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Is Matthews Worth It?

Is Matthews Worth It?



Now that draft euphoria was worn off, lets meet the Packer's second first-round pick:

Clay Matthews III didn't start as a 166 lb. linebacker his Junior year in High School, even with his father as his coach.

Clay Matthews III did not start a college football game until the 4th game of his senior season.

Clay Matthews III played as a stand-up DE, not a linebacker, when he finally became a starter.

Clay Matthews III was not even rated by NFL scouting services coming into his senior season.

Clay Matthews III started a "White Nation" Facebook group as a Junior in College as a joke.

Are you worried yet?

Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers traded a second-round and two third-round draft picks for the opportunity to select Clay Matthews. Giving up all of that for a player with only 10 starts in college and taking him in the first round? Does this not go against all logic?

Logic would dictate that Packer fans should be (as always) calling for Ted Thompson's head. Just what exactly was this pick based on? If you look at it closely, it's really based on three things:

G.A.P. - Genetics, Attitude & Potential.

1) Genetics:

You can bet that Thanksgiving Day at the Matthews household includes a few footballs being thrown around before dinner. Clay's grandfather played DE for the Forty-Niners in the 1950s. Clay's father was an All-American linebacker at USC and played 19 seasons in the NFL. Clay's uncle Bruce was an All-American offensive lineman at USA, also played 19 seasons in the NFL and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of fame.

"He's got some interesting traits that are not unlike his father," said Ted Thompson, "the Clay who played for Cleveland for a long, long time. He's got the ability to extend his hands and leverage against offensive linemen and stay on his feet.... I just think he brings a lot to the table."

Obviously, Clay Matthews III has great bloodlines. If football players were bought like racehorses, he would have sold at auction for a lot of money. But this is the NFL - do bloodlines really mean that much? Probably not, but it certainly can't hurt, so we have to look at it as a positive.

2) Attitude:

Matthews has been told his whole life that he was too small, too slow and not good enough to be a football player. In High School his own father wouldn't start him as a junior. Even after a growth spurt, hitting the weight room and having a good senior year, major colleges weren't interested. His father tried to convince him to go to a small school where he could play, but Clay insisted on going to USC and trying out as a walk-on.

Pete Carrol kept him on mainly out of respect to his USC-Alumni father and brother. "I thought it was intriguing," USC coach Pete Carroll says of Matthews' arrival. "He had that big family background here. So I thought, 'OK, is there some magic in here somehow?' But I didn't see it. He just looked like a nice, hardworking kid who was undersized, just not physically able to match up."

His teammate, Rey Maualuga says of him: "I just remember how little he was. But he was always in the weight room three times more than anybody else." Indeed, Matthews three times was named USC's top weightlifter on the team.

Against all logic, Matthews was confident he could succeed at USC, home of five-star prospects and blue-chip players. "I knew if I came to USC and they gave me a shot, that I could play", says Matthews. "I also knew if I was going to hang with these guys, I'd have to work really hard and be really persistent. I just kept working and working and getting bigger and faster and better. I knew I was capable of playing with the best athletes in the nation. Maybe I was crazy to have that mind-set, but obviously that's better than saying you can't."

After a red-shirt season where Matthews grew into his current 6'3", 240lb frame, the hard work and never-say-die attitude got Matthews on the field as a special teams player. He had great success in that role, being named special teams co-player of the year three times. As a senior, Pete Carroll wanted to get his athleticism and pass-rushing ability on the field, so they moved him to the 'elephant" DE position, where he became an important contributor to the USC defense.

"Clay is the most famous walk-on we've ever had here at USC," said Pete Caroll, "because he's done so much and he's come so far. He's really transformed his whole makeup. It's a remarkable story, I think, because he was just a skinny kid who wanted to play football. Now here he is, a tremendous player on our team, and he's going to be a tremendous player on the next level, too."

