Saying that Alabama is a factory on the defensive line isn’t necessarily unique — because Alabama is a factory everywhere. But their track record on the interior can’t be ignored. In the last six drafts alone, the Crimson Tide have had eight interior defensive linemen go in the first two rounds. With his scouting report, how does Alabama DT Phidarian Mathis stack up in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Phidarian Mathis NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive tackle
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Redshirt senior
- Height: 6’3 7/8″
- Weight: 313 pounds
- Wingspan: 83 1/2″
- Length: 34 5/8″
- Hand: 10 3/8″
Phidarian Mathis Scouting Report
Names like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Quinnen Williams, and Christian Barmore are recent testaments to the talent that Nick Saban has been able to develop on the line at Alabama. The Crimson Tide have a habit of monopolizing whole NFL position groups with the talent they produce. And Mathis is set to be one of the latest to make the leap.
Mathis didn’t have as much buzz heading into the year, but a career season has earned him several more looks from NFL evaluators. After earning second-team All-SEC honors and an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Mathis is firmly on the radar for NFL clubs. What does Mathis bring to the table, and can he become an NFL starter like his predecessors?
Phidarian Mathis’ athletic profile
Listed at 6’4″, 313 pounds, Mathis has a stout, well-proportioned frame. He also has elite proportional length on the interior, with arms that measure over 34.5 inches.
He can use that length as a conduit for his explosiveness, and he generates great power on the interior. As mentioned, Mathis has solid explosiveness — more than enough to channel power and get displacement on his rushes.
Beyond his combination of explosiveness and power, Mathis has flashed great lateral athleticism and ankle flexion for his size. Especially stunting the edge, he’s shown to have enough athleticism to take on tackles and press to the outside. He also has the lateral burst to manipulate rushing leverage quickly off the snap. The Alabama DT can suddenly accelerate through holes and sear past interior blockers.
Expanding on his athleticism, Mathis leverages his burst and length to blast open holes in the blocking unit. He has the strength, anchor, and lower body density to maintain gap assignments. Mathis can also run with zone blocks and maintain his spacing and leverage. His play strength is a plus, and it helps him compound his athleticism in both phases.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Being a redshirt senior, Mathis has ideal experience heading into the NFL, and he’s used that experience to hone his craft. As a pass rusher, Mathis’ hands are fast, violent, and can be precise. He’s able to stack rushing moves effectively. He has a bull-rush-rip combo in his arsenal, and he also utilizes arm-over and swim moves with lateral athleticism.
Mathis can quickly swipe at extending hands and knock linemen off-balance. He also actively seeks to attack the football and proactively uses his length to bat down passes. He’s great at clogging passing lanes, and his length naturally gives him a larger disruption window.
In close quarters, Mathis uses his length and hands to anchor. With that anchor, he can eat up double-teams and keep his base. He’s also shown to latch and rip down anchors with force, then slide past blockers. When anchored, Mathis has good leg drive, and he always keeps his lower body churning. His traits afford him good versatility on the interior. He’s taken reps from 0-technique to 5-technique, but he’s most effective farther in.
Mathis ties together his game with top-notch energy and a hot motor on the field. He’s a relentless rusher in close quarters who can exert power in sudden, brutal bursts. And with his constant chase of the play, he can earn second-effort sacks.
Areas for improvement
There’s a lot to like with Mathis, but there are also limitations to note. While he has solid explosiveness, his first step isn’t elite. He doesn’t always launch out of his stance with momentum, and he can be a bit upright as a rusher at times, which can make him easier to stall. Additionally, the Alabama DT lacks elite pursuit speed. He can get flushed out of plays that flow to the outside.
Despite his strength, Mathis’ anchor isn’t infallible. He can be more consistent in placing and latching his hands at times. Mathis can also do a better job timing his extensions with proper positioning. He lurches at times, and guards can take advantage and knock down his anchor with adequate hand-fighting. Going further, Mathis sometimes struggles to disengage in a timely manner in run defense. His balance can be easily impacted.
Moving onward, Mathis sometimes over-pursues in pressure, and he has a bit of lateral stiffness when he has to recover. He also opens his torso against power a bit too much and can get knocked back as a result. While he has enough length and burst to disrupt, he can more consistently use his opponents’ surface area against them.
