What are the Buffalo Bills getting in Jordan Matthews?
Taking that question a step further, let's compare him to Sammy Watkins, the receiver they traded away.
To get the best understanding of how Watkins and Matthews have produced in their young NFL careers, their statistics should be examined on a per-target, per-reception, and per-game basis. Career totals don't provide proper context. Here's how the two compare in a variety of rate metrics:
(Statistics via Pro Football Reference)
- 7.72 yards per target
- 11.9 yards per reception
- 58.1 yards per game
- Touchdown every 2.46 games
- 5.4% of his targets have resulted in a touchdown
- 8.90 yards per target
- 16.1 yards per reception
- 66.5 yards per game
- Touchdown every 2.17 games
- 6.1% of his targets have resulted in a touchdown
Watkins leads the way in the vast majority of these categories, which is expected. Here's how Matthews stacks up percentage-wise to Watkins in those six statistics:
- Yards per target: 86.7%
- Yards per reception: 73.9%
- Yards per game: 87.3%
- Games per touchdown: 88.2%
- Percentage of targets resulting in a touchdown: 89.2%
The average of Matthews' percentages of Watkins' production in those five categories equals about 85 percent. In essence, strictly comparing production based on opportunity, Matthews has been 85 percent of the receiver Watkins has been since the two entered the league in 2014.
Watkins has clearly been the more explosive deep threat, as evidenced by his sizable gap in yards-per-reception average. Despite his relatively pedestrian yards-per-reception average of 11.9, Matthews has done his fair share of damage down the field.
Here's how the two compare in the 20-plus yard catch department:
- Career 20-plus yard receptions: 43
- Percentage of career receptions to go for 20-plus yard gains: 19.1%
- Percentage of career targets to go for 20-plus yard gains: 12.4%
- Career 20-plus yard receptions: 36
- Percentage of career receptions to go for 20-plus yard gains: 23.5%
- Percentage of career targets to go for 20-plus yard gains: 13.0%
In terms of percentage of career receptions to go for 20-plus yard gains, Matthews has been 81.2 percent as productive (19.1% vs. 23.5%) as Watkins. When looking at that percentage out of career targets, Matthews has been 95.3% efficient (12.4% vs. 13.0%) as the receiver he's replacing in Buffalo.
Now you're aware there's plenty of data to suggest Matthews is 85 percent as productive as Watkins, let's think long term. Both receivers are entering the final year of their rookie deals, meaning second-contract decisions will have to be made at some point in the next 6 months.
Per OverTheCap.com, there are currently 14 wideouts who make an average of at least $10 million per year. Watkins will make $6.3 million in 2017. Matthews' cap hit is $1.09 million.
The Bills may believe with Matthews, they can get 85 percent of Watkins' production at a discount of 15 percent or more. Here's a rundown of what 85 percent of Watkins' potential next contract would be worth on a yearly basis:
Watkins: $15 million
Matthews: $12.75 million
Watkins: $13 million
Matthews: $11.05 million
Watkins: $10 million
Matthews: $8.5 million
Watkins: $8 million
Matthews: $6.8 million
By essentially swapping Watkins for Matthews, Buffalo didn't get better in 2017. But if the Bills get 85 percent of Watkins' production out of Matthews this season, then sign him to a contract that's more than a 15 percent discount of a deal Watkins agrees to elsewhere, Buffalo may be getting a bargain.