Once the Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney first overall, there was very little drama to Atlanta’s first round pick Thursday night. Sure, there was mystery. Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, and Anthony Barr all made sense, but the drama wasn’t really there. Falcons fans understood that if the team stuck with the 6th pick, it was really a tough pick to mess up. The Falcons were pretty obviously and easily going to shore up a big need. Still, when the news hit TV screens that the pick was Jake Matthews, most Falcons fans breathed a sigh of relief. For many fans, he’s the guy they wanted. Now that he’s a Falcon, here’s a closer look at Matthews the player.
Much has been made of the pedigree, but if his last name was anything else, he’d still have the attention. A 3 1/2 year starter, he was honorable mention All Big 12 after just 7 starts as a freshman. For the next three years he’d be a reliable lineman, leading the charge for one of the country’s most prolific and explosive offenses.
Matthews has potential as a pass protector. He does a good job sliding laterally to block those coming after the QB. He does a very nice job adjusting to pass rushers in space. As he’ll be playing RT next year, he has to be able to hold his ground against bigger DEs. Watch him in his first SEC start in 2012, moving a Florida DL to create a cutback lane:
He is a technically sound lineman who makes good use of his hands to dictate what defensive linemen can do, which typically isn’t much. He needs to add some strength, as he can get moved backwards on bullrushes a little too much, and some of the speedier pass rushers can cause problems for him, but these are small adjustments OL coach Mike Tice will fix quickly.
It’s hard not to love his tenacity as a run-blocker, seen here as a LT:
Another strength is his ability to pick up blitzes and recognize what the defense is bringing at him. However, when Matthews gets upfield, I’ve seen him get lost, not really sure who to put a helmet on. Still, the overall awareness is a big plus.
He does a fine job recovering when position is lost, and re-engaging the block. He’s an athletic and very quick blocker, and that allows him to move when necessary.
Bottom line: The more detailed scouting reports suggest that Matthews mostly just needs technical refinement. While he is mechanically sound, a few small things give him trouble at times – most of which involve defenders quickly alternating between power and speed – and he has arguably the best OL coach in the game to help him along. He’s immediately ready to step in and start at RT, and while he can get the job done against speed rushers (without looking exactly comfortable), where he’ll really do work immediately is in the run game, where he has a bit of a mean streak and tends to elevate his game from effective to dominant.
Projected 2014 role: Starting RT
Projected longterm role: Starting LT
What it means for the Falcons: Lamar Holmes isn’t starting anymore, which is fantastic news for Falcons fans. Even if Matthews is league average, or even slightly below as a rookie, it’s a huge upgrade at the position.