Draft Exclusive: Double Trouble

While conventional wisdom says the Packers will use an early pick at outside linebacker, they bucked that wisdom in last year's draft. A Day 3 steal could be South Carolina's Cliff Matthews, who met with the Packers at the Combine, a source told Packer Report.

Entering last year's NFL Draft, outside linebacker seemed like a position of need that general manager Ted Thompson would fill in the first two or three rounds.

As it turned out, Thompson didn't draft anybody to play the position, instead signing three undrafted rookies after the draft. From that group, Frank Zombo emerged to win a roster spot and eventually start eight games after veterans Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga went down with season-ending injuries.

Entering this year's draft, outside linebacker again seems like a position of need that Thompson will fill in the first few rounds. But as last year showed, there's no guarantee Thompson will follow that line of thinking. Considering how well Zombo and midseason pick-up Erik Walden played in 2010 and Jones played in replacing an injured Aaron Kampman in 2009, Thompson might be content adding only a Day 3 pick.

One possibility is South Carolina's Cliff Matthews, who a source told Packer Report had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine. A Packers scout also attended South Carolina's pro day this week.

Matthews (6-foot-4, 258 pounds) had a strong workout in front of the scouts, running his 40-yard dash as fast as 4.71 seconds, according to a source. Afterward, Matthews – who played defensive end in the Gamecocks' 4-3 scheme – was worked out as a 4-3 end, 3-4 outside linebacker and even at tight end.

"I think highly of it," Matthews said of playing linebacker when Packer Report talked to him at the Combine. "I'll do whatever they ask me to do – 3-4, 4-3, it really doesn't matter to me."

Matthews said the Packers' Clay Matthews is his favorite player to watch in the NFL. He likes that Matthews plays "hard-nosed all the time," and that's a comment he's heard about himself in conversations with NFL personnel people.

"They like that I've got a high motor and they like the fact that I know how to play full-speed," he said. "I just want to make some noise. I want to let everybody know that I'm a force to be reckoned with."

He was a force at South Carolina. Matthews started at outside linebacker as a freshman before moving to defensive end for his final three seasons. He finished his career with 15.5 sacks and set a school record with 46 starts.

Matthews had shoulder surgery after his junior season, and he played with a shoulder harness for most of his senior season, which helped limit him to 4.5 sacks. Still, he forced four fumbles after forcing three (and recovering four) as a junior. Rather than play in the East-West all-star game, Matthews decided to spend the time getting healthy and focusing on his classes.

Matthews said he's got a "few tricks in my bag" when it comes to rushing the passer. He enjoys the cat-and-mouse game of attacking an offensive tackle, countering what the tackle is doing, and then countering again when the tackle makes an adjustment. "It's really fun," Matthews said, "especially getting a sack and knocking his helmet off or causing a fumble and picking it up and running it back. There's nothing like it."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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