Running Back Week: Ryan Matthews

All week, we’ll be giving a scouting preview of a different running back who are coming out in the upcoming NFL Draft who may or may not fit the zone blocking system. Today, we’re looking at Fresno State RB Ryan Matthews.

Who is he?

Photo by Stephen Dunn, Getty Images via Zimbio

Like Dwyer, Matthews has great size – 5’11”, 220 lbs – but he also has a bit more speed to go along with it. More than that though, Matthews has excellent feet and balance so his cuts are hard and they count for a lot, as he’s able to maintain his balance and strength as he gets out of them. He’s a very powerful back, and could potentially handle the #1 back position. Him and Dwyer are very close in skill sets, but I think Matthews is altogether a more natural runner with more power and willingness to plow.

How does he fit the scheme?

Matthews looks a bit like an upgraded Justin Forsett to me; he has a lot of power and balance, stays low, readily runs through arm tackles without losing his balance, and can lower his shoulder to get through a small hole. He is bigger than Forsett, and has a much better frame for the NFL (which hasn’t slowed Forsett down, mind you). He does catch the ball well out of the backfield and has almost no experience running routes, which is a negative. He also was not asked to block for the pass much at Fresno State, but was adequate when he did.

His balance should let him make the hard cut and burst through the hole, but with some durability issues and only one truly solid year under his belt, a few might wonder about Matthews’ ability to cut it in this league. It shouldn’t affect his stock much – missing one and a half games last year, Matthews still ran for 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns. That was against mediocre opponents, but its still pretty remarkable – the only game he ran for less than 100 yards was the one in which he got injured where he had only 8 carries. He had 230+ yards and 3 TDs against Boise State, easily the most difficult team Fresno State played last year.

Summary

Matthews has upside, and as we approach the draft, look for the world of Draftniks to proclaim Matthews “Donald Brown II.” That’s a good comparison, the difference is that the Seahawks don’t have a Joseph Addai to take the #1 spot this year, unless you really buy the idea that Julius Jones is the answer there. Neither Brown nor Matthews appears ready to take the bull by the horns in their first season, and Forsett still doesn’t look like the every down back. As with Dwyer, it may be a bit too early for the Hawks to grab a running back, but if they’re convinced he’s a Frank Gore / Brandon Jacobs in waiting, they should seize the opportunity.

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