A look at Texas A&M’s senior left tackle, Jake Matthews. A prospect many believe will be the first tackle selected in the 2014 NFL draft
Games Reviewed: Alabama (2013), LSU (2013), Mizzou (2013) and Florida (2012)
At 6’5 305lbs, Matthews is the perfect size to play tackle at the next level. He comes it at almost the atypical height for an NFL prospect. Looking at his frame, he has the potential to add 10 pounds or so which will help him to find an extra bit of power at the next level. Matthews biggest problem will be what appear to be below average (for his size/position) arm length, which cause him difficulties at times. Matthews is going to have to work hard in the pre-draft process to prove he’s not just another Justin Pugh. 8/10
Feet: Matthews footwork is what sets him apart from other prospects, he is fluid off the snap and shifts with the greatest of ease. The TAMU system (or Quarterback to be more precise) requires a heightened sense of awareness from the O-Line and Matthews, like Joeckel before him, has done an excellent job of moving around to protect his QB.
Matthews plays smart and works hard to ensure that he is rarely beaten on the inside. He uses his athleticism well to always guide defensive players to the outside, maintaining control as he wheels around. The LSU tape versus Danielle Hunter is a prime example of this. 9/10
Posture: Matthews straightens his back very easily on plays. Not only does this give him an advantage in one-on-ones bit allows him to scan the field early and often as the play develops. He will find this skill invaluable should he find himself protecting the blindside of a mobile quarterback on Sundays. 9/10
Hand Usage: Matthews uses his hands smartly. He manages to find the chest of oncoming rushers and maintains good hand position throughout plays. However, if I have one criticism of Matthews, it would be the over-reliance of his upper body and his hands on passing plays. This is due in some respect to his less than ideal arm-length. Matthews does struggle with parrying opponents and can be seen to allow defenders to get too close to his body. This does lead to the occasional holding call and can result in him being bull-rushed. It is a habit he’ll have to break in the NFL. 8/10
Punch: It’s hard not to be impressed by Matthews run blocking. Again, there is a little bit too much emphasis on his upper body and sometimes seems to fall off his blocks but his ability to open up lanes is as good as you’ll see in this year’s class. However, in his eagerness, Matthews’ play that can at times lead to him lunging forward and over-committing at the second level. Whilst a 200lbs sophomore outside linebacker is unlikely to capitalise, a 260lbs NFL veteran will simply push him to the ground. 8/10
Movement: Getting to the second level with ease, Matthews looks every bit the zone blocking OT that the modern NFL craves. Matthews dances to the second level scanning the field for his blocks. Matthews looks great as a pulling lineman and shows great hand-eye coordination in targeting and engaging his blocks. 9/10
Lower Body Strength: Despite showing good initial burst and speed, one of Matthews’ biggest weaknesses is his failure to harness is lower body strength. This can leave his a little unbalanced at times and an area where both experience and some additional conditioning will benefit Matthews going forward. Despite this, he usually manages to drive forward and break into the second level. 7/10
Aggression: Matthews shows more guile than pure aggression, although this is not unusual for a player in this system and both Ogbuehi at Right Tackle and Joeckel in 2013 shared this trait. That is not to say that Matthews does not have a nasty streak but it’s very much contained. Matthews shows excellent discipline and intuitiveness and uses his physical skills in perfect tandem with his power. However, his lack of unrelenting sometimes leads to Matthews giving up on blocks a split second earlier than I would to see. 8/10
Strength: As has already been said, Matthews has ample power to succeed at the next level but could really benefit from adding another few pounds. He will not put up expecting bench press numbers but plays a lot stronger than I suspect the stats are going to show. 8/10
Intangibles: Son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Jake has had every opportunity to succeed and has taken his chance without a sense of entitlement and arrogance. Durability is not a concern; having started every game since week 6 of his freshman year. Having played at Right Tackle for the Aggies for the first 33 games of his college career, the biggest question mark over Matthews was his ability to protect the blind side. Considered a top-20 prospect in 2013, many considered his decision to go back to school in 2013 to be folly, yet Matthews has improved his stock and (barring disaster) is almost guaranteed berth in the top-5 overall. Protecting the blind side of a scrambling, reactionary QB like Johnny Manziel is probably one of the least welcome tasks for an offensive lineman just because of the need to have eyes in the back of your head, but Matthews stepped up to the plate with ease. 10/10
Matthews has been described as one of the safest prospects in this year’s draft and it’s hard to disagree with that. Coaches and scouts will love his consistency, durability and pedigree. Furthermore, his cerebral style of play makes him such a valuable asset in the Zone Blocking system. There are some clear areas for growth – both technical and physical – but in spite of that could he has the ability already to be a day one starter.
Overall Grade 84/100 = Top 5 Overall