Could Jake Matthews Have Gone No. 1 Overall in the 2013 NFL Draft? Why He’ll Go Early In 2014

In pass protection, Matthews does a great job of mirroring his opponent with his quick feet, good length and active hands. He also excels at positioning himself against edge rushers to force them wide and shield the pocket for his quarterback. With his ability to slide quickly and smoothly, he also does a very good job of recognizing free rushers and switching blocks when he has double-team help.

As a run blocker, Matthews gets off the line quickly and does a great job picking up blocks at the second level. His strength in both his upper body and base give him the power to drive defensive linemen off the line, which is a big asset of his game especially at right tackle.

Matthews covers ground very well for an offensive lineman, and is a strong pull and trap blocker. He is also skilled at taking defenders out of plays with cut blocks.

Matthews plays with very good posture and balance. He is strong and active with his hands, and does a good job syncing both his feet and hands to combat pass-rushing moves.

While he still has to prove that he can play left tackle, his combination of size and length, foot skills and pass-blocking technique should make the transition smooth for him. In comparison to Joeckel, Matthews is a better athlete with more power, has been equally dominant in pass protection as Joeckel was at A&M and is not far behind his counterpart in pass-blocking technique.

Matthews is not without his flaws.

Run-blocking technique, specifically finishing plays, is the biggest issue in Matthews’ game. He has a concerning tendency not to finish his run blocks through a play, often allowing defenders to come free and make stops once a runner is past the line of scrimmage.

When he engages a pass-rusher at the line of scrimmage, he almost always shuts his opponent down whether he shields him around the edge, locks him up and drives him back or mirrors him with his length and footwork. However, he runs into trouble at times when he hangs back and allows rushers to come to him. He does that too often, and when he does, he enables rushers to drive him back toward the quarterback or can leave himself vulnerable to quick pass-rush moves.

Where Will Matthews End Up in the 2014 NFL Draft?

Assuming Matthews lives up to expectations and is one of the nation’s top left tackles in his senior season, he should garner interest as a very early selection in the 2014 NFL draft.

His game tape speaks for itself, and his blood lines won’t hurt either. Matthews is the son of Bruce Matthews, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive linemen. His older brother, Kevin Matthews, is also an NFL center who is currently a backup with the Washington Redskins.

Unfortunately for Matthews, the door to the No. 1 overall pick will be tough to crack if the draft’s top juniors declare. The 2014 draft class projects to have at least one premier quarterback in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. If a quarterback does not go No. 1 overall, the overwhelming favorite to go in the top spot is South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, an explosive playmaker and fantastic all-around player with superstar potential.

While a lot can and will change in the next 11-plus months, the best-case scenario for Matthews looks to be either the No. 2 or 3 overall selection. Nonetheless, Matthews should be able to parlay a strong senior season into a top-5 draft choice. Whether it be as a left or right tackle, NFL teams are valuing offensive tackles as high as ever, and he goes into his senior season as the top offensive tackle in the 2014 NFL draft class.

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Tags: Eric Fisher, Jake Matthews, Luke Joeckel

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