Cornell QB Jeff Matthews
As speculation grows that the Detroit Lions are looking for a quarterback in the draft this year, we will look at some of the lesser known options out there. It is unlikely that they spend higher than a fourth round pick on a backup quarterback. Some analysts, including Jon Gruden, think that the Lions will likely target Tajh Boyd or David Fales. The Detroit Lions have held private workouts with Aaron Murray of Georgia and Zach Mettenberger of LSU. But where are the Lions actually looking to select a quarterback? Mettenberger and Murray are expected to be taken before the fourth round. Fales and Boyd are potential late round picks but both have their flaws. One prospect that stands out to me is Cornell quarterback Jeff Matthews.
Jeff Matthews is a four year starter for Cornell. He has good arm strength, good accuracy and is a good decision maker. He is a natural leader and a team captain for three years. He is very intelligent and was given the ability to read the defense and audible into a play at the line of scrimmage much like Peyton Manning does. He is very tough and was very productive in the Ivy League.
In his freshman year, he completed 54% of his passes for seventeen hundred twenty three yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Those statistics were not exactly brilliant but considering he was only a freshman, they were reasonable. As a sophomore though, he picked it up a little better. He completed 70% of his passes for 3,412 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The key statistic there is that he completed 70% of his passes. As a junior, Jeff Matthews completed 62% of his passes for 3,196 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His senior season saw a statistical decline but he still completed 63% of his passes for 2,953 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Jeff Matthews did not have a strong showing at the combine, registering lower numbers than the majority of the players at his position. He displayed a very low forty time which was expected considering the knock on him is his lack of athletic ability and lack of speed. He will be most successful in a system with a great offensive line as he is limited in his ability to avoid the rush in the pocket.
Matthews reminds me of a poor man’s Peyton Manning. He is more or less a football mind. He excels at reading defenses and audibling into the best play for his offense depending on the defensive alignment. His lack of mobility and accuracy also remind me of Manning. The one key attribute that manning displayed this season that Jeff Matthews did not is the quick release. Matthews is known for having an average release speed. Overall I see Matthews as a career backup, possibly in the mold of a Frank Reich to where he has longevity in the backup role but not in a starter role. I think he could be an interesting addition to a Detroit Lions team filled with quarterback centric coaches who thrive on fine tuning smart quarterbacks. Given his likeness to Manning, head coach Jim Caldwell and quarterback coach Jim Bob Cooter could have their eye on him in the upcoming draft.