If you are a Steelers fan following the top draft prospects closely, this is a name you may not have submerged yourself in. After all, the Steelers never had a realistic shot of drafting an All-American tackle, right? I wouldn't completely discredit the idea just yet.
During the 2013 NCAA season, Jake Matthews was widely regarded as the nation's best offensive lineman. For the most part, he's everything you could ask for in a left tackle - smart, prototypically sized with quick feet. Although he lacks ideal arm length (33 3/8 inches), he is widely considered at top 10 prospect entering this years draft. What shot do the Steelers have?
The talent level at the top of this year's class is higher than it has been in years. By many, Matthews is considered to be a better prospect than last years top two tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel - the first two picks in the 2013 draft. With the stock on the rise of players like Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan, it's not impossible to see why Matthews could potentially be leap-frogged in the draft.
Because of his superior athleticism to Matthews, Robinson will likely be the first tackle off the board. The second to go is still up in the air. Although Matthews seems like the consensus favorite, Lewan's athleticism and ceiling are too high for some teams to ignore. He has drawn comparisons to Cowboys LT Tyron Smith. Much of Matthews availability past the 10th pick will come down to whether a team chooses potential (Lewan) over pedigree (Matthews).
The talent level is not solely high at offensive tackle in the draft. Defensive line, wide receiver, and defensive backs also dominate the front half of NFL big boards. If players like Anthony Barr, Odell Beckham Jr., Timmy Jernigan or Bradley Roby hear their names called in the first 14 picks, you never know what can happen. There's also always a chance an unexpected quarterback or two land their destination before they deserve to be drafted.
If Matthews found himself slipping out of the top 10, it wouldn't take much for the Steelers to trade up a few spots and take him. Although Kelvin Beachum was surprisingly solid last season, he just simply isn't the level of player Matthews projects to be. Securing a "plug-and-play" talent like him could turn an inconsistent offensive line into one of the leagues best.
I know it's a long-shot, but draft day is often full of surprises (the Jaguars drafting Tyson Alualu in 2010, for example). Nobody can predict exactly how it will play out, but there is always a chance that special talent could fall to the Steelers in the first round.
This year, it may just be Jake Matthews.