Ryan Mathews – Fresno State
Scout: David Syvertsen
Pro Potential: Clinton Portis – Washington Redskins
Acceleration/Burst/Quickness: Tremendous quickness and change of direction ability. Consistently balance allows him to get full force on his cuts. Can get to top speed as he hits the second level of the defense. Lacks the top notch speed in the open field but the short area burst makes him appear to be faster than he is.
Ball Protection: Holds the ball high and tight to his body. Strong grip, ball is rarely away from his body even when evading tacklers in space. Has 3 career fumbles despite 535 carries.
Elusiveness/Feet/Agility: Makes defenders miss in traffic. Makes himself small despite possessing a big frame. Very loose hips and light feet before the burst is turned on. Can run through a defender but prefers to make them miss with the short area quickness.
Pass Catching: Only 19 career receptions. Was often taken off the field on passing downs. Does not have a lot of experience running routes. Rare to see the ball thrown his way.
Pass Blocking: Does not have as much experience as a pass blocker as you would like. However he is capable. Shows aggression and strength when stepping to defend the blitz. Willing to stick his hat in there. Does not hold a block well, basically a one pop blocker.
Power: Easily runs his way through arm tackles. Consistently gains yards after contact. Runs with great pad level and gets each one of his 220 pounds behind the inside runs. Can lower his shoulder and push a pile of 4-5 defenders backward, tremendous leg drive.
Size/Length/Hand Size: Has the ideal body for a back that carries the ball 20+ times per game. Has balanced strength from head to toe, but enough flexibility to remain agile and quick throughout all levels of the defense. Legs are muscular and stout.
Speed: Lacks the top tier speed in the open field, but has the extra gear to run away from most defenders. One of those guys that will play faster than he times. If he has the initial angle advantage, he almost always beats the defender to the intersection.
Vision/Balance/Running Instincts: A natural runner with the ball in his hands. Anticipates running lanes before they open up. Top tier balance that spends very little time gathering himself after a broken tackle. Constantly moving forward with plenty of force.
Final Word: Mathews has an outside shot at being the first back taken in April’s draft. While he does not bring the value to the passing game that some others do, he is the top natural runner in this class. His ability to break tackles and maintain his balance is unmatched, and he is fast enough to break off big runs. He led the nation in rushing and if he was part of a big time collegiate program, Mathews would have be a legit contender for the Heisman Trophy. His best games came against Fresno State’s toughest competition, including a 234 yard – 3 TD performance against Boise State in which he averaged over 12 yards per carry. He is the kind of back that can be trusted right away to give a strong boost to the ground attack. He will need time to improve his pass blocking and receiving skills, but according to the Fresno State coaching staff, there isn’t a player in this draft that will enter the NFL with higher character and/or a stronger work ethic.