2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Washington OLB Joe Mathis

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Joe Mathis/OLB Washington – 6’2 255

The Good

– Frame has bulk and at an NFL weight
– Heavy hands and has a violent punch, plays with great leverage and routinely wins the POA
– Excellent against the run, uses length to create space, and has quick hands to disengage and shed
– Good football IQ, vision to the football, and doesn’t overcommit or overrun plays
– Flashes excellent bend around the edge and ability to corner
– Overall, a violent and physical player
– Experience with hand down and up, moved around the defense, experience as B and C gap player
– Was asked to drop into coverage, mostly spot drops/walls to cover curl/flat
– Effort player, doesn’t loaf

The Bad

– Is only an average athlete and not the most fluid in space
– Doesn’t consistently win the edge and can get pushed upfield if he doesn’t time the snap
– Lacking true, go-to move (swim, dip/rip are evident but not consistent)
– Needs to develop a counter, round out pass rush repertoire and develop a plan
– Will have to learn to play as the field linebacker, limited to boundary in college
– Injury history will raise red flags, limited tape, especially at projected NFL position
– Limited body of production, didn’t pick up until senior year

Bio

– Career: 15.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 2 FF
– 2016: 7.5 TFL, 5 sacks (6 games)
– Missed final eight games of 2016 season due to foot injury that required surgery
– Missed three games in 2015 with unknown injury
– Engaged and has a young son

Tape Breakdown

Joe Mathis is a difficult prospect to figure out. Heck, it’s hard enough to find good tape on the guy. As it feels is a rite of passage in Washington’s defense, Mathis has moved around and shifted to outside linebacker in 2016. But his season was cut short and the games he did play involved blowouts and lower competition (including my beloved Idaho Vandals).

He’s a violent, physical player with a nasty demeanor, a great combination of traits to have if you’re going to live on the edge. Mathis is excellent against the run, showing a pair of heavy hands. He’s able to uncoil his hips the way an offensive linemen does to create power and pad level, routinely winning the point of attack. Check out these examples.

That power and extension creates space between he and the linemen/blocker and puts him in a position of dominance. Even against guys 50 pounds heavier then him, he always seems to be the alpha male. Watch him bowl over the Boise State right tackle and then, it’s hard to see in the GIF, force a fumble on the back (that he recovered!). What a play.

It translates as a pass rusher and though he doesn’t do it consistently, I think his speed bull rush will become his go-to move. You may have seen this clip before but watch him destroy the Stanford right tackle. Whew.

So we’re all good here, right? Let’s clap our hands and move onto the next guy. Except, that level of dominance, or just good tape in general (no one is going to be that dominant snap to snap) doesn’t always exist as a pass rusher. As a run defender, I can check that box off. He’s excellent and I have little doubt that will change at the next level.

As a pass rusher, it’s inconsistent. He can bend the edge but because he’s only an average athlete and can’t always gain a step with his initial burst and stride length. There are times he can get thrown up the arc, like these two examples.

I’m going to say something that might scare you off. But don’t let it. I promise it’s meant as a compliment.

Joe Mathis is what Jarvis Jones was supposed to be.

Still breathing?

Don’t confuse that with who Jones is now. That’s not where I’m predicting Mathis to be although at his floor, I could see Mathis as a slightly better version of that (even stronger against the run, slightly better pass rusher). But more optimstically, I can see him as a top-notch run defender who gets a lot of pressure and a good but not high amount of sacks because he’ll be best going through tackles than around. He will win the edge at times but I don’t think he’s going to be dominant there.

To be fair, he’s still early in his development. He didn’t play a lot of football compared to others and as an outside linebacker, the tape is even more limited. There is plenty of upside here and Mathis’ game is far from being over. Which is good because he’s unrefined. Has to develop a more consistent, potent go-to move and a counter. If it’s me, he can win with three moves. You don’t need five or six as a pass rusher. You can get away with two if you’re good enough (Dwight Freeney) or three. Here’s the three for Mathis.

