After taking Derrick Brown with the 7th overall pick, one would figure that the Carolina Panthers would not take another defensive lineman with their second pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Well, the Panthers in fact double up at that position. Selecting defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos out of Penn State in the second round with the 38th overall pick. What did the Panthers see in Yetur and what can we expect to see from him on Sundays? Who better to answer those questions and give more insight than Penn State’s play-by-play announcer Steve Jones.
Yetur’s football skills are not in question. The 6 foot 5 and 265 pound athlete is an active rusher who can stand up or line up in a three-point stance. His versatility stands out and he has a wide of array of different pass rush moves. What does Yetur possess that can lead to success at the next level?
“Quiet, intelligent, and very dedicated to being the best he could be,” said Jones on his first impressions of Yetur. He is very business like and he is the kind of person that also you can tell is very teachable. He has a real desire to learn, wants to learn, and wants to apply it on the field. If you don’t have that internal drive, you’re not going to succeed at the highest level possible and he’s got all that”.
It seemed as though some teams had concerns about Yetur and that is why the projected first round pick fell to second round. Some reports out there were that the defensive end wasn’t especially fast and explosive. Other teams cited off-the-field issues. Jones disagrees with both analysis.
“He was not always put in a position, especially on obvious pass situations, of being outside. When Penn State went to its, what I would call four defensive end package, he was always flipped to the inside. So he wasn’t put on that one-on-one match-up out there, because he was best suited, because of size, quickness, the ability to go to the inside spot and do the rush up the middle at the face of the quarterback. When you look at some of the elite pass rushers in the college game, there always lined up outside, with that angle, set to go. When he is at that spot he does extremely well. But when Penn State went to that four defensive end package, they put somebody else out there because he was better equipped to go and play inside. He actually sacrificed, as far as I’m concerned, part of his game and he sacrificed his stats to what was best package wise for the defense.”
The off-the-field issues that some NFL teams cited has to do with the tragedies that Yetur experienced as a young child. It is evident though that Gross-Matos has used the losses to motivate him. “I want to do something better for my family and my mother and that’s kind of how I approached it, ” Yetur told the LA Times.
When Gross-Matos was 2 years old, his biological father drowned while rescuing Yetur during a boating accident. A second tragedy occurred at age 11, when Yetur’s 12-year-old brother Chelal was killed after being struck by lightning. How has Gross-Matos been able to move on despite those terrible events?
“That kind of tragedy is just something that sticks with you your entire life. You have to be incredibly strong to overcome, not one, but two major things in you life. and get yourself to the national football league” says Jones.
With Yetur’s versatility, is there one skill that he excels at more and what should the Carolina Panthers expect?
“I think he can be an elite pass rusher. Off the edge, they way he uses his hands. I think he understands angles really well because you have to take an angle to get to a quarterback and he is able to do that. It seems like he is able to do it sometimes in flurries and bunches along the way. Obviously on this level he got a lot of attention from opposing teams. I think he has a chance to be a really, really good NFL player, especially with what Matt (Rhule) wants to do down in Carolina.”