Phidarian Mathis Draft Stock Rising
A lot of attention is paid to the Crimson Tide defense thanks to the efforts of Heisman hopeful Will Anderson. The spotlight can only be so big, and flashy pass rushers tend to grab more attention than other defensive positions, hence the Heisman conversation.
Still, when guys demand attention on tape on the defensive line, they may not draw the full attention of talking heads, but tape-grinding scouts and NFL front offices tend to appreciate those efforts.
Phidarian Mathis has proven to be a vocal and emotional leader for the Crimson Tide over the season, but his play on the field is starting to make just as much noise as his jovial personality.
Hidden in Mel Kiper, Jr.'s latest position rankings was Phidarian Mathis climbing up to his No. 3 spot at the interior defensive line rankings, leaping Eyioma Uwazurike from Iowa State. Now just Jordan Davis from Georgia (who commands his own presence in the Heisman discussion) and DeMarvin Leal of Texas A&M stand above Mathis in Kiper's rankings.
Mathis, a senior listed at 6-foot-5, 315lbs, may have a hard time eclipsing Davis due to his commanding size for 3-4 teams while surpassing Leal's athleticism for pass-rush happy 4-3 team may be an even greater challenge. Still, Mathis has production and tenacity to boot. His 5.5 sacks are second on the team while his 36 total tackles lead the Crimson Tide defensive line. Against the SEC, his 5.5 sacks are top-10 overall, but just half a sack behind Zachary Carter from Florida among interior defensive linemen.
All told, Mathis shows the tools to be scheme versatile, being an effective player in a 3-4 scheme at Alabama, but showing the quickness needed to succeed as a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense. That versatility could move him above one of his fellow SEC prospects by default come draft day.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic named Mathis among four Alabama players he hated leaving out of his top-50 prospects Wednesday.
"Alabama coach Nick Saban has a strong track record of producing quality defensive tackle prospects in the early rounds and Mathis is next up in the pipeline," Brugler said. "He can out-leverage blockers due to his quickness or overwhelm them due to the power in his hands."
A lot of talk about the Crimson Tide's lack of first-round talent has surfaced over the past few weeks, but Mathis may be well on his way to showing he's worth a look towards the end of the first day of selections.