Tennessee’s wide receiving corps was in serious need of an upgrade this season, but with other needs to address first the Titans devoted only secondary resources to the position. However, in drafting Tajae Sharpe in the fifth round and signing Rishard Matthews to a three-year, $15 million contract with $5 million guaranteed, the Titans believe they may have found value in the bargain basement.
Both Sharpe and Matthews are expected to carve out roster spots in a depth chart that includes Harry Douglas, Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter. But with no clear WR1 and a passing game that funnels primarily through tight end Delanie Walker, even a prime receiver rotation role is no guarantee of fantasy opportunity. Consider that in 11 games last season Matthews saw 61 targets; that number would have placed him third among all Titans wideouts and just nine behind leading wide receiver target Douglas. At just under six targets per game, Matthews was seeing roughly a quarter of the Dolphins’ WR targets.
Things skew a bit differently in Tennessee; while Miami directed 65% of their targets toward wideouts, the Titans threw just 44 percent of their attempts at wide receivers. Worse, the Titans threw almost 50 fewer passes than the Dolphins.
Even if Matthews winds up as a starter in Tennessee, his opportunities aren’t likely to increase dramatically. He’ll also need to demonstrate that his fast start in 2015 was more indicative of what he’s capable of than… well, than pretty much the rest of his career. Matthews has just four career games with double-digit fantasy points, one in 2013 and three in the first two months of last season. After scoring on the Redskins in Week 1 and blowing up the Jaguars (6-115) and Bills (6-113-2) in Weeks 2 and 3, Matthews scored just once the rest of the season and topped 75 yards only twice before a Week 12 injury prematurely ended his season.
The Titans’ “big” offseason free agent move is no lock to unseat Douglas, Wright, and/or Green-Beckham atop the receiver rotation. And after trading for DeMarco Murray and spending a second-round pick on Derrick Henry, Tennessee projects to be a run-heavy offense—helmed by a second-year quarterback better known for his athleticism than his arm. There’s plenty of factors working against Matthews, and even if he remains an efficient target the drop in opportunities keeps a lid on his fantasy prospects. That said, his late-round ADP make him a low-cost option with a chance to generate an impressive return on your investment. So if you think the Titans were being smart acquiring Matthews on the cheap and hoping for a big-time payoff, you’ll have an opportunity to do the same.