His path has been a difficult one at times, but now, Pittsburgh CB Damarri Mathis is a well-known 2022 NFL Draft prospect, with a scouting report that’s steadily carrying him up boards. Just how soon might Mathis receive a call on draft weekend? And does he have what it takes to be a starting cornerback in the NFL?
Damarri Mathis NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Pittsburgh
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 196 pounds
- Wingspan: 77 1/2″
- Length: 31 7/8″
- Hand: 8 1/4″
Damarri Mathis Scouting Report
Perhaps no cornerback has helped his stock more in the 2022 offseason than Mathis. He entered the offseason largely regarded as a Day 3 pick. Then he flashed at the Senior Bowl. After that, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. And after that, he put up an insane 43.5″ vertical jump and a 133″ broad jump at his pro day.
Mathis’ testing numbers put him in the elite athletic tier for cornerbacks. But playing cornerback in the NFL takes a lot more than athleticism. Does Mathis have the combined athleticism and execution to lock down the boundary? Let’s dive into the tape.
Mathis’ athletic profile
Mathis’ athletic numbers are otherworldly, but it’s important to see if those numbers translate on film. For the most part, Mathis’ numbers do. The Pitt CB is a springy athlete who explodes out of his stance and accelerates in a blink. He can click and close out of zone, and he has the explosiveness to erase gaps.
Beyond his explosiveness, Mathis is an incredibly twitchy athlete with fast feet at the line. He’s an energetic, amped-up mover with lots of potential energy stored in his frame. He can snap his hips around with ease, and he has the speed to run with receivers downfield and prevent stacks. Additionally, Mathis has the fluid hips and explosiveness to recover quickly when displaced at the line, and he also has the agility and recovery athleticism to run with stop-and-go routes.
Mathis does a great job lowering in his stance and sinking his hips on direction changes. But moving beyond his mobility, he also has good proportional length for his size, with arms near 32″. That length allows Mathis a relatively wide disruption radius. With his vertical athleticism and length, he can high-point and make plays on the ball. Mathis’ length also helps him violently extend and jam receivers at the line in press.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Both with his processing and technique, Mathis shows promise. The Pitt CB often uses his feet first in press. He can match receiver releases and carry players upfield with his speed. He has a fairly good balance of patience and aggression in press. With his fast feet, Mathis can quickly set his feet before jamming, and he’s aggressive and active with his hands.
Mathis has a strong technical floor, but his physicality just magnifies his appeal. The Pitt CB is a chippy competitor who doesn’t shrink when receivers impose their physicality. Mathis can squeeze receivers to the sideline, taking away space. He’s incredibly proactive at the catch point, using his long arms to disrupt the catch process. He can get his head around and track the ball, and he also has great ball skills and coordination. And he competes to the end of the rep, eager to rip the ball from the WR’s cage.
That physicality also translates for Mathis in run support. The Pitt CB brings a willingness to attack downhill, and he uses combative hands against blockers. He can use his length to shed blocks and surge into the backfield, and he wraps up fairly well with his frame.
Circling back to Mathis’ coverage ability, the Pitt CB has upside in zone as well. He’s shown he can process quickly and adapt, and he watches the QB’s eyes for intent. He also flashes good awareness and positioning in zone. Mathis can identify and close in on underneath routes.
Areas for improvement
There’s a ton to like with Mathis, but the Pitt CB isn’t a perfect prospect. Mathis’ technique, while promising, does have room to improve. Mathis sometimes gets flat-footed on transitions, delaying recovery. He can also be a bit uncontrolled with his movement. He has spry athleticism, but he doesn’t always stay tight or composed. The Pitt CB can be baited into over-setting and has room to be a more efficient mover.
Going further, Mathis sometimes gets caught with lead feet at the line. While he’s normally good with his jams, he occasionally reaches before moving his base. He also sometimes gets worked too far upfield by releases allowing WRs to break inside. Furthermore, Mathis can attain better leverage downfield at times, as he’ll occasionally give too much cushion and be late to react to in-breaking routes. Mathis is also prone to occasional communication mishaps and can have better discipline with his blind spots.
