We’re moving on with our draft series, but this time, we take a break from the cornerback position (for now), and move to one of my favorite defensive players in this class, Yetur Gross-Matos. YGM ( FYI, I’m going to abbreviate this a lot,) a junior from Penn State, is one of the more underrated players in this class, and is soaring up draft boards. Could he be an option to replace Emmanuel Ogbah and Terrell Suggs in Kansas City? We break that all down here.
6’5, 266 lbs, 9 3/4″ hands, 34 7/8″ arms, 82 1/4″ wingspan, 20 reps on bench press, 34″ vertical jump, 120″ broad jump. 22 years old (23 next February)
If you’re new to this section, this is called the Relative Athletic Score. Developed by Lions fan Kent Lee Platte, is measures athletic scores, and puts them into a score from 1 to 10 by position. This way, we can evaluate athletic scores accurately, while having a record of each of these players.
(Go follow @Mathbomb at Twitter, it’s truly a great follow and source for information)
YGM didn’t do most of the athletic testing, but in his explosion grade (jumping, he was elite). For what that translates to on the field, it’s primarily batting balls down, something the Chiefs will miss with Emmanuel Ogbah gone.
The main thing we also get was his size grade. YGM grades out with really good size, and fits the general Steve Spagnuolo size mold he wants for defensive ends. Matos has the long arms, length, and weight to set the edge, and play some inside-out, which all Spagnuolo defensive ends must do.
Overall, we don’t know how complete of an athlete YGM is, but with the stuff he did, we can tell he fits the size threshold for Spagnuolo, while also being a really good athlete.
YGM, while not being a great run defender, does some thing well as a run defender. He’ll squeeze the back-side gap in outside zone, condensing the back-side hole. Against read option, YGM does a nice job of spilling inside on the back, while being able to then recover to the outside. He doesn’t plant himself too far in, and puts himself in position to take multiple things away. Against Lamar Jackson, that’s critical.
While he doesn’t hold the best edge, YGM does well in spilling inside gaps, and reading the hole. He’ll give up the hole occasionally, but he’ll make splash plays in the run game by quickly reading the play. Chris Jones often does this as well, and YGM fits that general mold.
YGM is also very good in the stunt game. By playing all around the defensive line, Penn State asked him to loop around and exchange gaps quickly. YGM sells it well, and can sink his hips into a loop. Stunts generally require flexible hips. If you can’t bend and are linear, you’ll have harder times looping around. YGM doesn’t have that issue. With a good first step and lateral agility, YGM can do it all in Spags’s pressure packages.
Overall, YGM has a really good pressure package. Tackles have a hard time grasping all that he can do. He can corner well and keep you honest up the arc, which helps his overall rush plan. He has very good power club/stab, which gets tackles off balance. His rip, or push-pull move, is very good. His inside power stab is also very good. Even when stood up with is first rush, YGM recovers with a spin or rip very well. Overall, for a guy that is 22, his rush plan is nearly fully complete.
Finally, and this may be YGM’s greatest strength, it’s his inside-out versatility. On base downs, he plays the edge, and while he’s not amazing against the run, he wins often as a pass rusher there. Then, on 3rd down, Penn State mixed him around, but he played a lot of 3 technique. He arguably was better as a pass rusher there, using his speed against guards. Guard play in the NFL generally isn’t good, and YGM would take advantage of that. Overall, whether at defensive end or 3 technique, YGM is going to make his impact as a pass rusher.
YGM does have some weaknesses, which is mainly playing the run, specifically for Spagnuolo. He’ll quickly read a gap and try and shoot it, but Spagnuolo doesn’t want that. His defensive ends must hold the edge, and funnel everything inside. We saw the issues Spagnuolo had with Chris Jones doing that at times, and YGM has the same issue.
YGM does that to compensate for his lack of functional strength holding the edge. He doesn’t hold the best leverage, and he tends to get mauled off the ball. Kansas City already really struggled against outside zone in 2019, with part of the issues being every edge besides Frank Clark not being able to hold the edge. As a rookie, I could see him really struggling with that.
Finally, I think YGM has really poor bull rush. I think he really needs to work on his functional strength in the pros, so he can play with more power. Spagnuolo ends need to play with powerful hands and longer bullrushes, and YGM doesn’t do that. He needs some time in an NFL weight room to play full-time edge rusher.
Scheme Fit with Chiefs
Yetur Gross-Matos is sort of black and white with the fit with the Chiefs. On one hand, he’s a great fit, on the other, there’s some concerns.
As a pass rusher, YGM is an amazing fit with Kansas City. He has long arms, plays with good technique, and plays well in the stunt game. He’s not a lean guy, and holds his rush lane well. He can play 3 technique or 9 technique, and still be a very good rusher. His arsenal of moves makes him a fit anywhere on the line. His length and technique gives tackles problems, and his speed is an issue on the inside.
