The University of Alabama has been a factory for NFL talent over the last decade or so. Head Coach Nick Saban has put together a relentless recruiting machine that keeps his squad well-stocked with future NFL players, who his coaching staff does a great job of developing.
Alabama has put good players at all positions into the NFL, but none quite so consistently as along the defensive line. Every year it seems like Alabama is having another defensive lineman drafted who will, at least, be a good player in the NFL for a long time.
This year, that player is defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.
While Mathis isn’t the most highly regarded defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, he is remarkably well-rounded and his football IQ leaps off the field.
The New York Giants have poured plenty of resources into their defensive line in recent years, but could they still take Mathis if the value is right?
Prospect: Phidarian Mathis (48)
Games Watched: vs. Miami (2021), vs. Ole Miss (2021), vs. Auburn (2021), vs. Georgia (SEC Championship - 2021)
Games Played: 46
Tackles For a loss: 16.0
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 5
Games Played: 14
Tackles For a loss: 10.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 2
Best: Technique, play strength, initial quickness, run defense, competitive toughness
Worst: Speed, explosiveness
Projection: A starting interior defensive lineman with scheme versatility.
(Mathis is defensive tackle number 48)
Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis is a quick and powerful technician at the defensive tackle position.
Mathis has a versatile and prototypical frame, with good length at 6-foot-4, with 34 ⅝ inch arms, and evident power in his upper and lower halves. Mathis typically aligned as an A-gap defender for Alabama’s defense, usually playing the 0-technique nose tackle, 1-technique, or tilt-1 technique (a 1 technique aligning at an angle as opposed to perpendicular to the line of scrimmage). That said, he also saw time as a 3-technique and 5-technique, depending on the down and defensive subpackage.
Mathis keys the ball well and has surprising initial quickness out of his stance. He is often one of the first players moving at the snap of the ball and has the ability to deliver a hard jolt to blockers. Mathis plays with great leverage, doing a good job of firing forward off the snap and keeping good hip and pad level throughout the play. He has very heavy hands, and generally places them well on blockers to control their chest plates. He also makes good use of his length, extending his arms and playing with a good forward lean to keep blockers from latching onto his torso.
Mathis is a true technician at the position and has a deep toolbox of moves to draw upon. He also consistently rushes with a plan and always has a ready counter if his initial move doesn’t work. He does a good job of leveraging gaps and forcing runners to find cutback lanes, or making plays off of blockers to bring down runners for a minimal gain. Mathis is a persistent pass rusher who fights through blocks and is able to be disruptive in the passing game due to his technique, power, and tenacity.
While Mathis has good initial quickness out of his stance, he lacks true explosiveness. Likewise, he lacks good long speed, and isn’t able to translate his initial quickness into a good get-off as a pass rusher.
Mathis was also frequently rotated off the field, and his play speed seemed to slow late in games. Teams will need to investigate further to find out whether that was due to conditioning issues.
Overall Grade: 7.5
Phidarian Mathis projects as an important rotational interior defensive lineman at the NFL level. His upside is high enough that he should be considered a starter, however he would likely be best in a situation with an active rotation. In that case, who gets the first snap doesn’t matter as much as who plays the most snaps, and Mathis’ skill set fits most downs and distances. Likewise, his versatility should allow him to find a home in any NFL defensive scheme.
He won’t be a particularly productive pass rusher at the NFL level, but his technique, play strength, and versatility will give him opportunities and allow him to help create opportunities for his future teammates. Mathis is capable of being a 2-gap nose tackle, as well as holding up against double-teams, which will make his linebackers’ lives much easier. Mathis should be a good run defender almost immediately upon entering the NFL, and he can play multiple roles in a variety of fronts.
He can also be disruptive in the passing game, and flashes the ability to penetrate into the backfield – though it’s rare. His quickness and technique are enough that he can also be used as a part of blitz schemes. He was frequently used as a looper on TEX stunts in Alabama’s defense, and his strength and length can be a problem for offensive tackles.
Phidarian Mathis isn’t a flashy player, but he’s a very safe and clean player who should contribute very early in his career.