By: Sam Schlesinger (Twitter: @avishai41)
When analyzing Rishard Matthews, there are three things you need to look at, 1) The numbers from his breakout season last year, 2) The new weapons Marcus Mariota now has to throw to, and 3) The Titans’ devotion to the running game. Matthews is currently being drafted in the 11th round, and I’m going to tell you why that’s significantly under his value.
After his 662 yard, four touchdown 2015 season in Miami, Rishard Matthews arguably put himself on the deep league fantasy radar, but was still relatively unknown and went largely undrafted in most fantasy leagues. He went on to produce a line of 65 catches, 945 yards and nine touchdowns, all career highs, while only receiving a bigger role in offense after week 7. Until week 7 he was only on the field for 62% of passing plays and then that got bumped up to 95% for the remainder of the season. He finished as the WR 15 in standard scoring and 22 in PPR. The Titans will not immediately neglect his success for two players who’ve never played an NFL down and a perennial second option receiver.
Since Decker broke out in 2012, he’s played four seasons with at least 15 games. In all of those seasons except one, he’s had at least 80 receptions, 1,027 yards, and 11 touchdowns. The one season where he did not reach those numbers, was his first season as a Jet before Brandon Marshall arrived to draw the defenses main attention. Decker will get his share and he’ll likely be heavily targeted in the end zone, but according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, titansonline.com senior writer Jim Wyatt believes that Matthews is first on the target priority list, followed by Decker and rookie Taywan Taylor, and then ultimately the 5th overall pick Corey Davis (for big plays). There are definitely more weapons for Mariota, but Decker’s arrival gives the rookies some leeway to ease into NFL level play, and Matthews is still expected to receive the highest share of targets.
*Note: Decker and Davis are BOTH being drafted earlier that Matthews.
The biggest detriment to Matthews’ production will be Tennessee’s dominant running game. The Titans passed the ball on only 51% of plays last year, which was the 3rd least in the league. And why not? When you have two work horses in the backfield, you feed them the ball. This is my hesitation on Matthews. A run heavy team with a few added receiving weapons tells me that his volume will have a hard cap. He was ranked 38th in targets last year and that may dip even further, but he’s always been a guy who does a lot with what he gets. He makes big plays.
I’m not saying Matthews will be a top 25 receiver; he won’t be. But he’s being drafted as the 53rd receiver at the end of the 11th round. I think the number one target priority on what should be a high-scoring offense deserves to be valued a bit higher than that. He’s certainly got upside and is a great sleeper candidate.
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