Mathis’ physicality and tenacity, meanwhile, can be a double-edged sword. The Pitt CB can be over-aggressive and bite on underneath routes, leaving WRs open up top. He can also be overly grabby in close quarters, and he sometimes relies on tugs when receivers get a step on him. His style draws flags at times, and that issue could be exacerbated in the NFL.
Among other things, Mathis doesn’t always show the strength to make solo tackles. Additionally, while he’s solid in run support, he can get washed out at times, and he can take better attack angles.
Mathis’ 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Athletic testing merely confirmed what’s visible on tape for Mathis. While he’s fallen under the radar for a large part of this cycle, Mathis was quietly one of the better cornerbacks in the league last season. Mathis is explosive, fluid, twitchy, and physical. On top of that, he flashes great press technique at the line, can run with receivers downfield, and has the ball skills to be a playmaker and turnover generator.
Mathis isn’t quite an elite size threat, and he can also stand to clean up some parts of his technique and reduce positioning errors. But all the tools are there for Mathis to be a quality starter, especially in a press-heavy scheme. He also flashes the awareness and closing speed to make plays in zone.
Mathis does have a notable injury history, which may dull his stock a bit. But the soon-to-be 23-year-old is easily worth a Day 2 pick based on his tape and testing. His elite athletic makeup and steely physicality would be maximized in a press-heavy scheme, but he has the traits to become a relatively scheme-versatile starter on the boundary.
Mathis’ Player Profile
Talent always rises to the top. That’s a mantra that Mathis has lived at multiple levels — because he’s never started at the top. He always has to work his way up, but he has no problem doing just that.
Mathis was a productive starter for three years at Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida. He amassed 5 picks and 27 pass deflections over that span and also tested well, running a 4.69 40-yard dash and logging a 40.6″ vertical.
Despite his production and testing, Mathis was just a three-star recruit in the 2017 class. He earned interest from some SEC schools, including Ole Miss and South Carolina.
Mathis originally committed to South Carolina, where he would’ve potentially played alongside 2021 first-round pick Jaycee Horn. But just a few months after, he de-committed and soon joined the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Mathis’ career at Pitt
Mathis had to earn his keep at Pitt. He started on special teams as a true freshman in 2017, picking up his first in-game action as a gunner and reserve cornerback. In 2018, Mathis slowly gained more experience. He played in 14 games and made two starts, collecting 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a pick, and a pass deflection.
2019 was the Pitt CB’s breakout. Mathis started 10 games for the Panthers and emerged as a premier playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. He amassed 23 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 11 pass deflections, earning a reputation as a dynamic defender at the catch point.
Mathis built a lot of momentum with his 2019 campaign, but that momentum came to a crashing halt in 2020. In August, just before the start of the 2020 season, it was announced that Mathis had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. It was a tough blow, but Mathis used his redshirt and worked his way back. And by the end of 2021, he’d come back stronger.
In 2021, Mathis started 13 games for Pitt as the team’s alpha CB, picking up 43 tackles, 2 picks, 5 deflections, and a defensive touchdown. He earned All-ACC honors, earning a place on the honorable mention squad.
Mathis’ NFL Draft ascension
Consensus holds that Kenny Pickett is the Panthers’ highest-rated Pitt prospect. That likely isn’t changing anytime soon. But perhaps Mathis isn’t as far behind as originally expected. Mathis is an elite athlete at a position where elite athletes are heavily coveted. And on top of that, he’s a physical competitor and a proactive playmaker, with the building blocks to be a stifling press cornerback.
Since the Pitt CB is 23 years old, has an injury history, and still has things to clean up on tape, Round 1 is likely too high. But on Day 2, Mathis could provide great value with his tenacity and playmaking ability. He has great explosiveness and fluidity, the corrective twitch to stick to receivers all through the rep, and the ball skills to convert.
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