagles’ two primary outside receivers last year: the previously mentioned Maclin and Riley Cooper. On the season, Maclin had an aDOT of 14.2 yards and Cooper had an aDOT of 12.5 yards. I charted each of the three receiver’s weekly aDOT’s to further illustrate the discrepancy between Chip Kelly’s primary slot and outside receivers:
Matthews had just 5 games where he had a double-digit aDOT, whereas Maclin and Cooper had 11 and 12, respectively. Given Matthews’ league-high 2014 slot route percentage, Kelly’s comments, and the sudden need for outside production with Maclin leaving, I would say it is a safe assumption that the former Vanderbilt Commodore will be playing more on the outside this year. Especially when you consider he has the size and skill to move to the inside or outside of formations seamlessly.
While many are focused on the volume increase Matthews is set to experience, I believe what will truly take him to the next level of fantasy stardom will be his increase in deeper targets. This rise in aDOT will most likely decrease his very impressive 68.4 percent catch percentage from 2014, but that should be more than mitigated by an increase in yards and potentially touchdowns.
In terms of ADP, Matthews currently sits at the No. 18 WR (28 overall) in dynasty, meaning the dynasty community currently considers him a mid-to-low WR2. Personally, I would be ecstatic with him as my WR2, so I think he is slightly undervalued at that ADP. I would be buying everywhere I could.
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