From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a defensive lineman that brings a unique package of stout run defense as well as the ability to rush the passer from the interior to the table as a prospect who may rank high on teams’ draft boards this spring.
#48 Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama (R-Senior) – 6037, 310lb
Senior Bowl/Combine Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Phidarian Mathis||6037/310||10 3/8||34 5/8||83 1/2|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Possesses a well-built frame with the bulk and strength to man the middle
— Has the athleticism to be an effective pass rusher and three-down contributor at over 300lb
— Pursuit of the football and motor are evident watching him in pursuit
— Has experience lining up in the gap or head up on the center/guard
— Capable playing as a 1-tech, 3-tech, or potentially as a 4-i
— Looks to shoot his hands through blockers on the snap of the ball, extending his arms to be in position to read and work off blocks
— Displays good hand usage for an interior defensive lineman in terms of stacking and shedding blocks
— Does a good job shooting gaps as an interior penetrator
— Has a good arm over/swim move to use blocker’s momentum against them as he works into the backfield
— Utilizes the club/rip combo as a pass rusher from the inside on the center or guard
— Effective in playing games up front when asked to execute stunts or twists to attack blocking schemes
— Does a good job getting his arms up into passing lanes
— Doesn’t have that freak speed or quickness to be highly effective in the open field
— will noticeably run out of steam the longer he is out there, needing to be in a rotation to be effective
— Can play with excessive forward lean when engaging blockers causing him to lose balance
— Needs to play with more consistent hip bend against the run to avoid being pushed off his spot
— Feet and base will get narrow when engaged on blocks resulting in him getting washed down against the run
— Pad level can get too high off the snap, leading to him giving ground early to offensive linemen
— Redshirt Senior prospect from Wisner, LA
— Four-star DL (#4 overall) in his recruiting class by ESPN
— Participated in the Under Armour All-America Game and earned USA Today Louisiana All-State recognition
— Made 41 tackles as a senior along with 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and six quarterback hurries in 2016
— Redshirted his first season on campus in 2017
— Played in 15 games as a rotational DL and recorded 18 total stops (4 solo) along with a fumble recovery
— Played in 12 games including two starts as a redshirt sophomore, notched 27 tackles (13 solo), including 1/2 TFL and a forced fumble
— Played and started in every game as a junior and recorded 31 total tackles (16 solo), five TFLs, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and three PBUs
— One of Alabama’s permanent team captains for the 2021 campaign as a senior, breaking out to the tune of 53 total stops (20 solo), 10.5 TFLs, nine sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two PBUs
— All-SEC Second Team in 2021, Second Team All-American honoree by the AFCA in 2021
— Named to the SEC Community Service Team for his work off the field in 2021
Phidarian Mathis of Alabama is a lesser-known name amongst the casual fan but is a name that has picked up steam throughout to 2021 season heading toward the draft as a player who is rising up draft boards. The 6’4, 312lb senior has seen his playing time increase every season in Tuscaloosa since initially redshirting in 2017, subsequently seeing his impact on the football field increase as well to the tune of a breakout 2021 campaign. Mathis has great movement skills for his size and knows how to use his hands to disengage blocks against the run. Watch this play where Mathis hits the arm over against Arkansas to beat the block attempt and make a play in the backfield for lost yardage.
He does a great job locking onto the blocker and extending his arms to read the play before shedding the block like we see on this rep against Georgia where Mathis engages the block, but stacks and sheds the blocker with the same arm over/swim move to wrap up #3 Zamir White to limit him to a minimal gain.
We see that ability to lock out blockers and diagnose the play on this rep as well against Miami as Mathis engages the center, then executes his arm over move to wrap up the ballcarrier at the LOS for no gain on the run.
What also stands out when watching Mathis’ tape is the motor he has at his size. The man plays with relentless effort both against the run as well as a pass rusher, playing chase to the ball with fantastic pursuit. We see that effort here on this screen pass against the Bulldogs where Mathis quickly reads the plays and closes distance between he and the ball, making the ballcarrier cut back inside toward the defense and then proceeds to run him down and wrap him up from behind.
