Quickness for the short to intermediate part of the field
Can make tough, contested receptions
Polished, well-rounded receiver
Adept at finding soft spots in zone
Enough quickness to get separation
Great work ethic
Lacks deep speed
Can he separate from press man by big NFL corners?
Not overly big or fast
Could be just a possession receiver
Not fast enough to stretch a defense vertically
Summary: The SEC is college football's best conference and is the closest thing the NFL has to a minor leagues, so it saying something when a player rewrites the SEC record books. Matthews did just that over his career at Vanderbilt as he became the SEC's all-time leader in catches (262) and receiving yards (3,759) during his senior season.
Matthews had a modest start when he totaled 41 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He broke out the next year with a huge campaign. Matthews recorded 94 receptions for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. He also played well against top competition. Matthews had 119 yards on eight receptions against Georgia. He also played well versus Florida with eight catches for 131 yards and a score. The junior went over 100 yards taking on Ole Miss, Tennessee and Missouri.
In 2013, Matthews totaled 112 receptions for 1,477 yards with seven touchdowns, and carried Vanderbilt to another bowl game. He had big games against Ole Miss (10-178), Missouri (7-123), Kentucky (12-141), Tennessee (13-133), Wake Forest (11-125) and Houston (5-143). The only corners who really held Matthews in check were Florida's dynamic group, but Vanderbilt didn't need Matthews to beat the Gators on the road.
There is a lot to like about Matthews. He is a very polished receiver entering the NFL. Former head coach James Franklin and his staff did a good job of grooming Matthews for the next level. He is sure-handed, runs good routes, is tough and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Mattthews showed the ability to make some impressive runs after the catch as a senior, especially in the season opener against Ole Miss and the finale versus Houston. In the short to intermediate part of the field, he is excellent at moving the chains.
Matthews is a great fit for a West Coast offense as he is superb on slants, digs and crosses; the staple routes of that offense. Matthews also is a good blocker in the ground game. He has good intangibles as he is very smart and has a reputation for a great work ethic. Matthews' mother is the first-cousin of NFL great Jerry Rice, so obviously Matthews has some good bloodlines.
The one issue keeping Matthews from being a first-round pick is a lack of speed. He is quick, but not fast. Matthews doesn't look like a receiver who is going to stretch a defense vertically. Thus, he looks like a good No. 2 and possession receiver in the NFL. In speaking with sources, they say that Matthews is grading out on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft. If he has an electric 40 time at the Combine, that could change his grade and bump him into the first round.
Player Comparison: Terrance Williams. I suggested Williams as a comparison to Matthews to some scouts, and they said that was spot on. Both are roughly the same size (6-2, 200), were very productive in college and are reliable possession receivers who lack the speed to be vertical threats. Without being fast receivers, they are held back from being true No. 1 wide outs. Williams was a third-round pick of the Cowboys in 2013 NFL Draft and had a quality rookie season. Matthews could also go on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft, but looks more likely to go in the second round. In the NFL, Matthews could have a similar game to Williams.
NFL Matches: Detroit, New York Jets, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Carolina, San Francisco, Indianapolis
There are a lot of teams that could consider Matthews late in the first round or in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. If he were to go late in the first round, the 49ers and Eagles could be a possibilities. San Francisco especially could use Matthews as a long-term replacement for Anquan Boldin. The 49ers has a lot of extra picks, so the organization could move up in Round 2 to land Matthews if the front office doesn't feel he'll reach San Francisco's first second-rounder.
The Eagles could snatch Matthews if he falls to their second-round pick. Chip Kelly likes intelligent receivers who have some size and run-after-the-catch ability.
Early in the second round, both Detroit and Tampa Bay are in need of receivers. Matthews would be a nice complement to Calvin Johnson, and the Lions could consider Matthews even if they take a receiver in the first round. The Bucs need a third receiver, plus Vincent Jackson is aging.
Cleveland also could target Matthews early on the second day as a No. 2 receiver to go with Josh Gordon.
In the middle of Round 2, both the Jets and Ravens need some receiving weapons for their quarterbacks. Baltimore never replaced Boldin adequately while New York is lacking receiving weapons for Geno Smith.
The Panthers and the Colts are in need of some long-term wide outs for their franchise quarterbacks. Carolina needs an upgrade at receiver, plus Steve Smith may not be around much longer. Ditto for Reggie Wayne with Indianapolis. The Colts could use a young receiver with size to pair with T.Y. Hilton.