Over the course of the next several months, the Seahawks and 31 other teams will be evaluating the latest crop of incoming talent in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Kicking off our prospect profiles series, the pass-rush needy Seahawks would be wise to consider Penn State edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos as an early round option to chase down opposing quarterbacks.
Built with the prototypical frame for an NFL defensive end, the 6-foot-4, 264-pound Gross-Matos offers fantastic length and makes up ground quickly off the snap. An explosive first step allows him to rocket past tackles and turn the corner quickly to get to the quarterback, which allowed him to produce 17.0 sacks in his final two seasons with the Nittany Lions.
Exhibiting more polish as a junior, Gross-Matos can win at the point of attack with both power and athleticism off the edge. While he would need to add muscle to his frame to do so in the NFL, he rushed from multiple alignments at Penn State, including from the interior. He has the potential to be a fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, as he can put his hands in the dirt and also has enough quickness to be a standup linebacker.
As a hand technician, Gross-Matos made substantial strides between his sophomore and junior season. He has developed several quality pass rush counters, including a highly-effective swipe and rip move, that he can use to shed blocks and pursue the quarterback.
Finishing with 34.5 tackles for loss, Gross-Matos also exhibited quality traits as a disruptive run defender playing in the rugged Big Ten conference. Using his length to his advantage, he creates extension against blockers to help set the edge and generally maintains adequate pad level, which allows him to disengage from blocks. His athleticism is apparent chasing the football, as he made several tackles in backside pursuit in 2019.
Built with a lean lower body, Gross-Matos may need time in the weight room before he’s truly able to take off as an every-down NFL defensive end. At times, he becomes too reliant on winning with power on bull rushes, which he won’t be able to get away with consistently at the next level.
When his initial speed rush is thwarted and he’s not able to bend around the corner, he has a tendency to get locked up and though his hand usage has improved, he hasn’t consistently shown an ability to get off blocks with secondary rushes in such situations. He needs to do a better job of developing a pass rush plan to utilize his array of counter moves more effectively.
As a run defender, Gross-Matos’s aggressiveness can get the best of him against teams that utilize misdirection. He can be caught out of position with his run fits and doesn’t always do the best job tracking the football, which can lead to plays slipping past him. He occasionally has issues navigating down blocks as well, getting himself turned away from the play.
Why He Fits in Seattle
The Seahawks finished second-to-last in the NFL in quarterback sacks in 2019, struggling to overcome the loss of Frank Clark, who was traded to the Chiefs. For that reason alone, in a draft class that isn't near as deep at EDGE rusher this season, Gross-Matos would make a ton of sense as a possible first-round option.
Coach Pete Carroll will also be looking to upgrade Seattle's run defense after ranking 26th in DVOA in 2019. With his ability to penetrate gaps and hold serve off the edge, Gross-Matos should be able to add another disruptive presence up front who can not only make plays in the backfield but help slow down outside runs that plagued the team this year.
But his football skills aren't the only thing that makes Gross-Matos an ideal Seahawk defender. The organization covets players who have battled through adversity to make it to the NFL and the young rusher plays with a heavy heart every game after losing his father Michael and brother Chelal in separate unthinkable tragedies.
Considering everything he's overcome to reach this point, Gross-Matos would be an excellent addition for Seattle on and off the field. He'd likely settle in as the team's new LEO defensive end, providing an all-around talent capable of thriving both against the run and the pass.