Like I mentioned earlier, Mathis pursues the quarterback well for an interior defender weighing 312lb, providing a pass rush that can make him a viable three-down contributor on defense. We see an example of that on this rep where Mathis rips off his block and chases #13 Stetson Bennett out of the pocket, forcing him to the left sideline and to throw a pass into coverage the ends up falling incomplete.
Here is another example where Mathis gets pressure on the passer while executing a twist up front with the DE, twisting to the edge and is able to get the corner with yet another arm over on the tackle, forcing Bennett to throw hot which results in another incompletion.
You probably are saying, “It’s great that Mathis can generate pressure, but can he get home as a pass rusher?” The short answer to that is yes. Mathis had a career-high nine sacks this season, ranking near the top of all interior defensive linemen in college football. Here is an example from the same game where Mathis finishes the play with a big hit on Bennett who is scrambling as the play breaks down, slamming him to the turf for good measure.
So, Mathis can win when the play gets messy. Can he get “clean”, technique sacks? Again, the answer to that question is yes. The perfect example comes against the LSU Tigers in the red zone where Mathis executes a great club/rip combo on the center to get into the backfield and hit the QB as he is releasing the football, forcing the ball loose that he ends up getting on top of for the recovery.
Here is an All-22 view of the same play where you can see Mathis’ technique shine, having his hands and feet synced up as a pass rusher with his pass rush move while simultaneously taking a side jump step into the gap to smoothly clear the block and make the play. The play ends up being ruled a forward pass, but credit to Mathis for the execution on this rep.
While the pass rushing prowess of Mathis is a nice skill set to have as an interior defender, there are several key technical things I would like to see him clean up as he transitions to the pros. He tends to stand up on the snap of the football as a run defender and play with excessive forward lean, leading to him stalling his feet and getting into a stalemate like we see on this fourth-and-one conversion where he gets caught stopping his feet and fails to generate a push backward to prevent the runner from moving the chains.
Like we saw on the previous example, Mathis will allow his base to go narrow at times when he gets high and lunges forward, leading to balance issues that blockers can exploit by washing him out of the play or taking him to the turf like we see on this final play against the Tigers. Mathis needs to play with more consistent pad level as well as avoid allowing blockers to get their hands on his chest to be more consistent in run defense and as a pass rusher instead of ending up on the ground due to poor positioning.
Overall, Phidarian Mathis may not be generating the same level of hype as say Georgia’s Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt, by the argument can be made that Mathis is more valuable to an NFL team due to his ability to play all three downs and contribute as a pass rusher and run defender from various spots along the defensive line. When thinking of a comp for Mathis, I looked at the previous Alabama defensive linemen that have come out the last few years but fell on former Temple Owl and New York Jet Mohammad Wilkerson as an eerily similar player from a size/frame/play style perspective.
Wilkerson stood 6’4, 315lb and had the same long limbs on a thick torso that Mathis has and was capable of playing inside at 1-tech as well as outside at 3-tech or 4-i. Wilkerson also flashed pass rush promise in his final season at Temple, racking up ten sacks which is one short of Mathis’ mark posted this season. Wilkerson also was a good athlete that was effective at playing the run and generating a pass rush at the next level but had some technical issues that led to inconsistent play, similar to what can be seen in Mathis’ tape at times at Alabama.
Wilkerson ended up sneaking into the end of the first round in 2011, and Mathis could honestly do the same with a successful Senior Bowl week and NFL Combine. Mathis is a quality human being on top of being a good football player, being recognized as a permanent team captain this season as well as the emotional leader of the Crimson Tide. He also stresses philanthropy work in his free time and should ace in-person interviews with the character and leadership he has.
Should Pittsburgh be looking to either replace Stephon Tuitt this offseason if he decides to not come back to football or simply add depth to the defensive line, Mathis will likely be a player high on their board based on his play on the football field as well as his character. He should expect to hear his name called on Day Two of the draft with the likelihood of going earlier in that range, and even the outside chance someone snagging him at the end of the first.
Projection: Early-to-Mid Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.3 – Future Quality Starter
Games Watched: vs Miami (2021), vs Arkansas (2021), vs LSU (2021), vs Georgia (2021)