Fantasy Sleepers

Re-evaluating Rishard Matthews’s Fantasy Upside

Let’s Not Forget About Rishard Matthews

The NFL Draft changes many things. It changes teams. It changes fortunes. It changes the value of players who were already on the roster.  One of the intriguing drafts this year was that of the Tennessee Titans. As goes with any team drafting in the top five, the Titans had many holes to fill and spent a great deal of time addressing their offense. The Titans improved their offense (11th in total yards last year) and spent little time in the early rounds on defense (20th in total yards). Tennessee drafted two wide receivers and a tight end in the first three rounds (also adding Adoree’ Jackson).  The burning question is this: who will lead this Titans receiving corps in fantasy value?  This season will see the rookie WR Corey Davis joining the receiving group led by Rishard Matthews last year.

Rishard Matthews had a superb fantasy season. Matthews finished fifteenth in standard scoring on both ESPN and Yahoo.  When using a PPR format, he finished lower. He had his single best season, finishing with 65 catches on 108 targets.  Further, he totaled 945 yards on those catches. This all worked out to 14.5 yards per reception, 8.75 yards per target and also 3.12 average yards after catch (aYAC).  This aYAC is unimpressive as was the catch rate of 60.1%.  The one stat that buoyed Matthews’ season was touchdowns. Only five players finished with more than his nine.  Matthews had only eight touchdowns in the previous four seasons.   Using ESPN  standard scoring, Matthews had 146.5 points. Ultimately, 54 of those points were from touchdowns.  That would be 36.9% of his total scoring.  Matthews was one of only five WRs to have less than 70 catches and still finish in the top 25 in fantasy points.

He was the lead wideout on the roster last year, and now he has competition. This is not the first time this has happened to Matthews.  While still in Miami, Matthews watched as the Dolphins added Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker.  The Dolphins were going through the same thing the Titans are now addressing.   The Dolphins then were trying to build a receiving corps around young Ryan Tannehill. The Titans now are trying to build a receiving corps around Marcus Mariota.  The Titans have added Harry Douglas, Tajae Sharpe, DeMarco Murray and Andre Johnson.  Matthews was one of the crowning additions of this offensive build-up. Last year, Sharpe was the one who was going to push Matthews, this year it is Corey Davis.

[the_ad id=”66786″]When the Dolphins added Jarvis Landry, Matthews did see a drop in numbers.   It was a difficult 2014 campaign where Matthews saw his targets cut in third.  In 2015, he seemed to be showing his talent and ended the season on the Injured Reserve list.  Matthews put up 43 catches on 61 targets, 662 yards, and four touchdowns before his injury.  It was after this season that Matthews signed the three- year $15 million contract with Tennessee.  Matthews has shown that he can have value as a secondary target.

All that said, Davis has not surpassed Matthews just yet. Yes, the Titans invested a number five overall pick on Davis, but they also made an investment in Matthews with $15 million. Sure, Tennessee only faces a $833,333 dead money penalty if they cut him after this season, but the investment is there for this year.  Furthermore, Matthews has the head start with a full season under his belt with the young quarterback.

We should expect to see a drop-off in Matthews’ numbers.  He was a WR2 in just about all formats last year.  He should be considered a Flex option in standard ten-team leagues.  In deeper leagues, he should retain some starting value.  Matthews was not without competition last year.  He had to share targets with Delanie Walker, Tajae Sharpe, and DeMarco Murray.  Davis will add to this mix, but his presence should harm Tajae Sharpe more than Matthews.  Matthews will still be on the field at all times and will still see at least 80 targets.

Still, Matthews has clearly fallen. He currently has an average draft position (ADP) of 117.5 in Yahoo and 86.1 in ESPN. That seems a rather significant difference. In position value, Yahoo ranks him as the 37th WR and ESPN ranks him 30th.  Part of the draft differential might also be the increased value ESPN has started placing on WR in relation to RBs.  Corey Davis is going higher in both places as well.  In fact, he has an ADP of 83.8 in Yahoo and 78.4 in ESPN.  This while being ranked behind Matthews in Yahoo and not yet in the ESPN rankings. Clearly, there is a feeling among fantasy enthusiasts that Davis is the clear number one in Tennessee. Beware. Both are conceivable low-end WR2s or flex options until something more can be shown.

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