The Philadelphia Eagles needed to do something at wide receiver. With Alshon Jeffery still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and with Mike Wallace (fibula) out at least eight weeks, the Eagles could not give returning QB Carson Wentz a skeleton crew at WR in his first game back.
Enter old friend Jordan Matthews.
As soon as this news came down, I sent a message to my good friend Fran Duffy, who does incredible work breaking down film for the Eagles' official website. My first impression is that there is no reason to worry about Agholor’s production, and Fran agreed. “No concerns,” he told me.
First of all, the Eagles signing Matthews makes sense. He’s played under Doug Pederson (he was second on the Eagles in receiving in 2016 with 804 yards), and he’s very close friends with Carson Wentz. And before signing Matthews, the Eagles’ healthy WRs were Agholor, Kamar Aiken, and Shelton Gibson. YIKES.
It’s also true that Agholor has simply been better and more effective in the Eagles’ slot WR role since Philly traded Matthews to Buffalo last year. Agholor is a much better football player than JMatt – he’s more explosive, he’s more reliable, and he’s more versatile. His numbers aren’t as good collectively as Matthews’, but Matthews’ numbers have been artificially inflated by two things, in my opinion – he played for Chip Kelly, who made running more plays at the expense of time of possession his offensive philosophy, and he played for an Eagles team in 2016 that was similarly thin at WR as it is now. Availability is often the best ability in fantasy football (see: the Josh Gordon discussion), and JMatt has been very fortunate in that area, at least until his disastrous 2017 season with Buffalo.
I think it’s worth pointing out that Agholor hasn’t been exclusively a slot WR this year. While he’s still played 55.3% of his snaps from inside, according to ProFootballFocus, only 10 of his 22 targets and 8 of his 16 receptions have come from inside. So he’s made 8 catches on the outside as well. As a precise route runner whose game is mostly quickness, I think Agholor does profile best out of the slot, but I think he can win on the outside as well. That 55.3% snap share is way down from 2017, when he played 86% of his snaps in the slot.
I truly believe the biggest part of Agholor’s early-career struggles was with confidence. It had nothing to do with his skill set. Positive coaching and the Eagles making a commitment to Agholor – by trading Matthews in 2017 – helped him as much as anything else. I’m certain Doug Pederson has relayed to Agholor that re-signing Matthews has nothing to do with him, as he’s been their only reliable WR thus far. Agholor sucked everywhere in his first two years. This year, he’s been good everywhere, albeit in a small sample. That’s a confidence thing, I think.
As for Matthews, I think he’s proven he’s way better in the slot. Two coaches – Kelly and Pederson – have deduced as such. In his lone season under Pederson, Matthews played 67.1% of his snaps in the slot, according to ProFootballFocus. In that season, 70.6% of Matthews’ targets, 72.6% of his receptions, and 72.5% of his yardage came out of the slot role. He was simply more efficient and effective using his size against slot defenders.
I still think Agholor is a high-end WR3 in PPR, with upside, and his usage downfield should increase considerably with Carson Wentz in there at QB (most everything was short area with Nick Foles). Matthews, for now, could have some low-end PPR value given his relationship with Wentz and knowledge of the offense. I think most of his work will come in the 8-15-yard area.
With Mike Wallace (fibula) and Mack Hollins (groin) both on IR – though both are expected to return later in the year – Matthews should still be able to hold down a role as Philly’s #3 WR even when Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) returns, which should be in the next week or two. If Wentz is anywhere close to the player he was in 2017, that could be a productive enough role to stash on a fantasy roster. But I do not believe this news hurts Agholor in the least.