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67 catches, 872 yards, and 8 TDs. That was the production last season from Jordan Matthews, the rookie wideout who played the majority of his snaps in the slot. In his second season, what can we expect from Matthews? Those numbers are typically considered to be phenomenal production from a rookie, but in the midst of last year’s possible “Greatest Ever” WR draft class, Matthews didn’t shine as much as Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, or Odell Beckham.
A breakdown of the rookie wide receivers is below:
O. Beckham – 91 catch, 1305 yards, 12 TD
M. Evans – 68 catch, 1051 yards, 12 TD
K. Benjamin – 73 catch, 1010 yards, 9 TD
S. Watkins – 65 catch, 977 yards, 6 TD
J. Landry – 84 catch, 758 yards, 5 TD
B. Cooks – 53 catch, 564 yards, 3 TD
J. Matthews – 67 catch, 872 yards, 8 TD
A. Hurns – 51 catch, 677 yards, 6 TD
A. Robinson – 48 catch, 548 yards, 2 TD
J. Brown – 48 catch, 696 yards, 5 TD
T. Gabriel – 36 catch, 621 yards, 1 TD
Eleven rookie wide receivers had over 500 yards last season. Cue the infinite wisdom of Phil Simms – “it’s a passing league!” But the amazing thing about this list is that many of these players weren’t starters or full-time players. Beckham missed 4 games last season, while Cooks missed 6. Hurns, Gabriel, Robinson, Brown, Matthews, Landry, and Cooks weren’t full-time starters.
It’s tough to predict where many of these players will be going into their second years. One of the big football clichés is that a second year is of paramount importance to wide receivers, and with Jordan Matthews, it’ll be especially true. The Eagles will most likely start Matthews opposite 2015 first rounder Nelson Agholor, with either Riley Cooper or Josh Huff in the slot. There’s a lot of inexperience with the group.
Taking the jump from first year to second year, WR Deandre Hopkins improved his line significantly, even with terrible inconsistent QB play.
52 catch, 802 yards, 2 TD
76 catch, 1210 yards, 6 TD
Meanwhile, we saw 2013 draft picks Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, and Alshon Jeffery take enormous leaps from their first year to their second year as well.
Floyd – 45/562/2 to 65/1041/5
Wright – 64/626/4 to 94/1079/2
Jeffery – 24/367/3 to 89/1421/7
There have been plenty of highly drafted wide receivers to have declines after their rookie years, but with Chip Kelly at the helm, it’s hard to imagine Matthews falling off without injury playing a significant part. When taking a look at his rookie numbers in comparison to all of the second year breakouts we’ve mentioned, he easily outpaces their production.
But let’s look further. Again, here’s the line.
J. Matthews – 67 catch, 872 yards, 8 TD
Jordan was targeted 103 times in his rookie year. According to Pro Football Focus, 18 of those balls were deemed “uncatchable,” which they define as “…if it falls into one of the following categories: batted at the line, quarterback hit in motion, overthrown, quarterback release slipped, thrown away, tipped by teammate or underthrown.”
That’s just under 20% of his targets. If you imagine he could catch 9 of those 18 for his yards-per-catch average (13.0), he could have compiled 76 catches for 989 yards.
Assuming that Sam Bradford stays healthy and the Eagles running game stays strong, there is a lot of growth potential for Matthews this season. Bradford has been lauded for his accuracy, and he’ll be playing in an offense this year that helps the QB get the ball out quickly. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Matthews catching 80 passes this season for over 1000 yards.
And just as one last added blurb for another highly-regarded pass catcher… 22 of Zach Ertz’s 89 targets last season were uncatchable too. So maybe that breakout season most expected from him will be one year late, with a much more accurate passer than Nick Foles.