3) Potential:

That magic word that can be used to turn a negative into a positive. For example, you can say that Matthews has limited experience, having only started 10 football games in college. Or you can say that Matthews has only just begun to scratch the surface of his talent and has potential to continue his rapid development.

NFL Combine results are in a large part a measure of a player's potential. Matthews shined at the combine, recording a 4.58 40-yard dash, 35.5" vertical jump, 10'1" broad jump and an above-average Wonderlic score of 26.

The Packers staff watched a lot of tape on all three USC linebackers. Reading through their comments after the draft, it's obvious they felt Matthews had the most "potential" to become an impact player for the Packers.


So Ted Thompson decided to pull the trigger on this trade, which even he admits was a little one-sided on paper. The Packers could have had three new players for our team instead of one. With only ten college games to use as a track record, what did he base this trade and pick on?  G.A.P.

I'm cautiously optimistic, but Packer fans better hope that turns out to be enough.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Elmo's picture


But he has long, flowing, blonde hair...

Jersey Al's picture

AJ Hawk's stunt double?

Greg C.'s picture

I think of it in terms of momentum. It's better to get a player who is on the way up than one who is on the way down. And Matthews is most definitely on the way up. If he continues on this trajectory, he will be a very good NFL player.

The opposite of Matthews would be a player like Jamon Meredith, the offensive lineman we got from South Carolina. He has a lot of talent, but did not have a great career in college and before he senior season he was shifted from tackle to guard, which most people would consider to be a demotion.

Because Matthews is on the way up, we are hoping his senior season was not a fluke. And because Meredith is on the way down, we hope his senior season was a fluke and that his talent will emerge in the right setting. I feel good about Matthews, but not about Meredith.

Jersey Al's picture


I think that's how most Packer fans are viewing it, including myself. I just wanted to present both sides and make the point that there's a decent amount of "hope" involved in this pick.

Sangill's picture

"The Packers could have had three new players for our team instead of one."

We got a 5th rounder in return for the deal. So we only lost one pick, per say.

Jersey Al's picture

You are correct, of course, but not the same value...

Paul's picture

The thing no one talks about in this trade is that one of the 3's was a freebe from the Favre trade. I am sure that the Packers staff did NOT want to actually pick a person with that pick as he would always be known as the man that we got for Favre. Packaging that pick was the best for all concerned plus was a freebe anyway as we were not going to get anything for him if we just let him go.

Jersey Al's picture

That's been discussed in various forums. You can look at it that way - I don't, though.

jeremiah's picture

didn't he play safety in high school? not LB?

Jersey Al's picture

Someone else has said that to me but I haven't read anything anywhere to indicate he played anything but linebacker. He has an older brother, Kyle that played safety for USC. Maybe that's where the confusion is coming from.

Jayme's picture

Although they both have long flowing hair, I'm pretty sure CM3 is the anti-AJ Hawk. When Hawk came in, everyone projected him as the safest pick in the top 10. He was the one who was most ready to play at the NFL level and the least likely to be a bust. He was, however, also nearly at his peak already.

As you've stated, Matthews still has plenty of potential for growth. He never dominated in college like Hawk did, but he has improved every single year and played at a high level his senior year. With any luck, he'll continue on his upward trend and push those around him to continue to improve.

I think you nailed it on the head though, the best way to look at this move is with cautious optimism.

Jersey Al's picture

Thanks Jayme. I hadn't thought of comparing Hawk and Matthews from that angle, but I think you are making sense.

MrBacon's picture

AJ Hawk has the perfect teammate now on his side.

Both come from known Big Schools
Both have long hair that flows through the wind, and stomachs of Forte and Peterson.
Both have probably seen the Mighty Ducks 2

So now, we have the Bash Brothers.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Why would "Packer fans calling for Thompson's head" be logical? He jumped out of this box everyone had put him in and showed aggressiveness and moved up, in a big way, that's not good enough? He filled a need with a promising player who will immediately contribute on special teams as well, that's not good enough?

Dang. What can this man do?

