Who is Chris Matthews?
As everyone watched Super Bowl XLIX and saw Chris Matthews playing the role of game-breaker in the Seahawks' passing game, we all simultaneously asked: "Who the hell is Chris Matthews?" Heading into the Super Bowl, Matthews had never caught an NFL pass and was nothing more than an afterthought. Then he caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown during the NFL's most important event. As the clock ticked down and it appeared the Seahawks were destined to repeat, Matthews looked like a Super Bowl MVP candidate. He might have owned the truck that went to Tom Brady if the game's climactic play -- Malcolm Butler's interception of Russell Wilson -- had gone a bit differently. So where exactly did this 25-year-old rookie come from?
Matthews attended Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. There, he was a standout performer on the football field like his late cousin Reggie White, playing both tight end and defensive end. He intended to enroll at UCLA but was academically ineligible. Coincidentally, he tried to get Pete Carroll to recruit him for USC, but that never materialized. In the end, Matthews enrolled at Los Angeles Harbor College, where he became arguably the best junior college wide receiver in the country during his sophomore season. In his second year of junior college, he caught 80 passes for 1,235 yards and 11 touchdowns in just nine games.
Because of his splendid play at LAHC, Matthews was able to transfer to the University of Kentucky for his junior season in 2009. While at Kentucky, he caught 93 passes for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs in two years. Unfortunately, he went undrafted in 2011 and although he was signed as a free agent by the Browns, he was cut before he ever saw the field. In 2012, he played a season in the Arena Football League for the Iowa Barnstormers before signing a contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. As a CFL rookie, Matthews hauled in 81 passes for 1,192 yards and seven scores and was named the league's most outstanding rookie. His 2013 season, however, was a different story as Matthews was hampered by a severe case of turf toe. He played in just four games and was released by the Blue Bombers at season's end.
With his professional football dreams all but dashed, Matthews moved on to hold a job at a Foot Locker and as a security guard. That was until Matthews received a call from the Seattle Seahawks inviting him to a tryout. In February 2014, he was signed by Seattle to a reserve/future contract. He was released by the Seahawks at the end of the preseason, but they signed him to their practice squad the following day. He lingered there until he was finally promoted to the 53-man roster on Dec. 6. He appeared in three regular-season games and his total stat line was comprised of one tackle. Not exactly Odell Beckham Jr.-level production.
This brings us to where we are now, wondering what the future holds for this Super Bowl breakout star.
There's obviously not a huge sample size with which to judge Matthews, but the Seahawks' receiving corps leaves much to be desired and is subpar at best. Their top wideout, Doug Baldwin, is a solid, well-rounded receiver who is capable of moving the chains. Nonetheless, he should not be the No. 1 WR on any team. The No. 2 is Jermaine Kearse. That's not a terrible option, however, he should not be a starting wide receiver in the NFL. Kearse, with his deep speed, is more of a complementary piece in three- and four-receiver sets. Ricardo Lockette is nothing more than a limited contributor. Second-round rookie Paul Richardson tore his ACL during the Divisional round, and his status for the 2015 season is uncertain. Fourth-round pick Kevin Norwood hasn't shown a whole lot to lead you to believe that he has an overly bright NFL future. With all of that said, there is plenty of room for the 6-foot-5 Matthews to make his mark in this undersized group that lacks top-level talent.
Matthews is a long-strider who is not overly explosive and takes time to reach full speed. He clocked in with a time of just 4.57 in the 40-yard dash during his 2011 pro day. However, he is very tall, has good body control and owns an innate ability to high-point the ball with his strong hands. His height gives him a huge edge against smaller defensive backs and in jump-ball situations. An overlooked part of Matthews' game is his ability and effort when it comes to run-blocking. Overall, he certainly brings a dimension that is absent elsewhere in the Seahawks' passing game. How Seattle decides to utilize him remains to be seen.
When it comes to Matthews' fantasy value, there is definitely something there. Any receiver with his pure size and deep-ball skill has at least some value in deeper leagues. He has the potential to be a force in the red zone. We have seen undrafted wideouts flash a year before a full breakout campaign. The Giants' Victor Cruz comes to mind. He caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns in a preseason game against the Jets in 2010. Then a virtual unknown, Cruz went on to become a legitimate WR1 in fantasy the following season.
Unless Matthews is really playing well and being utilized consistently during the next preseason, odds are he will be more of a guy you monitor on your waiver wire than actually draft. He should absolutely be on your radar, however. In dynasty leagues, he makes for an interesting sleeper. Matthews has fallen into a pretty great situation with a talented young quarterback who is continuing to develop in an offense that needs this receiver's skill set in the worst way. Aside from Matthews, Seattle's tallest wideout is only 6-foot-2. The Seahawks completed merely 20 passes for touchdowns this season. Only six teams in the league recorded fewer, including the Redskins, Jets, Jaguars and Browns. That is not a list a Super Bowl contender wants to find itself on. Matthews could go a long way to changing that stat if he continues to make catches like the one he made in the end zone against Patriots this past Sunday. He is definitely a player to watch for 2015.
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