When the Philadelphia Eagles released their All-Pro WR DeSean Jackson in March of this year, it raised the question of what the Eagles were going to do to replace him.
After all, he just came off a career season with 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Many people have formed the conclusion that the signing of Darren Sproles was the answer, but I respectfully disagree with some of that theory. Sproles will be D-Jax’s replacement in regards to swing passes, bubble screens and end-arounds from the backfield.
However, he won’t be Jackson’s replacement in regards to deep passes involving skinny posts and go routes. He also won’t be that heavily involved in catching passes after running drag or quick slant routes out of the slot. Therefore, the answer to what the Eagles will do to replace DeSean Jackson happened on May 8 of this year when they drafted a prolific, record-setting wide receiver from Vanderbilt University named Jordan Matthews.
In his four years at Vanderbilt, Matthews amassed a total of 262 catches, 3,759 yards and 24 touchdowns. This includes a spectacular senior year where he caught 112 balls for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. Additionally, his career numbers for receptions and receiving yards left him as the all-time SEC leader in those categories.
It’s even more impressive that he was able to put up record-breaking stats when everyone on opposing defenses knew he was getting the ball and adjusted for it. When you consider that level of production along with his NFL Scouting Combine performances that include a 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds, it wasn’t a difficult choice for the Eagles to select Matthews with their second-round pick. If everything already mentioned wasn’t enough to build a good level of hype for Matthews, he is also the cousin of the greatest WR in NFL history — Jerry Rice.
In the same fashion as his Hall of Fame cousin, Matthews immediately established himself at Eagles training camp as a player with an insane work ethic. His work ethic has led to him being named a starting WR for the Eagles in the slot while Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper line up on opposite ends.
While Maclin and Cooper are good deep threats, Matthews is actually the receiver with the most upside. Head coach Chip Kelly has already made it known that they expect Matthews to be a high volume receiver out of the slot and that bodes well for his fantasy prospects.
He is going to be a matchup nightmare for any nickelback who lines up to defend him since most CBs in general aren’t 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. Therefore, Matthews will be very difficult to jam at the line and he has good speed to run past most defenders especially when he opens up his long stride in the open field.
Additionally, and once again in the same fashion as Jerry Rice, he is a very smooth route runner with great hands and provides a great red zone target with his big frame. However, any expectations of Matthews dominating red zone targets should be significantly lowered since that distinction will most likely go to Zach Ertz. However, Matthews will be in the mix along with the aforementioned Maclin and Cooper.
With all of that information, I can easily endorse and buy into Jordan Matthews as a WR3 in 14-team leagues and higher with a standard scoring format. If the scoring format is PPR, then I’m buying him as a low-end, “on the bubble” WR2 since I feel he will lead the Eagles in receptions this season. If it’s a 12-team league or lower, then it’s hard to buy into Matthews as anything higher than a WR4. However, for those of you playing in dynasty leagues, he is your future WR1 and should be getting drafted in the first round of all rookie drafts.
Therefore, regardless of league type and scoring, I’m buying Jordan Matthews for his season-long and career-long upside. He is my official choice to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award this season and we all know that equates to tons of fantasy goodness.