The issue is, YGM doesn’t play the style of run defense that Steve Spagnuolo wants out of his edge rushers. He does a pretty good job of reading gaps quickly and spilling inside to blow up some plays, but Spagnuolo doesn’t want his edges to do that all the time. In an Under front, Spags allows his defensive ends to do that, but they still must maintain gap integrity. They’re liking taking on a double team here, and if you get too far upfield, you’re leaving a massive hole.
We’re not even in an Under front that often though. A Spags defensive end must be able to play the edge, take on the block, and funnel everything to the linebackers inside, who maintain interior gaps. If you can’t hold a great edge, teams will stretch you out. Right now, YGM isn’t good at setting the edge, so if he wants to be a full-time Spagnuolo defensive end, he must have better functional strength and work on leverage with setting the edge.
Overall, YGM isn’t quite the guy to step in day 1 and play all three downs. He’s not Frank Clark. He may need a season or two to fully become that player, but as a pass rusher on 3rd down, he’s a perfect fit. I would love his skills as a pass rusher on obvious passing downs.
YGM’s range fits where Kansas City is going to be. With so many edge rushers on tags or free agents, they’re not many teams with major needs at edge rusher. In fact, when I sat down and thought about it, after pick 16, there’s really only 1-2 teams that need edge rushers with their top need.
If the Chiefs are in the market for an edge rusher, I think he’s anywhere between 20-35. For the Chiefs, he’s likely late first round, which fits exactly where the Chiefs are picking.
Comparison: Michael Bennett
To me, YGM screams Michael Bennett. Both guys are inside-out players, with the ability to win with an array of moves. You can move them around anywhere, and they’ll force you to change your blocking scheme. Speed on the inside is a premium for both.
Neither are great run defenders, but play more opportunistically to get to 3rd down. Sure, they’ll give up gap integrity super easily, but you don’t want to face these guys on 3rd down.
If you get a guy like Bennett at 32, that’s exceptional value. That can be a 10-year player who averages like 6 sacks a year. Bennett (and YGM) may not be great stat players, but year in and out, teams value their pass rushing skills.
YGM is good in the stunt game. He sets up rushers well with speed, getting wide. Tackles then get a lot of width to counter, which allows him to power step inside and loop around for a sack. To execute a good stunt, you need to sell it, sometimes taking multiple reps to fully sell it. YGM has that ability.
YGM doesn’t have a long bullrush, but he instead likes to hit very quickly, knock you back, and counter inside. That works against more athletic, weaker tackles, but against strong tackles with a good base, this won’t work at all.
Again, he needs to work on his functional strength. Quick hitting bullrushes don’t always work in the NFL. Against any type of good tackle, it’s not going to work. YGM has to work on his power through his arms and hands, or else he may struggle to become an elite player in the NFL.
When YGM does read a play correctly, he does spill inside well. He has a good first step, and is able to blow plays up. For splash plays, people will like that (like when people say Jones is a good run defender), but that isn’t the way Spagnuolo wants his run defenders, especially defensive ends to be. They need to hold the edge, and funnel everything inside. For him to play on base downs, he’ll need to hold the edge better.
As a pass rusher though, YGM has plenty of counters. On this rush, he tries to corner the tackle, but the tackle does get depth. Still, the tackle takes one false step back, and YGM recognizes this, and uses an inside rip move to get inside. This rush still happened quickly, using a quick first step and a good angle to get a tackle out of balance.
If we took YGM, he would instantly help the pass rush. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Alex Okafor, and even Emmanuel Ogbah didn’t have good counters. If their rush failed, they just got stood up. With YGM, that wouldn’t be an issue.
My favorite thing about YGM is his ability to play everywhere on the defensive line. As a 3 technique, he’s actually very good at rushing in the 3 tech spot. His first step and speed match what Chris Jones brings. He can use some speed moves and a wide angle to get upfield, and he’s violent bringing the QB down.
Regardless of whether Jones is here or not, YGM needs to play some 3 technique. I argue that’s where he’s best at rushing the passer, and put him there in the NFL with more strength, and my goodness could he be exceptional.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a HUGE Yetur Gross-Matos fan. As a pass rusher, he may be the second best rusher in the class. If his run defense was good, he would be a top 10 pick. The issue is, he’s not a complete player or athlete yet.
YGM needs to be get stronger. His bull rush and setting the edge ability just aren’t there yet. Those things can be developed over time, but he may not make the biggest day one impact as a starter. He’ll need time to improve there.
Regardless, he could make an impact year one as a pass rusher. His rush plan, first step, and explosion is hard to guard. I love K’Lavon Chaisson and A.J. Epenesa, but neither are as refined of rushers as YGM. Regardless of whether we keep Chris Jones or trade him, if YGM is at our pick, I really hope we take him.