By Kyle Rota
Name: Ryan Mathews
School: Fresno State
Weight: 218 V
40: 4.45 V
Athleticism: Mathews is a very good athlete. His acceleration/explosive burst is one of his best traits, he consistently uses a quick burst to get to and through the hole (6.5). Mathews also changes directions well, though he is not much of a cutback runner he show good athleticism when he bounces a run or makes a rare cutback. Decent, but not great (6.0) speed, he has enough speed that it will take a very fast play to catch him from behind, but there are NFL athletes capable of doing so. 6.5
Run Inside: Mathews is a very accomplished inside runner, and I briefly debated a higher grade before settling on this one. He runs very decisively, but does show patience when there is no hole in front of him. Knows how to get skinny, understands angles, and runs with very good forward lean. Tough to tackle unless you square up on him. 6.5
Run Outside: Mathews runs pretty well outside, another area where a higher grade is understandable. Mathews is pretty elusive for a back his size, but it is his great balance and lower-body strength that enable him to break so many tackles. The only reason (other than pure speed) this isn’t higher is that Mathews excels in using blockers and angles to cause missed tackles, but his 1v1 skills are only decent and in space the back is often required to make a guy miss by himself. 6.0
Run vision: 6.5 Locates the hole quickly and does not hesitate to get there. Not a cutback runner so doesn’t take advantage of those opportunities.
Tackle Breaking: 7.0 The best trait for Mathews. Good lean, leg drive, determination, and balance. Capable of breaking 3 tackles on any play.
Receiving: 6.0 This grade is tentative, as sample size becomes an issue. Not used a whole lot, but shows the ability to catch the ball outside his frame. Did drop a couple of passes against Illinois.
Run After Catch: 6.0 Mathews is a good athlete with great burst and good determination, but he didn’t seem terribly tough to bring down after a catch. Should be a weapon on screens. Again, limited chances.
Blocking: 6.0 Willing blocker who could use some work, but shows the functional skills needed to become a good blocker.
Power: 6.5 Powerful runner who has the leg drive to break even good tackles, but not a bowl-you-over type of back.
Elusiveness: 6.0 Can cut and juke his way out of trouble, but really prefers a more physical approach.
Effort: 6.5 Fights hard for his extra yardage, has the right mentality for the RB position.
Fumbles/Errors: 6.0 Had a crucial fumble against Wyoming (that allowed Wyoming to get back into the game), but otherwise secure. Moves the ball to his outside arm and picks up the blitz well. Might be worth a higher grade here, but certainly not a problem.
Character: 6.5 Supposedly a hard worker on the practice field and the weight room. No concerns here, I think he’ll be a good presence.
Overall: Mathews is one of my favorite runners from this class. While not an explosive athlete, he led the NCAA in runs over 50 yards last year (and considering the scatbacks with big years in 2009, that’s impressive). These didn’t just occur against poor competition, either, with big games and big plays against Boise State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. He probably won’t have as many long runs in the NFL, but his ability to break tackles makes him a threat to turn every run (inside or out) into a huge gain, and he is a good athlete – before he ran at the combine I wrote down that I thought he could turn out a mid 4.4 40 time. I think Mathews will be selected in the late part of the first round or very early in the second, and that is a good place for him.
If I didn’t have health concerns, I’d take Mathews in the middle of the first. He’s an impressive, well-rounded runner with the strength to carry the load on offense. However, injuries are a concern as Mathews has missed 7 games in three seasons and has been knicked up in several others. That will have to be considered by teams interested in drafting him. As well, I think Mathews is a poor fit for the “modern” trend of shotgun formations and spread offense – Mathews is a much better fit for a team that plans to run the ball inside early and often, and plans to use TEs/FBs heavily in the running game. In the right situation, if he avoids injury, Mathews stands a good chance of becoming a pro-bowl player for several seasons.
Computed Grade: 6.29
Final Grade: 6.3