In the 2013 NFL Draft, we saw more than ever how valuable offensive tackles are to NFL teams, with tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel being taken with picks No. 1 and 2, respectively, and six tackles being taken overall in the first round. In the age of mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, it’s essential that these players get as much help as possible from their offensive line as they’re trying to stretch out plays. With this information in mind, Texas A&M‘s Jake Matthews has a chance to be one of the top players in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Matthews was widely considered one of the top tackles in college football last year, teaming with Joeckel to form the top tackle duo in the country, while playing on the right side. He surprised some when he decided to return to Texas A&M for his senior year, as he likely could have been taken in the first couple rounds. However, by returning, he most importantly gives himself a chance to compete for a BCS championship with superstar quarterback Johnny Manziel, and also, he will move to the left tackle position, where he can boost his professional value exponentially. If he can show the same blocking strength at left tackle that he showed in 2012 while playing right tackle, Matthews has a great shot to be the most highly regarded tackle in this year’s class.
- Fantastic on-field strength, extremely physical and even engaged two pass rushers at once vs. Alabama
- Great arm extension and quick fighting hands
- Consistently handles his man and rarely gets beat
- Never backs down against rushers
- Great at kicking defenders out of the play
- Does a lot of drop-step pass blocking and should be well prepared to make the transition to left tackle this year and in the NFL
- Appeared to possess an equal amount of blocking strength and quickness while playing left tackle in this year’s spring game
- Always finds another defender to block if he loses first man on pass plays
- Has started since his freshman year
- Comes from a great football pedigree; father, Bruce, is an 19-year NFL veteran and Hall of Famer, brothers Kevin and Mike have both been Texas A&M centers, and cousins Clay and Casey are NFL linebackers
- Also serves as Texas A&M’s long snapper
- A beneficiary of Manziel’s mobility; does a great job of protecting Manziel, but his mistakes are masked by Manziel’s ability to avoid pass rushers
- Lacks much second-level blocking experience; when asked to do so vs. Alabama, he did not square up and didn’t make solid contact
- Little experience out of a three-point stance
- Can be slow off the ball at times
- Seems flustered on rare occasion that he gets beat by pass rushers
- Fails to play to the whistle on some run plays
- Slightly on the shorter end for NFL tackles
Matthews will have one of the toughest jobs in college football, taking over for Joeckel to protect the blind side of Manziel. Matthews’ transition to the left side will be closely monitored, and he will be going up against some of the best pass rushers in the country on a weekly basis while playing in the SEC. Manziel’s success is largely predicated on how well his tackles can protect him, so Matthews has a huge role in Texas A&M’s BCS chances this year.
2014 Draft Projection: First Round
Patrick Karraker is an NFL Draft scout for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickKarraker, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google+.