Fresno State Junior
PROS: He has good balance and footwork to weave through traffic and can sidestep defender in the hole. Has nice speed and vision. Is tough between the tackles. Runs with nice power because he keeps his feet moving after contact and will lower the shoulder on an unsuspecting defensive back.
CONS: Lacks good explosiveness or burst out of his cuts and is mostly a straight-line runner. Lacks a burner's speed to be a homerun threat at the next level. Mostly will only break arm tackles. Lacks awareness as a blocker and needs to improve his concentration as a receiver.
OVERVIEW: Mathews is a productive runner that you like because he shows good vision which is always a key ingredient for long-term NFL success.
NFL FORECAST: Mathews can be a solid starter in the NFL. He reminds me of Ryan Grant in terms of his build and running style. And like Grant, he doesn't wow you with his talent, behind a good zone-blocking line, he can be a very productive player. I think Mathews could stand to get bigger, which I don't think would really negatively impact his game. He'll have to improve in the passing game where his blocking and catching leaves a lot to be desired. And as such, at least immediately he should go to a team that already has an established third down back where he can work on first and second down. Besides vision, he doesn't excel in any area. He has enough speed to break some long runs in the NFL, but his success there will be because of good downfield blocking more so than his own abilities. And he has enough power that he can hold up as an interior runner if you give him 20 or more carries, but there aren't going to be many times where he runs over a guy. I'm not sure he'll come in right away and make a big impact, but a year or two down the line he can be a productive player. I think he'll be a pro like Grant, who few call an elite back, but will be one of the better backs and have fairly steady production over a number of years.
ATL FORECAST: Mathews would be a nice successor to Turner, but because of his deficiencies as a third down option, he's not going to play much right away unless Turner is hurt. He's probably not a great fit in Atlanta because we don't run a pure zone-blocking scheme, although we run a lot of it. But he could be productive in this offense if like Turner he's really only asked to run the ball, as opposed to being an every down player. But probably by the time the Falcons would be prepared to get rid of Turner two or so years down the line, he should be a competent contributor on passing downs. But he'd essentially be being saved for 2011 and beyond and being a less than ideal fit in the offense doesn't make his addition an overly smart one.
VALUE: Mathews is good enough to sneak into the first round, but probably is more in line with second round talent because he'll have to be a situational runner early on and doesn't really project to excel in any situation.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average,4-very good, 5-elite
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.