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Raiders Draft: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama scouting report

A mid-round run-stuffing option for the Raiders

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama
Phidarian Mathis
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Defensive tackle is one of the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest needs heading into this offseason. The Raiders struggled to stop the run last year and a lack of a dominant interior run defender was part of the reason why. Alabama's Phidarian Mathis would be able to fill that role and should be available in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.

DT | Alabama | 6’ 3 7/8” and 313 pounds | Wisner, LA | Born in 1998 (24)

Overview:

Phidarian Mathis came to Alabama as a four-star recruit and the No. 13 defensive tackle in the country for the 2017 class, per 247 Sports. He redshirted his first year on campus before being a part of the defensive line rotation and starting lineup as a redshirt freshman, sophomore and junior until locking down a full-time starting spot as a senior. Playing primarily as a three-technique on run downs, he accumulated 129 total tackles, 16 for loss, 10.5 sacks and 50 pressures during his college career.

Strengths:

  • Good size and frame for an NFL defensive tackle
  • Quick to shoot his hands off the snap, run or pass
  • Works the offensive lineman’s hands as a pass rusher
  • Has solid rip and club by moves that can be developed in the future
  • Relentless motor as a rusher, he can get coverage sacks
  • He gets his hands up to bat passes at the line of scrimmage when his initial pass rush move doesn’t work
  • As a run defender against base blocks, he has impressive strength to get extension, plays with a wide base and low pad level to hold his ground and stay in his gap
  • Against double teams, he does a good job of attacking the lineman he’s lined up across from him and uses his size and sturdy base to help him create stalemates
  • When facing down blocks, he’s quick to redirect his eyes and hands to the lineman coming down on him
  • Very good gap discipline, he’s never going to leave his assignment before the running back commits
  • His hand placement — right on the blocker’s chest — and strength allow him to get off and shed blocks easily
  • Effective at using rip and swim moves to get off blocks too
  • Has the strength to make tackles with offensive linemen hanging on him
  • Wraps up and brings running backs down with ease
  • Displays solid effort in pursuit to clean things up if other defenders force cutbacks

Areas of Improvement:

  • Not very athletic overall, limiting his ceiling as a pass rusher and he was taken out in a lot of obvious pass situations in college
  • Late to react to the snap, false steps and is too slow off the ball to get penetration immediately
  • Slow run-pass transitions against play action
  • Lack of speed and get off limit the effectiveness of his bull rush
  • When the offensive linemen vertical set on deeper quarterback drops, he has a habit of dropping his hands by his second or third step, exposing his chest
  • His poor agility and bend make it tough for him to run a tight hoop and corner as a pass rusher either as the looper on line games or from wider alignments
  • Does struggle to actually get a piece of the ball when getting his hands up, looks like a hand-eye coordination issue
  • Doesn’t have a plan as a rusher, he rarely throws counter moves if his initial doesn’t work
  • Against outside zone runs, his adequate agility makes him susceptible to getting reached if he’s head up
  • When facing double teams, he can do a better job of turning his hip into the second blocker to give them less surface area to block and he’s a little too reliant on his size and strength, he will lose ground against more physical offensive linemen
  • Struggles to locate the ball versus read options
  • While the effort is there in pursuit, he lacks the speed to factor into many gang tackles in the open field
NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Alabama
Phidarian Mathis
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries:

  • 2019: Undisclosed injury (missed 1 game)

Projection:

NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 48th, 2nd round

A second-round pick is a little too steep of a price for me to pay for Mathis. I don’t think he offers enough as a pass rusher or has a high enough ceiling to warrant a top 50 pick, but I do think his run defense is strong enough to be in the third- or fourth-round category. He can be a starter as a two-down defensive tackle for a team that needs someone to eat up space in the middle.

As far as a scheme fit goes, I think the Alabama product is somewhat versatile in that regard. He has the strength to hold up at the point of attack and two-gap, and while he’s not as explosive as some people make like to see from a one-gapper, his block shedding against one-on-one blocks is top-notch. So, while he might not be creating a ton of penetration to get tackles for loss, he’ll consistently be in a position to bring down ball carriers near the line of scrimmage.

What do we need to know?

Can he become more explosive off the ball to create pressure with a bull rush? This is probably the most disappointing part about Mathis’ game. While he’s strong, he’s not explosive enough to win consistently as a power rusher. If he can add that to his game, he’ll develop into a quality starting defensive tackle who can stay on the field on third down and collapse the pocket at least.

Fit with the Raiders:

Again, I wouldn’t be too stoked if Las Vegas takes Mathis with one of their top picks, but if he’s available in the middle rounds, he’s worth a shot. The Raiders desperately need defensive tackles and the Wisner, Louisiana native would compliment Yannick Ngakoue well, who struggles to hold up against the run. New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham could put Ngakoue and Mathis on the same side, where the latter would be able to help cut the field in half and the former can make up for what’s being missed on passing downs.

Film Clips: