Let's get this 2011 NFL Draft linebacker scouting steamboat up to full speed. While it seems I've seen Mark Herzlich mentioned the most; Casey Matthews is a close second.
Matthews entered the 2010 season with little fanfare. That was not the case by season's end. Matthews was the defensive leader of the Oregon Ducks as they quacked their way to the National Championship game. Then Matthews dominated in said game. He was all over the field—including a strip/fumble on Mr. Heisman, Cam Newton.
It also didn't hurt that he is a Matthews of the Matthews Matthews. Jump over for more excellent insight on ol' man Matthews boy.
Casey is a little undersized at 6'1" and 232-pounds. He is also a little under-athletic. Matthews hurt his shoulder on the bench at the NFL Combine, and did not participate in anything else. At his Pro Day he ran a 4.78 40, a 4.13 short shuttle, a 7.09 three-cone drill, a 9'5" broad jump and had a 32.5" vertical leap. He is projected as high as the second-round and as low as the fifth. Obviously, wherever he goes, he is not going to get drafted because of his athleticism.
NFL.com sheds some light on how he overcomes his lack of elite athleticism:
"Matthews is the latest in a family of guys who play the game the right way. While he lacks some size and speed, he is a smart, relentless, highly-productive player who will provide solid depth and special teams value while developing into a starter. Overcomes lacks of power by reading and reacting quicker than most linebackers. Does a great job of slipping blocks inside the box and is a sure tackler but does not have true sideline-to-sideline range and may struggle when caught in a phone booth. Better suited for zone coverage with his great awareness than man. Matthews could sneak into Day 2."
Matthews is not without some serious question marks. A lot of it stemming from the screwy-ass system they run there in Oregon.
CBS Sports sheds some light:
"[Matthews] played in a system that had him blitzing, immediately or delayed, for a ridiculously high percentage of plays, which inflated his sacks/TFL stats. Not blazingly fast. Slightly stiff in the hips, doesn't have great change of direction ability and could struggle in man coverage vs. NFL tight ends and backs. Rarely beat the block once picked up on the blitz. While good at just about everything, not truly elite in any category."
CBS' scouting report appears glowing compared to our friends at the National Football Post. Here are some of the lowlights:
[Matthews] is a limited athlete in coverage. Displays above-average instincts and can key off the quarterback and get good jumps on the football. However, is stiff through the hips, gets really fidgety with his footwork and lacks a real smoothness in his drop. Doesn't generate a burst out of his breaks and plays at one speed in pursuit. Comes off the field a lot on obvious passing situations.
Impression: Is a limited two-down guy only in the NFL, but doesn't play the run as well as he's given credit for. Looks like a fringe roster guy to me who I wouldn't go to bat for at this time.
So, that did not paint a pretty picture. Let's go to a highlight to get that bad taste out of our mouth.
This video is mostly of Matthews blitzing, which means little to me viewing him as a potential Raider prospect. However, it is set to one of my favorite pieces of movie music "Death is the Road to Awe." They could put a video of Matthews eating Lucky Charms and if it was set to that song I'd be fired up to draft him.
Alright, so all of that and we haven't even touched on the fact that Matthews played middle linebacker in college. Many believe he would be able to transition to weakside linebacker in a 4-3, but he may be better suited for the middle. He has received a lot of attention from the Ravens and this report by ESPN speculates it is as a potential replacement to Ray Lewis.
There you have it. We have painted a picture of a linebacker who relies on superb instincts. Which, to be honest, frightens me. Often times players that excel in the college game with instincts often become slow in the NFL game. Instincts have a hard time keeping up with the increased speed of the action.
That said, Matthews is a solid tackler with a nose for the ball who showed his knack to come up big in the big stage. So, keep you little stash of Matthews opinions handy while we investigate more options.