Is Jordan Matthews Already An Elite NFL Wide Receiver?
After a highly successful and somewhat surprising rookie season, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews is certainly on everyone’s fantasy football radar. But is Matthews already an elite wide receiver in the NFL? Although he isn’t one of the game’s best overall wide receivers, he’s certainly one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL, there’s no doubting that.
When you look at Jordan Matthews’ overall numbers from his rookie season, they’re very impressive. 67 receptions, 872 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns are incredible marks for such a young player yet he was overshadowed by fellow rookie wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin. Matthews certainly isn’t as flashy as those other players but he gets the job done. He finished the 2014 regular season with the 36th most receiving yards in the NFL, 39th most receptions in the NFL and 18th most receiving touchdowns in the NFL.
Those numbers certainly don’t meet the requirements of being an “elite” wide receiver but Matthews is among the league’s best when it comes to playing in the slot. In fact, Matthews was so good in the slot in 2014 that he finished second in receptions and receiving touchdowns from the slot behind only Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Matthews was especially a master at running the crossing route in head coach Chip Kelly’s uptempo offensive scheme. Kelly’s system is all about creating space and using the entire width of the field. Matthews excels at reading zone coverage’s and finding holes in the defense. Matt Claassen of Pro Football Focus detailed the crossing route in a recent article, noting that over one-third of Matthews’ total receiving yards came on crossing routes. Matthews ran the second most crossing routes, was targeted second most on crossing routes and gained the most yards on crossing routes. Clearly, he’s a legitimate threat running that route from the slot.
But Jordan Matthews isn’t just a crossing route specialist, he’s apparently one of the NFL’s best targets in the league. Quarterbacks had the 7th best quarterback rating when targeting Mathews in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus’ “wide receiver rating” statistic. Matthews was targeted 98 times, caught 67 passes for 876 yards, 8 touchdowns and just 1 interceptions, good for a 119.3 quarterback rating.
Just how good of a number is that? The only players that ranked ahead of Matthews in this category are all legitimate, elite NFL wide receivers. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are the only wide receivers that allowed a higher quarterback rating when they were targeting. That’s certainly elite company and shows just how good Matthews is on the field.
Yet off the field is where Matthews continues to shine. At just 22-years old, Matthews is wise beyond his years, as they say. He’s a level-headed player that knows that absolutely nothing is handed out in the NFL. He’s consistently spotted working after practice, catching passes from the JUGS machine. Matthews has also continued his trademark sprint to the endzone after every single catch during practice. That type of work ethic and mindset is exactly what will help Matthews continue to succeed both on and off the field.
While it’s a bit too soon to claim that Jordan Matthews is an elite wide receiver, he’s certainly heading in the right direction. Matthews is already one of the game’s best slot wide receivers but you’ll never hear him admit that he’s better than anyone else. Matthews will continue to put his head down and just go to work, that’s all he’s ever known to do.
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