- Sammy Watkins is now catching passes from Rams second-year QB Jared Goff and Jordan Matthews is playing with Tyrod Taylor—and neither situation is ideal for fantasy football owners.
When the dust settled on this blockbuster of a Friday, Sammy Watkins landed in Los Angeles with the Rams while Jordan Matthews finds himself headed to Buffalo to suit up for the Bills. What does it mean for the fantasy value of Watkins, Matthews and all the other players affected?
Let’s start with Watkins and the Rams. As it stands, Watkins is getting a QB downgrade going from Tyrod Taylor to Jared Goff. Watkins has averaged 8.9 yards per target and scored a TD on 6.2% of his targets; Goff has averaged only 5.3 yards per attempt and thrown a TD on 2.4% of his attempts. On the plus-side, however, Watkins and Goff will be operating under new Rams coach Sean McVay, whose offensive wizardry as the Washington offensive coordinator transformed QB Kirk Cousins. It’s not out of the question that Goff makes a Year 2 leap.
Watkins’ arrival should help Rams RB Todd Gurley by distracting defenses near the line of scrimmage. But a new No. 1 WR in town hurts sleepers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who were previously vying for the Rams’ top receiving role.
As for Watkins himself, his outlook doesn’t change as much as you would think. The Bills were already expected to shift more of a high-percentage passing game this season, which wouldn’t have suited Watkins, who averages a lid-lifting 16.1 yards per reception in his career. Watkins, pegged as the No. 21 WR in standard leagues and the No. 28 WR in PPR leagues in 4for4 rankings, is an added risk in PPR leagues because of the uncertainty surrounding the QB change, and of course, Watkins’ health; he has missed 11 games over the past two seasons.
Moving on to the Bills, Matthews’s fantasy stock increases because he leaves the Eagles’ crowded receiving corps to become the automatic No. 1 option in Buffalo. But the increase is slight. 4for4 projects Matthews for under five TDs, which results in him being best served as a fantasy WR4/5 on your bench.
Why is Matthews’ outlook as bleak as a blustery December day in Buffalo? Matthews is predominantly a slot receiver, but Tyrod Taylor notoriously struggles to throw over the middle—it’s one of the main reasons why he almost wasn’t re-signed by Buffalo this season. To top it off, Matthews has struggled mightily when asked to play on the outside; he couldn’t even crack six yards per target while playing one-third of his snaps there last season.
All you have to do is compare Watkins’s career stats to Matthews’s to see that Taylor’s fantasy value takes a hit as well. As mentioned earlier, Watkins has produced 8.9 yards per target in his career; Matthews, meanwhile has managed only 7.7. And when Watkins has been out of the lineup over the past two seasons, Taylor’s yards per attempt suffers a devastating drop: 8.8 to 6.6. Despite finishing as the No. 8 fantasy QB in each of the past two seasons, Taylor has tumbled to No. 14 in the 4for4 QB projections. The combination of losing Watkins and a new scheme may be too much to overcome for Taylor to be an every-week starter in 2017.
As for the Eagles, Matthews’ departure opens the slot up for Nelson Agholor, who has by all accounts enjoyed a career rebirth in that role after a disastrous first two years in the league. While Matthews departure may be viewed by some as a reason to bump Alshon Jeffery’s target total up, the Eagles face a murderer’s row of No. 1 cornerbacks this season, including Patrick Peterson, Josh Norman (twice) and Richard Sherman. With Jeffery likely to struggle in Year 1, Zach Ertz stands to benefit most from Matthews being gone. 4for4 has Ertz projected for 70 catches this season and a top-10 finish at the position.