Chris Matthews: Size Always Matters

by Nate Liss, August 12, 2015

Picture This:

Like many Seahawk fans I wake up nearly once a week to a horrifying night terror. I keep having the same recurring dream of Super Bowl XLIX vs the New England Patriots. There we are, the ball on the one yard line, momentum on our side and Marshawn Lynch standing in the backfield. You can sense the victory before the ball is even snapped. I’m jumping up and down on my couch like Tom Cruise while screaming, “feed it to that skittle eating mother fu….”, and then suddenly Wilson drops back to pass — NO! Interception. Instantly, I’m awake.

This is my life now. Sure the Seahawks recently won a ring, but the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” sort of league. Lately, Seattle finished in second-place. Yet, amidst this Super Bowl catastrophe, many of us caught the glimmer of a potential star in the making: A 6-5, 218-pound wideout that no one had seen before the Super Bowl. His name? Chris Matthews.

Fast Forward: Training Camp 2015

Even outside of Seattle, word has traveled fast. By now, most fantasy owners are aware of the rumblings coming out of Seahawks training camp: Chris Matthews has some serious potential entering 2015. Because the Seahawks are a run-first offense (and run-second, and run-third…), drafters are left wondering how big a part Matthews will play in 2015 and beyond.

Prior to Chris Matthews‘ Super Bowl emergence, he had only been on the field in five other games. Over these five games, he had exactly zero targets, zero catches and zero babes asking for his phone number. During the beginning of the game, Jermaine Kearse was useless as he could not gain separation downfield, the Patriots were moving defensive backs up to stop the run, and Seattle coaching staff turned to Matthews out of pure desperation.  He finished the game with a 4-109-1 stat line,the best game of his career during the most important game of the season. Mind-boggling.

Apparently, Russell Wilson knows how to use his big targets after all and now has both Jimmy Graham and Chris Matthews, two very big targets, in his huddle.  Time to get excited.

The Numbers Add Up

Last season, Seattle averaged 3.7 red zone scoring attempts per game while converting 1.9 into touchdowns.  Popular opinion has been that a large red zone target would help them improve on their already-impressive 10th-overall scoring percentage. in 2014meanwhile converting them to touchdowns at a rate of 1.9 per game. Seattle will now develop red zone packages that favor Jimmy Graham and Chris Matthews as red zone threats; this will enhance the already-deadly Wilson/Lynch read-option.

There are enough targets available to make Chris Matthews an upside flex play on a weekly basis, even in an offense that is known for running-first. In 2014 Russell Wilson threw the ball 452 times, 45 more attempts than the previous season. If Wilson continues along this trajectory, 500 passing attempts are within the range of possible outcomes in 2015. When Matthews finds his way into the starting lineup, it will likely be at the expense of Jermaine Kearse, one of the worst, least-efficient receivers in the NFL. Kearse’s production and target premiums were both negative in 2014; he would was the WR82 by these measurements.  Yet, he drew 79 targets from Wilson in 2014.  If some or all of these targets went to Chris Matthews, his Super Bowl performance suggests that he would be far more productive than Kearse on limited volume.

Another positive factor in evaluating Chris Matthews is his above-average YPC. Back in college he averaged 15.2 YPC as a senior. While playing in the CFL, he posted a stat line of: 81-1,192-7 (14.7 YPC). Finally, In an admittedly small sample size, during the Super Bowl, Matthews averaged a ridiculous 27.3 YPC.

Playing Hardball

Looking at Chris Matthews‘ Player Profile reveals two things:

1) That’s really funny, and

2) This guy’s an athlete!

chris matthews WR seattle seahawks

Chris “Hardball” Matthews Advanced Metrics Profile

Chris Matthews is a large and fast receiver on a team that is sorely lacking size and speed.  Most notable are his Height-Adjusted Speed Score: 100.9 (69th percentile) & Catch Radius: 10.09 (66th percentile). These two measurables strongly suggest that Matthews is the type of receiver that Seattle so desperately needs.

Chris Matthews was about average in college, turning in a 30.5-percent (47th percentile) College Dominator Rating as a senior at the University of Kentucky when he posted a stat line of 61 catches, 925 yards (15.2 YPC), and 9 touchdowns.  Matthews is obviously a player who will have an unusual path to NFL success if he ever makes it, so it should come as no surprise that he was not a stellar prospect out of college.  Most breakout sleepers don’t go through Canada and Foot Locker before playing in the Super Bowl.

2015 Fantasy Impact

Chris Matthews benefits from joining a receiving corps with no clear WR1, but breakout expectations for 2015 should be tempered.  Based on his history of production and the limited volume of the Seahawks offense, Matthews will be at best a TD-dependent flex wide receiver this season.  It is unlikely that Matthews will completely vanquish Jermaine Kearse or surpass gritty slot-receiver Doug Baldwin.  Barring injuries, I do not predict a huge year for the big Canadian.  That said, his TD scoring potential and handcuff value make him perfect for best-ball formats, especially since he has already demonstrated that he is capable of volatile spikes in production.  Matthews’ MyFantasyLeague.com money league ADP is 213.4, which is extraordinarily inexpensive considering his upside.

Chris Matthews has the best combination of size and speed on a team that desperately needs both.  For that reason alone, he is worth rostering in 2015.  The fact that he’s already flashed brilliance on the NFL’s greatest stage is icing on the cake.