The Washington Commanders have taken Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis with the No. 47 overall pick. Here are five things to know about the newest member of the defensive line.
1. He loves football and takes being a captain seriously.
Being patient and waiting one's turn must be a common emotion for players on a team as talented as Alabama. Mathis was no exception; for the majority of his career, he was a rotational player.
Once the 2021 season arrived, he was a starter and selected as a captain by his peers. It's an honor that he doesn't take for granted.
"That meant a lot, because I know what type of work I put in, but also for the work I put in for my brothers that were beside me," Mathis said.
It's clear to Mathis why his teammates chose him as a captain. Back in February, Pro Football Focus' Seth Galina ranked Mathis as the fourth-best interior defensive tackle in the draft. He had a standout senior campaign with a career-high 53 tackles.
But the stats aren't what Mathis takes pride in the most. Instead, it's his passion for the game, and he knows his teammates can feel that. He thinks the Commanders felt that as well.
"They know I'm a hard worker. They know I love football. They know that I'm a great role model. So, you know, that's just the things coaches, they told me, but I know that cause everybody in Alabama, I know they talk good about me."
2. He already has a strong connection with Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
There's always an adjustment period that comes with joining a new team, but luckily for Mathis, he already has a relationship with two of his teammates on the defensive line: defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
"Those are my big bros," Mathis said.
Mathis never played with Allen -- he missed the eventual first-round pick by a year -- but he was influenced by him. He wore Allen's number for his first season at Alabama, and he talked with Allen during his preparation for the draft.
Mathis did spend a season with Payne, and he said the 2018 first-round pick mentored him during their time together, and they still talk "all the time."
"So that's another blessing for me," Mathis said. "I can't wait to get around those guys and just learn from them and also just come in and help them out."
3. He knows how to crash the pocket.
Mathis had a growth spurt in terms of rushing the passer in 2021. He recorded nine sacks in his final season with the Crimson Tide, which not only led Alabama's interior defensive line, but also contributed to him getting the most sacks for an SEC defensive tackle since 2019.
There's a simple reason for his burst in production: motivation.
"I knew what time it was. I knew it was time for me to step up," Mathis said. "I finally had my chance to be a starter. I finally had my chance not to, you know, sit behind so many guys. There were so many guys that came through I had to sit behind, I had to wait my turn."
In his draft profile of Mathis, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein points out that Mathis "can push the pocket on early down passing plays." He has a strong bull rush that he uses to crash the pocket.
4. He's a girl dad.
Mathis said repeatedly that getting drafted by the Commanders was a blessing. It's the second blessing he received in two years, the first of which being his daughter, Kylei Rae, being born in 2020.
"She's young, but she's smart," Mathis said at the Scouting Combine. "I'm still getting used to the girl dad, but I love her to death."
Scattered through Mathis' Instagram photos that feature him on the football field, there are a few shots of Kylei Rae, including one posted on Father’s Day of the two together shortly after Kylei Rae was born.
Mathis will have plenty of goals during his career with the Commanders. He wants to push himself to be a better player, and he's willing to do whatever necessary to do so. But he also has another, more important goal in mind.
"I'm just trying to give her the world right now."
5. He adds valuable depth to the Commanders' defensive front.
The Commanders have been in need of depth for the past month since Matt Ioannidis was released and Tim Settle signed with the Buffalo Bills. While Payne and Allen are still leading the position, the group behind him has become noticeably thinner.
Mathis, and his ability as an interior pass-rusher, provides an answer to that problem. He'll likely be asked to contribute immediately, and his experience playing as a three technique in multiple fronts amplifies his value even further.
No matter what the coaches ask of Mathis, he's ready to get to work.
"I'm just going to take whatever comes to me and I'm going to go in, just do my job," Mathis said. "You know, whatever coach asks me, I'm doing it."