As we saw during the 2013 NFL Draft, teams are not shying away from nabbing offensive linemen high in the first round. But unlike last year, there is no question who the premier offensive lineman in this year’s class is.
Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews is a franchise left tackle built to protect a quarterback’s blindside for many years. The NFL is in his blood and it shows, as his intensity is palpable in both pass protection and as a run-blocker.
Matthews earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors in each of the past two seasons, and was named an All-American after his junior campaign in 2012. This past season Matthews took home the Bowden Award, given to the player who performs well on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
During his Aggies career Matthews played at both tackle spots, and when being compared to former teammate and first-round draft pick Luke Joeckel, some NFL scouts consider Matthews the better prospect. He earned praise from his Chick-Fil-A Bowl performance in which his handwork, foot quickness and athletic ability were all on display.
According to most rankings, Matthews is listed as the second- or third-best prospect, while some even consider him the best overall. And when it comes to the draft no player is a sure thing, but one NFL executive called him the safest player of the 2014 crop.
Matthews should certainly fall somewhere within the top five picks of the NFL Draft this May, but it will largely come down to which team picks No. 2 overall. If the St. Louis Rams hold steady and stay put, Matthews seems to be the likely choice to sure up the offensive line and perhaps supplant veteran Roger Saffold, who is set to become a free agent this offseason.
But there’s a chance that the Rams, who are reportedly shopping the pick, could trade down and allow another team to slide into the No. 2 slot and draft a quarterback or perhaps Jadaveon Clowney. If the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars both go quarterback with their first-round picks, that leaves the next likely destinations for Matthews to be a fit with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 5. Team owner Arthur Blank said he wanted more “tough players” — those who can be effective at the line of scrimmage — and wouldn’t Matthews effectively fit that criteria?