Who is Chris Matthews?

Jaron Foster


This was the question being asked in bars and living rooms across the country on Super Bowl Sunday, with the exception of many dynasty owners. Chris Matthews’ ascension to the Seahawks’ active roster did not go unnoticed in our community as he was called up prior to Seattle’s week 14 matchup against Philadelphia. With his big game performance fresh in our memories, Matthews has been among the most popular acquisitions in leagues that allow off-season waivers (though he was already rostered in many deeper leagues). For a player who was heavily targeted in the biggest game of the season, of course Matthews is potential waiver wire add in all but shallow leagues. However, what can we realistically expect from the 25-year-old wide receiver – that’s the real question.

At 6’5” and 220 pounds, Matthews has not always played exclusively as a wide receiver. As a tight end and defensive end in high school, he planned to attend UCLA but was ruled academically ineligible. Instead, he went to Los Angeles Harbor College and changed positions while at the junior college. In only nine games in 2008, he caught 80 passes for 1,235 yards and 11 touchdowns to prove he needed stronger competition.

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Selecting Kentucky over offers from Washington and Akron, Matthews transferred in 2009 and came back to earth as he caught 32 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns while playing alongside Randall Cobb. He improved across the board in his senior season with the Wildcats, catching 61 passes for 925 yards (15.2 yards per reception) and nine touchdowns in 2010.

His two years with Kentucky were not enough to merit an NFL Combine invitation or draft consideration, the latter due in part to disappointing results at his Pro Day. In addition to a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, Matthews earned a reputation for poor route running and slow acceleration off the line of scrimmage, as well as an inability to consistently separate from defenders. He does show good body control and catch radius with reliable hands, all evidenced in his highlight-reel catches in the Super Bowl.

After going unselected in the 2011 NFL Draft, Matthews signed with the Browns as a free agent, but was cut in the preseason. He proceeded to sit out the 2011 season before joining the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League (AFL), where in 2012 he caught 36 passes for 472 yards and nine touchdowns. One season in the AFL was enough as he opted to join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL), where in 2012 he earned “Most Outstanding Rookie” honors by catching 81 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. The promising season did not continue into 2013 as he was sidelined with a turf toe injury most of the year and was subsequently released after catching only 14 passes.

As Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth harped on throughout the Super Bowl, Matthews earned some cash working at Foot Locker (and as a security guard) in the off-season before Seattle called him for a tryout. He was signed and spent most of the season on the practice squad before finally being called up in December. He played on special teams for three games but did not see an offensive snap until the playoffs. After recovering a critical onside kick against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, Matthews was given his chance to shine in the Super Bowl. You watched the rest of the story.

So, from zero career targets to Super Bowl MVP consideration in a matter of hours, what are we to make of Matthews in dynasty?

Seattle has been searching for a big, physical target for Russell Wilson at wide receiver (as well as tight end) and Matthews certainly fits the bill. His contract runs through 2015 and comes at a lower cost than any other wide receiver on the Seahawks’ roster, including the 2014 contracts for restricted free agents Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette, so it would be surprising if he didn’t return at minimum to be a depth player in training camp. Doug Baldwin signed a lucrative extension through the 2016 season while Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood have rookie contracts good through 2017. Bryan Walters and David Gilreath are free agents as well, though if re-signed neither would represent legitimate competition for snaps.

Whether Kearse and/or Lockette return will provide insight into the Seahawks’ view of Matthews as an option for significant playing time in the offense as both are closer in size to the big-bodied receiver than Baldwin and Richardson. Kearse has a knack for big plays and is a favorite target of Wilson while Lockette (despite the size/speed combination) has never been able to translate his talents onto the NFL field. After Lockette was thrown under the bus by his offensive coordinator on the Malcolm Butler interception, it appears likely he will be shown the door. Of course, the draft and free agency are also looming over the situation.

This is not to say that even with less competition Matthews will necessarily be fantasy-relevant. In the past two years, the leading receiver for the Seahawks (Baldwin in 2014 and Golden Tate in 2013) has not surpassed 66 receptions or 900 yards. The second-leading receiver (Kearse in 2014 and Baldwin in 2013) did not surpass 50 receptions or reach 800 yards. In the team’s run-first offense, the upside is limited for fantasy production at the wide receiver position.

As for Matthews, being relied upon in the biggest game of the season absolutely counts for something. The question is how much of that was Matthews’ talent and how much was Seattle taking advantage of single coverage by Patriots’ defender Kyle Arrington? After the taller and more physical Brandon Browner convinced coaches to let him cover Matthews in the third quarter, the wide receiver caught only one pass for nine yards. The fact that nobody showed interest until the Seahawks came calling last February speaks volumes on how NFL teams continued to perceive the wide receiver despite a summer with the Browns and some gaudy statistics in the CFL.

With his birthday in October, Matthews will be nearly 26 by the time he (in all likelihood) catches his first regular-season pass. He has also dealt with hamstring and foot injuries in the last couple years. Combine those factors with Seattle’s conservative offense and it is hard to see Matthews being anything more than a flex play even if everything goes perfectly and he starts opposite Baldwin. The occasional big game is possible depending on matchups, as was the case in the Super Bowl, and he is worth picking up as a flier, but depending on anything more than that is not advisable.

Follow Jaron on Twitter @jlfoster10 and send any suggestions for players to feature in future articles


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