The New York Giants need to find a pass rush at some point in 2020. They have invested heavily in the defensive secondary over the last three off-seasons, but without a pass rush, their defensive backs will be forced to cover for longer than is ideal.
As of now, it seems unlikely that the Giants will be able to land the pass rushing prize of the 2020 draft, but they could look to select a high-ceiling player at the top of the second round. Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos has athletic tools that are reminiscent of Jason Pierre-Paul or Chandler Jones, but is he that caliber of prospect?
Prospect: Yetur Gross-Matos (DE/EDGE, Penn State)
Games Watched: vs. Purdue (2019), vs. Michigan (2019), vs. Ohio State (2019), vs. Memphis (2019)
Red Flags: Named in hazing lawsuit (2019), Hand (2019)
Games Played (starts): 34
Tackles For a loss: 36.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Games Played (starts):
Tackles For a loss: 14.5
Forced Fumbles: 0
Best: Size, length, get-off, play strength
Worst: Lateral agility, hand usage
Projection: A rotational EDGE with starting upside in a one-gap 4-3 front.
Yetur Gross-Matos has a prototypical blend of height, weight, length, and linear explosiveness for a 4-3 defensive end. Matos-Gross played out of a 2, 3, and 4-point stance in Penn State’s defense and showed comfort out of all three stances. He shows an explosive get-off when attacking into the backfield with a defined gap responsibility. In those cases Matos-Gross does a good job of keeping hips low and playing with good pad level. He makes good use of his length as a pass rusher, extending his arms early in the rep and preventing offensive tackles from locking in and esblishing leverage. Gross-Matos shows the ability to control and discard blockers at will when playing an attacking role and was routinely disruptive in both run defense and against quarterbacks.
Gross-Matos also shows good discipline as a run defender. He doesn’t freelance and is loyal to his responsibilities, trusting his teammates to make plays if he forces the ball to them.
Gross-Matos needs to develop his hand usage to be a consistent rusher at the NFL level. Not only does he need to continue to develop speed counters to his power rush, he also needs to do a better job of using his hands to defeat cut blocks. Gross-Matos also shows some lower-body stiffness which can limit him when he needs to carry speed around the edge and turn a sharp corner to the quarterback. Gross-Matos has a tendency to lose his hip and pad level when asked to hold blocks, rather than attacking into the backfield. Likewise, he has a tendency to lose his leverage when he has to read the backfield. It can take him a beat to process play-action or RPO plays, slowing his play speed.
Overall Grade: 6.4 - Has the traits to be a dependable starter early in his career. Should be an important contributor immediately for any team that drafts him. [Grading Scale]
Yetur Gross-Matos projects best to defensive end in a 4-3 front, preferably at the 7 or 9-technique. Playing Gross-Matos from a wider alignment should make it easier for him to carry speed around the corner and into the backfield, while playing at the 7-technique would allow him to make use of a dangerous inside move.
Gross-Matos does have stand-up ability, and looks comfortable-enough dropping into shallow zones and is able to rush effectively from a 2-point (standing) stance. Because of that, a “multiple” defense could play him as a true defensive end/rush linebacker hybrid “EDGE”.
However, he does a better job of maintaining his leverage when rushing with one or two hands on the ground, so those defenses should consider him a 4-2-5 nickel package specialist for his first year.
He shows a good understanding of how to use his length to his advantage but needs to make better use of his hands with a more counter to his power rush. Considering his length and explosiveness, a long-arm move and developing his ability to convert speed to power (rather than just a straight bull rush) would help to fully unlock his athletic upside.
Gross-Matos also needs to improve his processing speed and how he deals with cut blocks. Trash around his feet and misdirection in the backfield can slow him down, negating many of his advantages.
Gross-Matos was named (as well as Penn State head coach James Franklin and other players) in a lawsuit by a former Penn State football player alleging hazing and sexual assault. The county district attorney declined to file charges in the matter and Penn State’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit. Teams will want to do a thorough background and character check on Gross-Matos.