NGSC Sports

Jordan Matthews in Proper Perspective

 

Jordan Matthews has proven to be both very talented and productive during his time at the University of Vanderbilt. Matthews, a four-year player, showed his coaching staff he was a very dependable wide receiver as a sophomore when he gained 778 yards and five touchdowns on 41 receptions. In his junior year he nearly doubled those numbers as he amassed 1,323 yards and 8 touchdowns on 94 receptions. As a senior he was able to improve upon those numbers recording 1,477 yards and 7 touchdowns on 112 receptions. Only two receivers in Division One college football accounted for more yardage than Matthews in Brandin Cooks and Davante Adams.

 

While looking through Matthews’ collegiate numbers, they are thoroughly impressive, as is his skill-set, however; there are aspects of his game that give me pause. At six-foot-three, 212 Lbs. Matthews runs 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and has superb hands. While he is quite the physical specimen, Matthews checks in as my sixth-best wide receiver in the 2014 NFL draft. Many NFL draft publications have him rated higher than I do, but there are a myriad of reasons from an evaluation standpoint and five other wide receiver prospects that preclude me from rating him as high as others have. Below I will list the top-five wide receivers in the 2014 NFL draft class followed by Matthews’ strengths and weaknesses.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Sammy-Watkins1.jpg” alt=”Sammy Watkins” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4106″ ] 

1. Sammy Watkins 

Knows how to vary his speeds and sets up his routes extremely well. He as very good hands as he rarely lets the football into his body.  Watkins also presents outstanding versatility as he has experience lining up at all three wide receiver positions as well as in the backfield. He also gives a team added value as a returner.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Mike-Evans.jpg” alt=”Mike Evans” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4107″ ]

2. Mike Evans

A big-bodied receiver who has an excellent catching radius and tremendous strength at the line of scrimmage to beat press coverage. He’s also a former basketball player and is well adept at putting defenders on his back and high-pointing the football.  At six-foot-five 231 Lbs., he will also make his share of plays in the red-zone.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Odell-Beckham-Jr..jpg” alt=”Odell Beckham Jr.” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4108″ ]

3. Odell Beckham Jr.

Beats press-man coverage with ease and gets into his routes very quickly. His quickness enables him to maximize yardage after the catch, as he is capable of getting on the edge of tacklers to make defenders miss one-on-one. Will occasionally let the ball into his body, but is a very good hands-catcher of the football for the most part.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Brandin-Cooks.jpg” alt=”Brandin Cooks” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4109″ ]

 4. Brandin Cooks

Super-explosive player that possesses uncanny acceleration and rare balance. Cooks catches the ball with his hands and is probably the most elusive player in this draft after the catch. Small in stature but plays big, as he does a very good job coming off the ball even against larger cornerbacks.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Donte-Moncrief.jpg” alt=”Donte Moncrief” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4110″ ]

5. Donte Moncrief

An excellent size/speed combo, Moncrief is six-foot-two, 221 Lbs. and ran away from many SEC defenders during his collegiate career. While his speed is certainly noticeable on film, it is further evidenced by his time of 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Moncrief shows the requisite hands, body control and suddenness to make an early impact at the next level.

 

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Jordan-Matthews.jpg” alt=”Jordan Matthews” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-4111″ ]

6. Jordan Matthews

Just outside of my top-five is our subject, Jordan Matthews. As I alluded to earlier Matthews has a great number of positives to his game, but they are accompanied by a few negatives, which has resulted in me ranking him at the No. six spot. Please see below strengths and weaknesses.

 

Strengths

  • Size

At six-foot-3, 212 Lbs. Matthews possesses a long frame that he could still add more weight to.  While he could still fill out his frame, he does an excellent job utilizing his height to come down with 50/50 balls.

 

  • Hands

Likely Matthews’ greatest attribute is his hands. He has the ability to run through the catch as well as catch the football at its highest point. He also has the ability to maintain control of the football through contact.

 

  • Route Running

Very crisp route runner who sets up his routes very well. Has clearly been taught how to vary his speed to lull defenders to sleep and utilize his speed to accelerate past them. Stems off on routes nicely and does not round them off.

 

  • Awareness

Receivers must know down and distance and coverage at all times. Matthews seems to be keenly aware of the sticks as well as his assignment the majority of the time, which is supported by his film.  Every collegiate wide receiver also works tirelessly at catching the football along the boundary. Matthews is second only to Mike Evans in terms of awareness along the boundary in this draft, due to his awareness and superior hands.

 

  • Blocking

Matthews is certainly a willing blocker and shows very good technique while stalk blocking.  He gets a very good base and he’s able to get into the defenders’ chest plate with his long arms and keep them at bay. What makes him an even better blocker is that Matthews comes off of the ball the same way every time which makes it impossible for a defensive back to hone in on whether it’s a run or a pass until Matthew is even with him.

 

 

  • Work Ethic

As a relative of the great Jerry Rice, would you expect Matthews to have anything but a tremendous work ethic? His desire to be the best player possible was on display during the Senior Bowl when he requested game film of the cornerback invites. He also stayed after practice on multiple occasions to run routes and catch the football with the quarterbacks.

 

  • Top-End Speed

Matthews routinely made big plays in the SEC and was not caught from behind. Vanderbilt did everything they could to get the football into his hands quickly, in an effort to utilize his speed, as he was often featured on screens as well as reverses. Once Matthews reached his top-end speed, there were very few defensive backs that could stay with him stride-for-stride.

