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Broncos roster review: Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis

Mathis had to earn his keep at Pitt and he’ll have to do the same in Denver. That makes him one of the more intriguing rookies on the roster.

NFL: Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

By all accounts, Damarri Mathis was one of the more under-the-radar players in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle.

Based on his play on the field and his testing at the NFL Combine, he probably should have been a more on-target prospect. The fact the cornerback from the University of Pittsburgh was there in the fourth round for George Paton and the Denver Broncos is no reason to complain.

Mathis is one of those players who has all the tools to become a good player in the NFL. But there is definite work he needs to put in to accomplish that goal.

#27 Damarri Mathis

  • Position: Cornerback
  • Height: 5-11
  • Weight: 195
  • Age: 23
  • Experience: Rookie
  • College: Pitt

How he fits with the Broncos

There’s no doubt the sky’s the limit for Mathis.

As the profile at Pro Football Network points out, he entered the offseason largely regarded as a Day 3 pick.

“Then he flashed at the Senior Bowl. After that, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. And after that, he put an insane 43.5” vertical jump and 133” broad jump at his pro day.”

As PFN points out, Mathis’s numbers translate to the field (for the most part).

“The Pitt CB is a springy athlete who explodes out of his stance and accelerates in a blink. He can click and closeout of zone, and he has the explosiveness to erase gaps.”

In terms of his weaknesses, here are some from Lance Zierlein:

  • Balance gets away from him in transitions
  • Can’t carry speedy receivers vertically
  • Shows too much respect against drive routes
  • Panic brings loads of penalties down the field

So how does this translate to the 2022 Broncos?

While anything is possible with an athlete who has the ability and traits of Mathis, this could be a learning season for the rookie cornerback. That means he fills in for sub-packages and he's on special teams.

Given his penchant for physical play, Mathis could be a big help for run defense.

As the season progresses, depending on how he digests the NFL, he may see his role expand. But to expect Mathis to jump in and start right off the bat isn’t realistic.

Final word

It’s no secret that I’m a Draft casual. But when the pick was announced, and I saw Mathis’s highlights, he became one of my favorite picks in this year’s Draft.

To get a cornerback with the ability and traits that Mathis has, plus his willingness to play with a lot of physicality, you can’t teach that to players. He definitely has areas he needs to improve, but getting the chance to play and watch, not mention learn, from Pat Surtain II can be incredibly valuable for Mathis if he takes advantage of it.

For the coming season, expect Mathis to play sub roles and help out on special teams. But as PFN noted, he had to earn his keep at Pitt. As a true freshman, he started on special teams. So Mathis has been here before. That shows he also has the right attitude.

Based on his history, I’m excited to see what 2022 has in store for Mathis.


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