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Watkins and Matthews Fallout

Watkins and Matthews Fallout

No fewer than 30 minutes after the first news bomb of the day dropped, another explosion blasted the NFL wire. The first move, Ezekiel Elliott’s six game suspension, was at least somewhat expected. What the Bills just pulled off was not.

In a stunning double move, the Bills’ traded WR Sammy Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Rams in exchange for CB E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round pick. Concurrently in another deal, the Bills acquired WR Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick from the Eagles in exchange for CB Ronald Darby.

Whew. Take a moment and take a breather.

From a team/organizational level, a lot is about to come out surrounding how these deals took place. It’s a whirlwind moment for the league that rarely happens this late in the stages, but let’s first surmise how these moves impact Sammy Watkins and the Rams’ pass attack.

Watkins goes West

At the very least, the Rams knew they needed an upgrade at receiver. They got a big one. Going into the year with Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, and Cooper Kupp just wasn’t going to cut it – especially with Jared Goff still developing.

Sammy Watkins was one of our favorite values in the third and fourth rounds of fantasy drafts, but unfortunately now that is cut thin. Going from Tyrod Taylor to Jared Goff is a massive downgrade.

To be fair, we still aren’t entirely sure how new HC Sean McVay is going to run his offense. McVay did call plays for the Redskins in 2015 and 2016, but HC Jay Gruden still had his fingerprints all over Washington’s offense. 2017 will be McVay’s first full season calling every offensive shot.

Still, the fact remains that Jared Goff is a long way off in his NFL development. In fact, since the 1970 merger, there have been only 58 single-season occurrences in which a quarterback has thrown over 200 passes and averaged less than 3.0 Net Yards per Attempt. Jared Goff became one of them in 2016.

Taking it one step further, here are Goff’s various rookie season efficiency rankings amongst 48 signal-callers to throw at least 200 passes in their first year since 2000:

Standard YPA

Adjusted YPA

TD Rate

INT Rate

Fantasy Points/Pass Attempt






Yikes. For reference, only Kyle Orton, Chris Weinke, Andrew Walter, and Jimmy Clausen averaged fewer fantasy points per pass attempt (rushing not included) in their rookie season than Goff.

Over the past two years, Bills’ QB Tyrod Taylor has averaged 0.449 fantasy points per pass attempt (rushing not included). Jared Goff scored just 0.242 points per throw last year.

That’s a 46% difference in per drop back fantasy efficiency from Taylor to Goff for Sammy Watkins.

Well, is there any good news? The Rams do have a wide-open 296 targets (55% of team share) available for the taking, which is very similar to the situation Watkins was going to have with the Bills. For what it’s worth, Buffalo had 232 targets available.

Unfortunately, though – it’s hard to get excited about Watkins’ move out west with an unproven team, a new play caller, and a historically inefficient young quarterback. This is just brutal for Watkins’ fantasy value. We bumped Sammy Watkins way down from WR12 overall (PPR) to outside of the top-36 receivers in our No. 1 most accurate projections.

J-Matt, J-Matt, J-Matt

There have been rumblings all offseason that the Eagles’ were “open” to trading Jordan Matthews. They finally pulled the trigger.

The Eagles’ are obviously confident that Nelson Agholor can step up to the plate in his third year. There is no doubt Agholor has struggled mightily to make an impact for the Eagles so far, but he will kick into the slot when the Philadelphia goes into three wide receiver sets in 2017. Jordan Matthews manned the slot on nearly 85% of his snaps as an Eagle, since 2014.

Keep in mind, when Agholor came out in 2015 he was praised for being a versatile receiver who could line up all over the field – including the slot.

Apparently, the Bills’ sure do love their slot receivers. With Sammy Watkins out of the picture, Buffalo’s base three wide receiver offense will be an intriguing cultivation of players. Over the past three seasons, over 80% of Jordan Matthews and recent signee Anquan Boldin’s snaps have come from the slot. Per Pro Football Focus, Zay Jones ran nearly 70% of his routes from the slot in college.

As for Jordan Matthews’ prospects, he’ll likely play on the outside in two and three wide receiver sets more than he ever has in his career. It’s going to be a pretty monumental change for Matthews. Last year, the Eagles ran three wide receivers (11-personnel) on 58% of their plays while the Bills were inside of the bottom-five in 11-personnel usage (48%).

The good news is that while Matthews adjusts to life on the outside, he and Zay Jones will be running into beaucoup targets. With Sammy Watkins in L.A., the Bills now have a monstrous 59% of team targets and 79% of Air Yards (from 2016) up for grabs. That easily leads the league in available opportunity in both categories.

Look for both Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones’ average draft position to sky-rocket based on all of the Bills’ open targets. Don’t ignore Charles Clay, either. Clay hasn’t seen a bump in opportunity – 5.94 targets/game with Watkins and 5.82 per game without Watkins – over the past two years, but with the Bills’ passing offense in flux, Clay is the only familiar face Tyrod Taylor has going into 2017.

Speaking of which, losing Sammy Watkins is also a formidable blow to Tyrod Taylor’s fantasy prospects this year.

In fact, Tyrod Taylor’s fantasy points per pass attempt (rushing not included) dip by 30% when Sammy Watkins has missed time over the past two years:

Per Game Filter

With Sammy Watkins

Without Sammy Watkins




Pass Attempts



Passing TDs












Fantasy Points/Attempt



That’s brutal.

Once the Dust Settles...

The result of Sammy Watkins’ blockbuster trade is mostly gut-wrenchingly bad news for his fantasy prospects this year. Watkins will now go from a darling of ours that we were targeting in every draft, to a likely avoid unless he falls into a decent ADP range. We’ve got to see at least a modicum of efficiency from Jared Goff before Watkins can become a weekly starter in fantasy again.

On the other side of this two-pronged deal, both Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones look like potential opportunity-based targets at their draft day cost. Matthews’ average draft position will likely soar, but we’re moving Matthews and Jones up considerably in our projections.

Tyrod Taylor still has his rushing ability to rely on, but he is, unfortunately, nothing more than a dart-throw at quarterback now. It's notable that over the past two years Taylor has averaged 36.2 rushing yards per game with Sammy Watkins in the lineup and 50.7 YPG without Watkins – but losing a player as talented as Watkins just siphons out a ton of Taylor’s weekly passing upside.

What a trade. 

Graham Barfield
Senior Analyst

Graham is a senior analyst for Fantasy Guru and works closely with statistics to produce quanitative analysis for complementary weekly content. He will be appearing before the season and during the season on The Fantasy Guru Podcast with John Hansen and Joe Dolan. Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter at @GrahamBarfield.

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December 31, 1969
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December 31, 1969