Jake Matthews Should Be 1st Offensive Lineman Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies offensive linesman Jake Matthews (75) on the bench against the Duke Blue Devils during the first quarter in the 2013 Chick-fil-a Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Give me the guy who's going to help the team right now. I want Jake Matthews.

Opinion seems split as to which offensive tackle should be taken first in the 2014 NFL draft. The race is between Matthews and Greg Robinson. Matthews is viewed as the guy who's NFL-readier while Robinson has the higher ceiling, the kind of special talent that only comes along every decade or so.

You certainly can't go wrong drafting either guy, but Matthews should be the first one off the boardlikely to the St. Louis Rams at No. 2 or the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6.

If this were strictly an athletic competition, Matthews loses. However, looking at the total package, the Texas A&M star has it all. He's strong enough to handle the more powerful defensive linemen at the next level and agile enough to get out and stop the pass-rushers coming off the edge.

While in College Station, Matthews blocked for both Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel, who couldn't be any more different in terms of style. It says a lot about Matthews that he excelled while protecting both a pocket passer and a mobile quarterback who isn't afraid to tuck the ball at a moment's notice.

It was much the same argument many people brought up with Luke Joeckel last year.

Speaking of Joeckel, TexAgs.com had a nice comparison of how well he and Matthews performed at the combine:

With Matthews, a team is getting an offensive tackle who excels in every facet of the game. No other tackle in the draft can match his technical prowess. "Polished" is the word that comes to mind, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote:

When you think of blue-chip offensive tackle prospects, Jake Matthews definitely comes to mind. He's polished, smooth and rarely makes a mistake in space. He's NFL-ready and has the bloodlines to prove it. The last name "Matthews" carries plenty of weight in the NFL, and Jake is ready to live up to that promise.

Looking at his game film, you see a young man with smooth footwork when reaching to the left or right. He's experienced playing either tackle position and has the length to punch and knock edge-rushers off their path. And if you come chest-to-chest with him, he's strong enough to bend his back, sink his weight and stop you cold.

It was also how Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman described Matthews to reporters. He said the Aggies offensive lineman "probably could have came out last year and been a high draft pick."

"But the maturity that he shows, the technique that he shows, the bloodlines—he knows how to be a pro already. He's going to come in and contribute right away (because of) how polished he is," he added.

The problem with Robinson is that he is still a bit of a work in progress. Sure, Sporting News indicates that he ran a ridiculous 4.84 40-yard dash at the combine, but unless something has gone horribly wrong with the play, he's not going to be running 40 yards at a time in the NFL.

Playing at Auburn, Robinson also didn't need to learn a huge playbook. The Tigers ran a fairly basic offense in terms of the play-calling and it was heavily predicated on the run. Robinson is a great run-blocker and beats Matthews in this respect.

Where he'll need to improve is in pass protection, and that's not something you want to hear when you're drafting somebody as a cornerstone of your offensive line.

There's every chance that Robinson will excel over time and fulfill his massive potential, but there's unquestionably some risk with the pick.

In an NFL where you're only as good as your last game, the immediate impact that Matthews will have is too good to overlook. Even if he doesn't become much better than he is now, he's still capable of playing at a high level for years to come and making multiple Pro Bowls.

If you ask me, that's not too bad.