I love Mighty Ducks 2. Speaking of Disney movies, if he has a monster career, it will make a perfect Disney sports movie in the vein of Remeber the Titans and The Rookie. I'd watch that.

Jersey Al's picture

Isn't calling for Thompson's head what most Packer fans do?

Anyway, if you use logic, and nothing else, this is a risky move. We gave up better value to pick a kid in the first round that only has 10 starts in college. Of course, sometimes you have to roll the dice and I'm glad he did. I'm not criticizing Thompson. Just trying to present all sides...

MrBacon's picture

"Anyway, if you use logic, and nothing else, this is a risky move."

Well, I know you know this Al, but all draft picks are a risky move.

It's like that game from the price is right, where you have five numbers and three x's, you just have to reach into the bag, close your eyes, and hope what you pull out is a good one.

Jersey Al's picture

Of course, but you guys are focusing on the wrong thing, here. You're harping on one sentence that was not the point of the article. The point of the article was that this pick was based more on some unquantifiable factors than say, the Raji pick was. There was less concrete evidence to go by than there was for his teammates Cushing or Maualuga, for example. I think most would agree with that thought, if they turn down the draft euphoria (which I felt also) and analyze "logically".

Franklin Hillside's picture

You're right I focused on one line. Oh well.

Is it logical to assume that a 1st round talent would have a chance of being a more of a successful risk than a 3rd round talent, even two of them?

Either way, I get your point, I actually really enjoyed the backgroud info on Matthews.

Is this whole "logic" string a prelude to the new Star Trek on Friday?

Jersey Al's picture

May Clay Matthews live long and prosper...

PackersRS's picture

Quote: <blockquote cite="comment-3412">

<strong><a href="#comment-3412" rel="nofollow">Jersey Al</a></strong>: Of course, but you guys are focusing on the wrong thing, here. You’re harping on one sentence that was not the point of the article. The point of the article was that this pick was based more on some unquantifiable factors than say, the Raji pick was. There was less concrete evidence to go by than there was for his teammates Cushing or Maualuga, for example. I think most would agree with that thought, if they turn down the draft euphoria (which I felt also) and analyze “logically”.


I don't agree with the unquantifiable part, being it refer only to CM3. Intangibles are as important as measurables in determining if a player has quality or not. Clearly, he has the will to thrive, the inteligence and humbleness to be coached and the mind and family support to mantain his focus on the game rather than in the night clubs.

I understand that talking unquantifiables also includes pedigree and inexperience, which aren't intangibles in the used meaning of the word. But college production can be as uncertain, translating to NFL, as can be genetics.

To me, he's as unproven as any 1st round rookie. Though he doesn't have the same amount of production as others, he did produced quite a lot when given the chance, both on ST than in D in his final year. And he has the measurabes to suceed in the NFL. And the history of his family and his personality compensates for the lack of extensive film on him.

BTW, I've defended Hawk before, and continue that, by saying that he will be great this year. The change for the 3-4 will make him better, but the most important change that will increase his performance is the new Strenght and Conditioning coach, Dave Redding. Focusing on stamina and explosion rather than in muscles will do wonders with this kid, who seemed like a G.I. JOE last year, with tones of muscles but zero mobility.

Our LB corpse will be a top 5 for sure...

Jersey Al's picture

I mostly agree with you, but I still feel Matthews has a bit more to prove than the average first-rounder.

While I am far from being a Hawk defender, I too have hopes that he will flourish and make a great inside duo with Barnett.

cow's picture

correct me if i'm wrong but i don't think antoinio gates played ANY football in college. stud athletes adjust. mathews is a stud athlete - regardless of how many games he started in college.

so he's a late bloomer. what's the problem? in this defensive scheme he's gonna be a star... yes - a star.

Jersey Al's picture

Correct - Gates played basketball. He does prove your point, but of course, he is the rare exception to the rule. Matthews is much better prepared than Gates was, without a doubt. We need a star on defense, so I hope he makes it to that level.

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