 

Negatives

  • Short-Area Quickness

Being that he is not an overly elusive wide receiver, it’s not a difficult task for a defensive back to get his hands on him. While he has outstanding straight-line speed, he is not going to get on the edge of tackles and consistently make defenders miss. Matthews is a player that will have difficulty creating space on his own.

 

  • Run After the Catch

While I don’t expect him to suddenly become an ankle-breaking machine after the catch, I do want a receiver that can turn and face a defender and make one miss. Matthews is the epitome of a straight-line runner who is going to leave some yardage on the field. Matthews is a larger receiver but it is evident he has difficulty stringing moves together.

 

  • Separation

This is the reason the good wide receivers make the big money.  The playmaking receivers generally line up on the outside because they can…. separate! What struck me as odd was that Matthews has big play speed, however a great number of his catches are contested. This only further validates my claim that Matthews is stiff and does very little to create space prior to the arrival of the football, sans, double-moves/play-action.

 

  • Stemming

Matthews does a masterful job of stemming off his routes when he has cushion. With that said he has markedly more trouble when the defender is squatting on his route or is at his break. Matthews is going to have to learn to use his size and power through his routes in these instances just the same as Marvin Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals did who had a similar issue coming out of Cal.

 

  • Release

This is a big one folks. Many receivers’ NFL careers have come to a screeching halt simply because they couldn’t beat press-man coverage.  During Matthews’ collegiate career, he was generally given a free release but when he was pressed at the line of scrimmage, he struggled to separate. Difficulty beating the jam is commonly associated with smaller receivers but there have been plenty of larger receivers jettisoned from the NFL with this very same issue such (e.g. Rashaun Woods, Dwayne Jarrett, Limas Sweed and James Hardy). To combat this deficiency, Matthews is going to have to develop an assortment of moves such as a rip, swim or a dip of the shoulder to get into his routes in a much cleaner/expeditious manner.

 

 

Potential Suitors

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I’ve seen scathing reports about Matthews having some “diva” in him, however that’s not what I hear from those a little closer to the situation. Eager to put the bullying scandal behind them as well as add talent at the wide receiver position. The hardworking, sure-handed, precision route running of Matthews makes sense for the Dolphins.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Saints-II$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Saints II” class=”alignnone size-thumbnail wp-image-4121″ ]

Colston is no longer a spring chicken but he is a larger receiver that could teach Matthews a great deal as far as getting a clean release off the line of scrimmage and getting into his routes quickly. The Saints seem to have a way with cultivating talent at the wide receiver position and I believe he would be a tremendous fit in New Orleans.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Browns$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Browns” class=”alignnone size-thumbnail wp-image-4115″ ]

As a Browns fan I must admit, I want to see a more explosive weapon opposite of Josh Gordon more so along the lines of a Brandin Cooks, but I digress. For the right price, I could absolutely get on board with Matthews in Cleveland. Cleveland fans, get one thing straight; teams tilting coverage toward Gordon won’t be lining up their No. one corner against Gordon Matthews will often times draw the opposition’s No. one corner while Gordon faces the No. two corner and nickelback. Is Matthews the type of guy that can line up opposite of Gordon and make teams pay for choosing to defend them this way? There’s only one way to find out.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Jaguars$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Jaguars” class=”alignnone size-thumbnail wp-image-4116″ ]

The Jags are building a solid young nucleus of wide receivers and Matthews would be a quality talent to add to the bunch. If Justin Blackmon can pull it together and Cecil Shorts can continue to build on the end of his 2013 campaign, Matthews could potentially give them another big body in the red-zone with a tremendous catching radius.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Raiders-II$-150×150$.jpg” alt=”Raiders II” class=”alignnone size-thumbnail wp-image-4122″ ]

The wide receiver corps. is in shambles and the Raiders are thirsty for help at the position. Streater and Moore have are solid players and I also like Brice Butler’s potential. However, Criner (who’s got excellent hands by the way), Jared Green, Andre Holmes and others don’t necessarily inspire me. Matthews would go a long way toward bolstering that group.

 

Conclusion

As was the case with former Buckeye Brian Robiskie in the 2009 NFL draft, Matthews has been labeled the most NFL-ready wide receiver in the 2014 NFL draft. Given his refined route-running ability, superb hands and willingness to compete as a blocker, many would argue that he’s as complete as they come. Matthews has produced at a high level since the onset of his collegiate career and it would behoove me to believe that his stellar play will endure the rigors of the NFL.

 

I like Matthews more than the vast majority of wide receivers that have declared for the 2014 NFL draft; however Matthews has received a late second-round grade from me.  Though he went to the combine and was able to time well, Matthews has difficulty separating and is going to have to learn to beat press-man coverage more quickly. It’s a pressure league and quarterbacks rely on their receivers to present them a target in less than three seconds. The last thing a quarterback needs is for the opposing cornerback to walk up on his receiver and throw off timing by merely jamming him at the line of scrimmage.

Not only is Matthews unproven against press-man coverage, he didn’t look very comfortable in the limited sample size I’ve seen of him going up against it.  There is nothing wrong with being a fan of the positive attributes that Matthews brings to the table, but buyer should beware, especially when considering drafting him upwards of round two.

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