Among other things, Mathis gets taken off the field for long stretches at times, so his stamina may be a minor concern. Additionally, he shouldn’t rush from 5-technique often. He can stunt outside, but his acceleration fades more quickly around the edge.
Phidarian Mathis’ 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Mathis’ anchor can be a little inconsistent at times, so two-gapping out of the gate might not be ideal at the NFL level. But still, with his size, power, length, and explosiveness, he translates well as a versatile interior lineman. The Alabama DT has the traits to line up from 0-technique to 3-technique, as well as stunt to the outside, making him fairly scheme flexible.
If he can keep his anchor consistent, he can be an able nose in a Tite (variation of 3-4) front, with 0 and 1-technique capabilities. Particularly in hybrid fronts, Mathis’ ability to move around the interior and rush from different angles would be maximized further. He may not be an elite athlete, but Mathis still has more than enough burst, lateral athleticism, and violence in his hands to be a productive and multifaceted NFL starter — worth the cost of a Day 2 pick.
Phidarian Mathis’ Player Profile
Obviously, by the time Mathis set foot on the recruiting trail in 2016, Alabama had already gained a reputation as one of the top talent producers in college football. Having accrued 7 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in his final high school season, Mathis earned a high four-star recruit billing. He could take his pick of Power Five programs, and Alabama was one that especially piqued his interest.
Alabama wasn’t the only school to come calling. The 37th overall recruit — who logged a 5.38 40-yard dash and a 24.4-inch vertical — also had offers from Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Texas A&M. But the Crimson Tide ultimately won the SEC sweepstakes, drawing the Monroe, Louisiana, product to Tuscaloosa.
Mathis’ career at Alabama
Despite being a near five-star recruit, it took time for Mathis to take hold of a premier role on the Alabama defense. He redshirted in 2017 and was only a rotational player in 2018. He moved up the rotation in 2019, earning two starts and a half-tackle for loss in action. But his first constant starting action wouldn’t come until his fourth year, in 2020.
2020 saw Mathis become a mainstay on the Crimson Tide defensive line. The Alabama DT had a steady role on the interior, amassing 31 tackles, 5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and a forced fumble in 10 games. It was a stellar breakout season for Mathis, but it would pale in comparison to the production he’d see in 2021.
Mathis developed into one of the NCAA’s best defensive linemen in 2021. In 14 games ahead of the national championship game, Mathis accumulated 49 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, a forced fumble, 2 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries.
It was a well-earned season of success for the senior captain. And that success has also earned him the watchful eye of the NFL.
Phidarian Mathis’ NFL Draft ascension
With his traits and production, Mathis is already earning Day 2 buzz. He’ll be a bit older as a rookie, but with his scouting report, he should be able to hit the ground running and be a part of the defense early in his career. Teams that use hybrid fronts will best utilize his skill set, but in truth, Mathis has a lot of universal appeal with his versatility on the interior.
How far Mathis rises will ultimately depend on his offseason. He’ll get a chance at the Senior Bowl to stand out among other NFL Draft prospects. And his athletic testing numbers will also be under close scrutiny. While he shows good athleticism on tape, he may not have the sheer physical upside that past Alabama stalwarts like Williams and Allen possessed.
Nevertheless, Mathis should pass the athletic threshold necessary to be a starter. After watching the tape, he has the strength, violent hands, hot motor, and reach to adequately supplement that athleticism. A long NFL career should be in his future.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Phidarian Mathis
Positives: Large space-eating defensive lineman who is best occupying gaps. Plays with excellent pad level and gets leverage on opponents. Quickly gets his hands up and uses them to protect himself. Strong, stands up blockers, and holds his ground despite getting double-teamed in the middle of the line.
Splits double-team blocks to get into the backfield and makes plays on the ball handler. Flashes athleticism, smoothly changes direction, and works to defend the run.
Negatives: Must develop more moves and become quicker disengaging from blocks. More of a short-area lineman who doesn’t get outside the box to make plays in space.
Analysis: Mathis is a slug-it-out lineman who has shown improvement in his game and possesses the style and substance to line up as a nose tackle.