Why the Slide?: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Six years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Four years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at email@example.com. I can't promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.
Over a couple of seasons, Gross-Matos was a consensus first-round pick for the 2020 NFL Draft. There was a trio of sophomore Big 10 defensive ends who had huge 2018 seasons, and Gross-Matos was right there with Ohio State's Chase Young and Iowa's A.J. Epenesa as a force for Penn State. Gross-Matos showed more as a run defender than Epenesa or Young in 2018, totaling 54 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss. While Epenesa and Young got to the quarterback more, Gross-Matos still put heat on the quarterback with eight sacks and two forced fumbles.
In 2019, Gross-Matos recorded 40 tackles with 9.5 sacks. He was a good run defender and demonstrated improvement as a pass-rusher over his sophomore year. However, Penn State hurt Gross-Matos' sack production in 2019 by playing him out of position at nose tackle, at five-technique, and in containment. The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder decided to skip his senior year after those two quality years for Penn State, and most teams had a first-round grade for him in the 2020 NFL Draft. Thus, it was surprising when he slipped to the second round.
Gross-Matos slid for a couple of reasons according to team sources. One, some teams felt that he lacked "sizzle" as a pass rusher, aka he wasn't especially fast or explosive. Some teams had him marked for off-the-field issues, but in speaking to a few other teams, they completely disagreed and had him rated very highly for character. Sources say the staff at Penn State raved about Gross-Matos, so this an atypical discrepancy between teams on the character evaluation.
The Carolina Panthers ended Gross-Matos fall early in the second round, and that was a phenomenal landing spot for him. In Carolina, Gross-Matos can line up against right tackles and has the skill set to give them problems off the edge. Gross-Matos should benefit from a lot of excellent talent around him as well. At the other end, Brian Burns could emerge as one of the most dangerous quarterback hunters in the NFL as soon as this season. Burns was very good during his rookie year, and now the interior of the defensive line is much better thanks to seventh-overall pick Derrick Brown. That young trio also could benefit from veteran Kawann Short coming back healthy in 2020. The disruption and pressure caused by these three could funnel a lot of quarterbacks toward Gross-Matos. Gross-Matos also shouldn't draw double teams because of those players. Thus, Gross-Matos landed in a perfect place to launch a successful NFL career.
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