South Carolina Senior
Flashes a quick first step to get up field and challenge the edge. Will sometimes use an effective spin or swim move to beat blocker, and occasionally flashes a nice bull rush. Has good straight-line speed when you can get him in space. Flashes ability in coverage, having a decent backpedal for a guy his size. Plays with a good motor and will chase downfield and make plays there. Does a nice job coming around the edge and closing on the quarterback to make the sack-strip for the fumble. Has decent recognition and can sniff out screens and play outside contain against the reverse.
Doesn't look that athletic when you get him in space. Doesn't change direction well with average speed and burst. Doesn't break down to make the open field tackle consistently. Not flexibility when he's working in coverage. Doesn't show the flexibility and lean to get under blockers pads and turn the corner as a speed rusher, taking extra steps. Too often tries to run around blocks and doesn't like to use his hands to fight off blocks. Gets too effectively chipped by the back because of his lack of pass rush moves and inability to disengage. Can lose outside contain against the misdirection and too often gets too far upfield. Gets pushed around at the point of attack and struggles to get off blocks there. Needs to learn how to use his hands to get leverage and gets engulfed because he turns his shoulder to try and anchor.
Matthews flashes the burst as an edge rusher, but it's too inconsistent. He doesn't quite have it to beat most NFL tackles with his burst. ANd he's too small and doesn't have the technique to make up for it. He shows some ability to play in space and might work as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but doesn't have the ideal flexibility and change of direction ability that can make a bit of a liability in coverage and when playing in space. A four-year starter that began as a linebacker as a freshman, before moving to end the following year. Had a strong junior year with 47 tackles, 10 for loss, and 7 sacks, but injured his shoulder late in the year, and it restricted him somewhat early in his senior year. Still managed 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks. Also forced 7 fumbles and recovered 4 combined during his last two seasons.
Matthews has enough burst and a good enough motor to contribute in a rotation at defensive end at the next level. But unless he can improve his hand use, technique, and add strength, he's not going to be an impact pass rusher. He's more the type of guy that can give you 3 or so sacks off the bench, but hardly much more than that. If he can improve his technique and get stronger, he could potentially develop into a guy that can get you 5 or 6 sacks a year as a rush end. He's just not that good a run defender and gets pushed around too much there. He can be disruptive at times, but doesn't use his hands well enough to get off blocks. More than likely, any 4-3 team that targets him should expect him to be a nice role player that can contribute as a pass rusher, but won't truly be considered an asset because he won't make enough plays. He is a bit of a project in a 3-4 scheme, but flashes tools to work there. He's a guy that you want rushing the passer most of the time rather than dropping in coverage and defending the run. He can do that, but probably not to a level where you'd want him starting. Just like in a 4-3 scheme, he's probably going to be a career backup in a 3-4. And again, he has areas he needs to improve upon to play as a stand-up linebacker, but his lack of size, strength, and technique won't be as concerning at that position. And he's not as raw playing in space as other potential converts. If he can produce early on special teams, he'll earn minutes. But for the most part, he's going to need the better part of two or three years before you can expect him to make significant contributions on defense, even if it's just as a role player. I think ultimately he can develop into a decent to good complementary starter, it just might take some time. As a 3-4 OLB, I think his upside is probably going to be a player like Bryan Thomas for the Jets. As a 4-3 end, he's probably an OK but non-impactful starter a la Derrick Harvey.
Matthews can potentially add depth in Atlanta. It'd be nice to give him a year under John Abraham to see if something can rub off on him. But more than likely, Matthews is just going to be a No. 3 guy here in Atlanta. If he can improve vs. the run, then he might be a mediocre starter, but he's not going to be an impact pass rusher besides the occasional sack or pressure here or there. He has enough upside that he can make the Falcons roster as a rookie, but like Lawrence Sidbury he probably won't play much his first two or so years. And by his third year, you hope that he has developed enough that he can start to contribute significant reps and minutes in a rotation. He's likely a career backup in Atlanta that can be a nice No. 3 or No. 4 option.
Matthews has enough upside as a pass rusher that a team might snatch him in the late fourth round. But you probably get much better value waiting until the fifth or sixth round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Pass Rush: 3.0
Point Of Attack: 2.0
Scouting reports of the defensive ends in the 2011 Draft.
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