1. Speed/bull
2. Dip/rip
3. Swim

In all, the projection for him is awfully tough and probably going to be all over the map. I…don’t really have any idea where he’ll end up. It’s a deep class but his upside is enticing and as the saying goes, all it’s going to take is for one team to really like him. I suspect someone will and he will go high.

Projection: Mid Day Two (Late 2nd)

Games Watched: at Boise St (2015), vs Rutgers, at Arizona, vs Stanford

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNichols

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Boots

    It’ll be interesting to see what he does at the combine. Some people think he’s going to go higher than I do, but I really think the injury history and lack of tape could have him slipping to a later round. I really feel like we need to take advantage of the depth at edge rusher in this draft and Mathis as a double up could be a real bargain!

  • SilverSteel

    He does not look dominant in these clips but has the tools it seems. He could be developed into a starter with a year of mentoring and some backup play.

  • The Chin

    Id be tickled if he was the 2nd Rd selection.

  • Spencer Krick

    I like Mathis as a double dip candidate.

  • WreckIess

    If he slips to our third rounder(Doubtful, but definitely possible with the uncertainty around him) I’m all for him being the 2nd OLB if we double dip. I can see him being used similarly to how Pernell McPhee was used in Baltimore. Just with a smaller frame.

  • Steelers12

    i like him, i think we can double dip with him. whoever we take in the 1st round as a pass rusher, draft a CB in 2nd round and then him or Smoot in 3rd would be the ideal draft scenario for me

  • Steelers12

    would you rather him or Smoot be the 2nd OLB if we double dip

  • Steelers12

    yes him or Smoot but i like Mathis better

  • falconsaftey43

    Curious why everyone wants to double dip. Other than to increase odds of hitting on one.

  • ATL96STEELER

    If Timmons is re-signed, I think dbl dipping at OLB is a must. My thinking is Mathis might be a specialty edge rusher type player, but not a guy that will be great in coverage…would love to see them pick him as a second OLB.

  • Steelers12

    in my opinion we need to double dip because Harrison has probably one year left and he one of the pass rushers will replace him and the other will add depth and continue to push Dupree or eventually replace him if he leaves in free agency

  • WreckIess

    I haven’t watched enough of Smoot to say, but I’ll let the combine make that decision. I still have questions about Smoot’s ability to move in space.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    You just answered your own question.

  • falconsaftey43

    And that’s fine, but some might have other ideas. I can see doing it for the odds of hitting on one, but I don’t see the need to add two to the roster overall. I don’t think they should spend 2 high picks on the position. If they go OLB in 1 or 2, think you have to wait to add another till at least the 5th. Have other needs on the roster (CB,WR,RB,TE,ILB)

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Why can’t you just do one this draft and one next draft then? Chances are neither OLB would get on the field much this year with Dupree and Harrison at the helm. At best, maybe you have a 3 man rotation. I want players that can come in and make an impact right away.

  • falconsaftey43

    That’s pretty much my thinking. 1 high pick will get on the field in a rotation with Harrison. Too many other needs to fill to double dip, at least with a high-mid pick, for a guy that has almost no path to playing time as a rookie.

  • Mark DeSevo

    There is some other good breakdown tape on this guy out there on Youtube (RSP Film Room) and BHTSC

  • Steelers12

    because both will have time to learn the complex zone defense and we would have added depth and fresh pass rushers. Harrison can’t play every down and in a passing league pass rushers get exhausted look at what happen to ATL in the super bowl

  • Steelers12

    how do you feel about Taco Charelton and how much do you weight do you take in the combine

  • steelburg

    I’m with you there. But I wouldn’t be upset if they went as early as round 4 with the second OLB pick. But I would preferably like it to be in round 5 or maybe even 6. If they took a chance on Mathis in the 4th I would be OK with that. But all in all I agree.

  • WreckIess

    I don’t see Taco as a 3-4 OLB and that’s coming from a huge Big 10 fan. As for the combine, I look at it as a process that fills in the blanks for me. Anything I can’t really get a feel for on tape like speed, explosiveness, or fluidity (or in Smoot’s case I’m looking for skills that his college scheme didn’t allow him to showcase) I try to look for in the combine.

