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Dorial Green-Beckham: The Fallout

Snap judgments on the blockbuster-ish Dorial Green-Beckham trade

On Tuesday, the Titans dealt second-year, second-round wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Eagles for swing tackle Dennis Kelly. Green-Beckham has long tantalized scouts and the fantasy community with his combination of size, athleticism, and college touchdown production, so on its face, this looks like a huge move. But I’m not so sure it’ll make much fantasy noise once the regular season gets here.

What’s the impact for the Titans?

It makes Rishard Matthews a bigger part of the offense – but wait! Before you scoot him 30 spots up your rankings, hold tight. Note that this move doesn’t boost his projections enticingly – Green-Beckham only vacates 63 targets by my numbers, to be distributed across a handful of names – so much as it alters them. Take a look at last year’s aDOT (average depth of target) numbers for the Titans’ main wideouts, and get a sense of how their passing game operated:

Clearly, Green-Beckham (and Hunter) were treated as downfield specialists, buoyed by a tandem of underneath-rooted slot types. Considering Green-Beckham is gone, and his aDOT was similar to Matthews’ in Miami, it’s safe to assume Matthews will be primarily used as a deep threat. That almost always means a relatively low catch rate – Green-Beckham caught just 48% of his targets last year – so Matthews could struggle to reach even 60 catches. (To be fair, Matthews’ 2015 catch rate was very strong, especially for such a high aDOT. But both were miles above his career rates, so I’m not all-in on them.)

If you feel Matthews is a true NFL WR1/2, one who will now be woven deeply into the offense and fed the ball on all levels of the field – while being efficient – then by all means bump him up a tier. But I’ve yet to see much evidence of that. He’s finished three of his four injury-plagued seasons with subpar or bad yards-per-target marks, and he’s always been an afterthought in the red zone, with just 11 targets over 49 games. Even Jeremy Kerley laughs at that number. It seems a volume boost alone won’t make Matthews a star; he’ll need to grow in efficiency and red zone production, too.

It keeps Hunter on the fringes of relevance. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe in Hunter one bit. But it’s impossible for Matthews to run every deep route, so Hunter – if he makes the team[1] – remains in play for 20-30 targets. Big whoop, but that would that pull those targets away from a more deserving receiver, one who’ll likely starve for targets anyway. 

It doesn’t seem to swing Marcus Mariota’s value much. I’m comfortable assuming Matthews will be at least roughly as effective an X-receiver as Green-Beckham was last year. In fact, since Matthews be on the field even more, he’s looking at a few more long-ball chances. So to that end, I don’t see much drop-off in Mariota’s passing expectations; if anything, he’ll likely be a little more efficient.

It makes the winner of the Andre Johnson v. Tajae Sharpe battle a little more PPR-interesting. My projections allocate 18.6% of the passing game to that duo, good for 105 targets. At present, I’m conservatively projecting them to split those pretty closely, but that could easily change. Sharpe, a rookie, could flame out badly in the preseason (not very likely) or otherwise lack the coaches’ trust when the games matter (somewhat likely). On the other hand, Johnson could prove he’s done, done, done, as his 2015 suggested, and find himself with little to no on-field role (most likely). In any event, one of these two could lay claim to 70-75% of these targets, setting him up for a possible 50- or 60-catch season. Neither is worth looking at in redraft leagues either way, but it’s worth noting.

All told, here are my revised Titans projections:

That makes Matthews my new WR50, and Wright my WR53. There are smatterings of upside, particularly in Matthews, but I still prefer the late-round likes of Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, and Mohamed Sanu to either of them.


What’s the impact for the Eagles?

They probably don’t like any of their current guys, save for Jordan Matthews. It’s been nothing but doom and gloom this offseason when reporting on Philadelphia’s passing game. Sam Bradford is Sam Bradford (read: bad), the high-pick rookie broke his ribs, and the two top candidates for the No. 2 job have looked awful. Rueben Randle has been an “embarrassment,” according to the Philly Voice, while Nelson Agholor was invisible as a rookie and has underwhelmed observers time and time again this summer. Behind them are a handful of lower-depth-chart types – one-trick pony deep threat Chris Givens, drop-prone Chip Kelly pet project Josh Huff, and career special teamer T.J. Graham. Yuck.

Someone will have to step up, or at least eek into the No. 2 role by default. And Green-Beckham might be the premier prospect of the three unproven youngsters. However…*

They may not even like Green-Beckham. Now, just the fact that the Eagles made this deal doesn’t imply that they love Green-Beckham, nor that they even have an opening for a No. 2 receiver. This was an upside-hunting trade, one that didn’t cost the team a lot and brought in a young, gifted, and cheap receiver. Perhaps they just couldn’t pass up the odds, however small, of landing the next Vincent Jackson. So while Randle, Agholor, and Huff are all officially on notice, there’s no reason to assume Green-Beckham has any kind of leg up. He could excel, or he could just as likely spend much of the year a healthy scratch.

That’s a long-winded way of saying, “We don’t know anything yet.”

All in all, who cares? This will likely be a bad, bad offense. The quarterbacking will be poor-to-mediocre, with frightened alley kitten Bradford and career backup Chase Daniel the most likely to be taking snaps. That will work to cap the explosive big-play potential those young receivers (theoretically) boast. But more importantly for fantasy purposes, this will be a slow, dull, low-scoring offense. New head coach Doug Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple, fresh off three seasons in Kansas City that saw his offenses (a) post play totals well below the league average, (b) run the ball excessively, and (c) throw mainly to its tight ends and running backs:

In other words: no matter how many big, fast, toolsy WR prospects the Eagles accumulate, it’s unlikely any will make a season-long fantasy impact. They likely won’t throw much, Bradford won’t throw deep when they do, and Matthews hogs the targets in that offense.

My new Eagles projections:


[1] Most of us doubt it.