If lineage is something to be desired in an NFL draft prospect, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews has that contest won. The 22-year-old is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, who played 19 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, the cousin of current NFL linebackers Clay and Casey Matthews, and the brother of Kevin Matthews, who has spent time with the Titans and the Redskins.
But even without his storied family history, Matthews’ own talent and development would make him a surefire top 10 draft selection. After being named a 2009 USA Today high school All-American, Matthews entered Texas A&M, and was plugged in on the Aggies’ offensive line, where he played started 33 games over his first three seasons (mostly at right tackle). In 2013, following the departure of incumbent left tackle Luke Joeckel (the third overall pick by the Jaguars), Matthews moved to blind side and protected quarterback Johnny Manziel for all 13 games. In addition to being selected as a consensus All-American last season, Matthews was named to the All-SEC team in both 2012 and 2013.
At 6’5″, 305 pounds, the former Aggie is large enough to handle stout defensive lineman, but also has the agility to ward off quicker outside linebackers. When compared to Joeckel, Matthews grades out as slower, but he does have the advantage in power. Sound technique is the foundation of Matthews’ game, and that proficiency, combined with his size, allows him to simply maul in the run-blocking game. His physical traits aside, Matthews’ intangibles are off the charts — he was a team captain at Texas A&M, obviously has the pedigree, reportedly scored a 32 on the Wonderlic test, and scouts are said to be highly impressed with both his awareness on the field and his leadership off it. A prototypical franchise left tackle, Matthews has the ability to “walk in and play left tackle and sit there for 10, 12 years,” as one scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn.
Matthews, of course, also has his detractors and his limitations. Another scout told McGinn that Matthews’ surname might be clouding evaluators’ opinions: “If his last name was something else, I don’t think he’d be picked as high.” Physically, others believe that his arm length of 33 3/8″ might be too short, limiting his extension. Like Joeckel, Matthews is sometimes accused of lacking a “killer instinct” (however, that demerit didn’t seem to hurt Joeckel’s stock). Finally, some point to his prowess as a right tackle and believe he would be a better fit on that side of the line, which would obviously degrade his value.
It is difficult to find a team that wouldn’t be interested in Matthews, as most franchises could use a left tackle of his caliber, and if not, at least an upgrade at right tackle. The Texans will probably go in another direction, and while the Rams could be interested in an offensive lineman, most reports have Greg Robinson as the higher rated player and the favorite to go second overall. The Jaguars could re-pair him with Joeckel, but the first real possibility is probably the Browns at No. 4, who would immediately install Matthews at right tackle. Within the top 10 selections, the Raiders, Falcons, Buccaneers, Bills, and Lions are all possible landing spots for Matthews. Along with Robinson and Taylor Lewan, Matthews is part of a triumvirate of offensive tackles that will all likely be top 10 picks.
Photo courtesy of USA Sports Images.