Jake Matthews, LT, Texas A&M (Height: 6'5½"; Weight: 308 lbs)
First Round: Sixth Pick
NFL Comparison: Ryan Clady, LT, Denver Broncos
+ Exceedingly sturdy and fundamental prospect with elite footwork and balance.
+ Functionally powerful and rarely out of control.
+ A smooth and patient technician as a pass-protector.
+ Excellent pedigree as the son of Hall of Fame tackle Bruce Matthews.
- Operated through college almost exclusively out of a two-point stance.
- Can outsmart himself in anticipation of pass-rush moves.
- Can occasionally struggle getting to the second level in the run game.
- Not a truly dominant "road-grading" style of run-blocker.
|6054||308||33 3/8"||9 7/8"|
|40-yard dash||10-yd split||Bench||Vert||Broad||3-cone||Shuttle|
We always start with the feet because athleticism starts in the feet and so does every football play. Matthews exhibits elite footwork consistently through nearly every facet of his game.
Here is an example of what evaluators will see on nearly every pass play they witness while assessing Matthews.
When focusing on the feet, you will notice that Matthews (LT No. 75) has a deliberate initial kick with his outside foot followed by balanced resetting moves and continued ladder-drilling through engagement. He stays on the balls of his feet, allowing himself to redirect easily and athletically, should it be necessary.
In the run game, he has a light and quick first step upfield and wastes very little lower-body motion, making his lateral power steps on stretch concepts designed to flow to his side.
Motor, Explosiveness, Toughness and Power
Matthews' upper-body strength was called into question by some evaluators at points through the 2013 season, and this was before he put up only 24 bench reps at the combine—the only test he didn't excel in.
He shows functional strength in his game tape, however, and at times he displays signs of becoming a dominating run-blocker. He doesn't have big hands, but he has strong ones. He also has fairly long arms that he uses well to extend his physical presence on the edge like an octopus with its feelers out. He packs a very solid initial punch and typically delivers it with excellent placement.
As for explosive numbers from the combine, Matthews tied for the third-best vertical leap, had the 11th-best broad jump and was fourth-best in the 10-yard split number for his 40-yard dash.
Quickness, Agility and Balance
Matthews has elite balance. In this aspect, he's on a level far above any other offensive line prospect in the 2014 NFL draft. He plays with awareness and an athletic swivel through his hips that keeps his core centered and braced for pressure, wherever it may come from.
Here we see a common sight when evaluating Matthews. He recognizes stunt with the defensive end's first step and then hands him off and picks up the stunting tackle with ease.
Matthews' attention to detail and fundamental understanding of offensive line principles coupled with his elite attributes render bringing delayed and/or disguised edge pressure from his side of the defense virtually useless.
He is as quick as he is fast, and among offensive linemen who were tested at the 2014 combine, he was one of the fastest. He ran the eighth-fastest 40-yard dash in Indy. His agility was also on display for scouts—as expected—as he turned in the second-best time in the three-cone drill and the sixth-best time in the shuttle.
Run Blocking and Pass Blocking
Matthews exhibits traits of a truly outstanding pass-blocker while also projecting as a prospect who will be "plug-and-play"-ready at the NFL level as a run-blocker. The team that drafts him will be doing so in the top 10 picks of the NFL draft, and teams that draft in this position are in the business of selecting immediate difference-makers.
Make no mistake: As a pure athletic specimen, Matthews represents an immediate difference-maker on any NFL club's passing attack.
He is much further along in pass protection than he is as a run-blocker, but he has shown lots of good attributes in the run game as well. While he can, on rare occasion, struggle with taking correct angles to the second level of the defense, he has shown on multiple other occasions that he is capable of doing so with great agility and a solid, functional understanding of leverage.
The unfortunate thing for scouts and analysts alike in evaluating him is the lack of game tape in a downhill, "ears-pinned-back" kind of setting. This is due to the nature of the Texas A&M offense and the dynamic nature of QB Johnny Manziel to create plays.
In the 2014 NFL draft, and in any NFL draft, no sure thing exists. If it did, these athletes would not be called "prospects." Upon review, Matthews' ability to hold the edge at an elite level while projecting favorably as an average to slightly above-average NFL run-blocker makes him the surest of all offensive line options in 2014.
(Alex Dunlap is an NFL Featured Columnist. All quotes and information gained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Alex Dunlap on Twitter - @AlexDunlapNFL)