Jake Matthews | Offensive Tackle | Texas A&M | Senior | 6'5, 305 pounds
Texas A&M burst onto the scene a year ago in its first season in the SEC. The Aggies won 11 games, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
But the best NFL prospect on the roster may have been right tackle Jake Matthews, who decided to return to school for his senior season. He will shift over to left tackle, where his skills should translate well. Manziel should have rock solid protection on his blind side for the second straight season.
While the 2013 draft was dominated by offensive tackles at the top, the 2014 class of tackles looks solid as well. Matthews will battle with fellow senior Taylor Lewan and others to be the first lineman off the board. With an NFL pedigree and a dominant junior season under his belt, Matthews enters 2013 with plenty of momentum.
What he does well
Matthews is a technician. He consistently starts from a balanced stance and fires off the ball quickly. Matthews gets into his sets in a hurry and maintains balance with clean footwork. A plus athlete, Matthews uses a quick shuffle step to maintain proper angles on pass rushers and mirror their every move. His blend of quickness and anticipation makes him tough to beat on the edge.
What stands out most about Matthews is his ability to sustain blocks. He is so fundamentally sound in his footwork, hand placement and balance that he is able to anchor effectively in the pass blocking. Given his motor and balance, once he locks into a block, defenders have a tough time generating any pressure. Matthews also displays plus intelligence on the field, attacking the proper shoulder of defenders in the running game and taking proper angles in pass protection. With a mobile quarterback like Manziel, Matthews had to be aware at all times and he didn't disappoint.It's also worth noting that Matthews is well-versed in cut blocking and how shown the ability to open up lanes consistently with that technique.
What he needs to improve on
The biggest question Matthews will face in 2013 is how he will transition to left tackle. While he's been rock solid on the right side, how will he fare making the switch. Everything I've seen suggests that he will have no trouble play left tackle. His skill set fits the position well and he's played there in the past.
A few other technical issues in Matthews' game are more important than his position change. As mentioned, Matthews gets to the second level with ease, but he's shown a tendency to lunge at defenders when he's in space. Also, Matthews could stand to get stronger in the running game when it comes to generating leg drive. Technically he's fine, but he needs to generate a more consistent push from his lower body, which should come with getting stronger. In pass blocking, Matthews' short arms sometimes cause issues against defensive ends that are able to use their hands effectively.
When it's all said and done, Matthews could end up being a better prospect than Joeckel. He has plenty of work to do and probably isn't as physically gifted as Joeckel, but Matthews' technique is second to none. What he lacks in length and brute strength, Matthews makes up for with smart angles, picture perfect footwork and terrific balance. For that reason, I expect him to be consistently dominant as a senior and show that he deserves consideration in the top 10 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft.
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