  • Aj Gentile

    Steelers definitely need the increase odds of hitting on one. And if we assume Harrison has one year left then you have another player in the system that can rotate in after Harrison leaves. I’m also concerned if Harrison can make it through a whole season again.

  • Aj Gentile

    I think they highest he could go is the second and the lowest is probably the forth. I think the combine will shed some light on his athleticism. If he tests poorly then he will probably get knocked down a round or two.

  • Spencer Krick

    1. Still don’t know what Dupree is yet.
    2. Harrison is 38 years old.
    3. Moats and Chick are pretty okay.

    They need to improve the talent pool in that room, and we’re having this problem amidst a very deep EDGE class.

  • Steelers12

    but do you think that the combine can you be a little overrated if you rely on more than game tape?

  • WreckIess

    The combine can definitely overrate some guys. That’s why I think scouting has to be a healthy mix of what they do at the Combine and pro days and what they do on the field.

    Like I said, game tape comes first, but if you over rely on the results and ignore the numbers you get Jarvis Jones. And if you over rely on the physical skills and ignore their lack of production in the field you get Stephen Hill from the Jets.

    That’s how I see it at least.

  • Steelers12

    You hit nail on head i agree completely. Thanks for great conversation.

  • Matt Manzo

    I was watching tape on him last night! There’s definitely a lot to like and a lot to be afraid of.
    What do we know about the severity of his injuries? Can they be compared to someone who went through the same thing, and made it back?

  • WreckIess

    Yeah man. You too my dude.

  • LucasY59

    I am hoping Mathis or Price are available in the 5th, I agree that they have other needs and going two OLBs early is a bit of a luxury, If they go Reddick in the 1st then they might need to double up on OLB earlier (since Haasan isnt a traditional OLB) but if they get a guy like McKinley, Lawson or Harris then they should be able to wait

  • LucasY59

    I think future depth is important (other than Dupree and Chick they really dont have anyone to move forward with) so getting two this yr could be a good idea especially since this draft seems to have good depth, otherwise they are using a pick again next yr (which is fine as well, but if they can get a value pick this yr it would be better imo)

  • LucasY59

    I think next weekend will be huge for Mathis, I really like him, but it is half impossible to predict where he will be picked, 2nd rd to undrafted, if he shows he is a decent athlete it will be earlier, if he doesnt do well or isnt able to fully participate (because he might still be recovering from the injury) then its day 3 for sure

    I kinda hope that they can wait to pick him later 4-6th rd, if they are able to double up with him as a value pick I think the OLBs could really improve

    I like that he plays well against the run and the pass, I think he could develop into a even better pass rusher, the limited experience/production means he has potential to be better than what he has done so far (and seemed to just be figuring things out when he got hurt)

    I dont expect him to be a great athlete (not going to blow up the combine) but think he should be good enough, I also like that he plays with a bit of a mean streak (or at least isnt afraid to get violent/play physical) also like that the developing he needs to do are more of a experience/technique than a physical thing (he looks to be NFL strong already) so as long as he is able to fully recover from his foot injury

  • Alex Kozora

    Agreed, really interested to see how he tests. I don’t have a great feel/idea.

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  • popsiclesticks

    Pressure ain’t a bad thing. Wasn’t a lot of pressure/not a ton of sacks a good way to describe Jason Worilds’ college tape? He didn’t become a star but if all of your 2nd rounders become Jason Worilds, you aren’t making bad draft picks.

  • popsiclesticks

    Timmons/Woodley part 2!

  • popsiclesticks

    HATE HATE HATE Taco Charlton and don’t understand the hype. I think Wormley is better.

  • popsiclesticks

    Increase the odds is my main reason. Another one is you can never have too many pass rushers and this is the deepest edge class I can remember, by far. There are probably 2nd or 3rd round guys this year who would be first rounders in a draft like 2013. If I see a guy in the 2nd that I consider a first round caliber edge guy, it’s hard not to take them because you don’t get that every year.

    Hell, can’t you see Dupree slipping into the 3rd round if he were in this year’s class?

  • Steelers12

    wow a lot of people dislike Taco