Prospects

Prospects
Photo of Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews (OLB)
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 240
College: USC
Conference: Pac-12
Hometown: Agoura Hills, CA
High School: Agoura
Featured Prospects
Selected by: Green Bay Packers
Round: 1
Pick (Overall): 26 (26)
Discuss
Pick Analysis: The Packers add a versatile outside linebacker to their 3-4. Matthews' multi-dimensional game serves as the perfect complement to Aaron Kampman. As a credible rushing threat with underrated cover skills, Matthews gives Dom Capers the ability to mix and match rush schemes. Though he only spent one season as a starter in college, he has the potential to be a solid pro in the Packers' defense.
  1. Overview
  2. Analysis
Overview

With two family members having not only played, but excelled at Southern California, you would think that with a name like Clay Matthews III that he would have been one of the team's elite recruits. However, 160-pound high school players do not have Pete Carroll knocking on their door, no matter what his last name is. Still, after joining the team as a walk-on, putting in three years as a reserve and a special teams player, Matthews wrote a terrific final chapter to his college career that could end in April with him joining his father and uncle as USC first-round selections.


When the Matthews family gets together during the holidays, that gathering is filled with athletes. It all begins with Clay's grandfather, Clay Sr., who was on the football, wrestling and swimming teams at Georgia Tech in the 1940s and then played in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s. Clay's father, Clay Jr., was a four-year (1974-77) linebacker at USC who played on the Trojans' 1974 national championship team and earned All-American honors in 1977. He went on to play with the NFL's Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons from 1978-96.


Clay's uncle, Bruce, was a three-year (1980-82) letterman offensive guard at USC who earned All-American honors in 1982 and then played with the NFL's Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1983-2001. Clay's older brother, Kyle, lettered at safety on USC's 2003 national championship team. Another brother, Casey, is a sophomore linebacker at Oregon. His cousin, Ashley Nick, is a senior on the USC women's soccer team that captured the 2007 NCAA championship.


Matthews prepped at Agoura High School. His dramatic rise as a pro prospect would be one of this draft's more compelling stories, even without his bloodlines. Lightly recruited as a high school junior, he walked on to USC rather than take a scholarship to a smaller program. "He was 160 pounds as a junior in high school," his father, Clay Jr., said. "His senior year, he just got taller and bigger. But you're recruited your junior year. I was thinking he wasn't going to be able to play football, and I was fine with that."


The freshman linebacker was relegated to duties on the scout team at Southern California in 2004. As a red-shirt freshman, he played mostly on special teams in 2005, seeing action in all but the Hawaii contest (missed that game with an elbow sprain). He managed to record eight tackles (4 solos) to earn his first varsity letter.


Now measuring in at 230 pounds, Matthews earned a scholarship during 2006 fall camp. He served as a reserve strong-side outside linebacker behind Dallas Sartz, but made his reputation when he was named Co-Special Teams Player of the Year. He was also a second-team Academic All-Pac 10 Conference pick. In 13 games, he delivered 15 tackles (9 solos) with a 7-yard sack.


Matthews was again the key backup at both outside linebacker positions and captured the team's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season in 2007. He played in all 13 games, blocking two kicks while posting 17 tackles (15 solos) with three stops for loss. He also caused two fumbles, both coming vs. Illinois in the Rose Bowl.


An intense weight training program during the 2008 offseason was tempered by surgery performed on his hand, but he still ended up receiving Co-Lifter of the Year honors. The now 240-pounder opened the 2008 campaign as a reserve, but took over right defensive end duties for the final 10 contests. The All-American honorable mention and All-Pac 10 Conference second-team choice was named the team's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. He ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles (28 solos), blocked another kick and had 4.5 sacks to go with nine stops for losses.


High School

Prepped at Agoura (Cal.) High School as a linebacker, but was not recruited by the major colleges..."He was 160 pounds as a junior in high school," his father, Clay Jr., said. "His senior year, he just got taller and bigger. But you're recruited your junior year. I was thinking he wasn't going to be able to play football, and I was fine with that."


Copyright NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

Analysis

Positives: Ascending player who may be just scratching the surface of his potential. Well-built athlete whose dedication in the weight-room is obvious in his physique. Reliable open-field tackler. Versatile defender who flashes as a natural pass rusher off the edge. Good speed upfield and has the balance and burst to redirect his rush. Good initial hand punch to pop the blocker and disengage. Good effort and speed in pursuit. Instinctive defender who played well in space as a traditional linebacker. Excellent special teams player. Twice named co-special teams player of the year (2005, 2006). Excellent bloodlines. Father, Clay, played 19 seasons at linebacker and made the Pro Bowl four times. Uncle, Bruce, made the Pro Bowl 14 times and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. Grandfather, also named Clay, played for the 49ers in the 1950s. Pac-10 Academic All-American with a 3.06 GPA in international relations.


Negatives: Has less than a full season as a starter and only 10 career starts -- all in 2008. Surrounded by so much talent at USC that holes in his game could have been disguised. Lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end. Prefers to run around blocks rather than take them on. While he improved as the year went on, remains a work in progress in disengaging from blocks. Suffered broken left thumb against Nebraska, then fractured a metacarpal later in season, then had to have surgery after the bowl game as it did not heal properly.


Compares To: MARCUS WASHINGTON, ex-Washington -- Matthews knows how to use his quickness to slip past and avoid blocks in order to get to the ball and clog the inside rush lanes. He has the balance and body control to run clean and take proper angles to the ball when working in space. He is a solid wrap-up tackler with enough power to drag ball carriers down. He is not big enough to prevent NFL linemen from engulfing him as a defensive end, but as a linebacker he could develop into a solid blitzer. He has the hand strength to get a decent push off the ball and works hard to play off blocks to get to the quarterback. When working off the edge, he can surprise a lethargic offensive lineman with his ability to explode past the opponent and has more than enough speed to close, making him a nice fit for strong-side linebacker.


Injury Report

2005: Did not play vs. Hawaii (9/03) due to a sprained elbow.


2008: Underwent hand surgery prior to the beginning of spring drills.


Copyright NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

NFL News
CONTENT
15