Scouting Report: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Scouting Report: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Yet another excellent WR prospect
By: Pete Davidson : March 14, 2014 8:44am

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Jordan Matthews is a player who is quietly slipping through the draft process in terms of publicity. In such a deep receiver-rich draft class, it’s almost a lock that some really good receivers will slip in the draft itself. And, based on the draftnik prognostications I've seen, Matthews could be one of those guys. If it happens, he’s going to be a steal for the team that takes him.

Matthews has a lot more positives than negatives, and he wins with his strengths for the most part. He didn’t get his production drafting behind a powerful offense, and he didn’t get it lighting up poor competition.  I’ve heard some complaints that Matthews needs more strength, but the guy is objectively large and he was strong at the combine with 21 reps on the bench. If strength is a concern, then it’s a concern for most of this year’s class.

I’ve also read a number of reports that questioned his speed. Matthews put that to bed in Indianapolis as well. Let’s take a look at his Combine data.

  • Height - 6’3”
  • Weight - 212 lbs
  • Hands - 10 3/8
  • 40 - 4.46
  • Bench - 21 reps
  • Vertical Jump - 35.5”
  • Broad Jump - 120”
  • 3-Cone - 6.95
  • 20 Shuttle - 4.18

The numbers are impressive for a guy with Mathews’ film and for a big-bodied receiver. Some of Matthews' biggest so-called negatives were debunked. Speed is obviously not an issue and his agility measured very well too, but perhaps the biggest surprise was his performance on the bench. Yes, the Combine is just a workout, but this player had a bit of a punch list and he knocked it off. And it’s not like Matthews was at all surprised, as I said in my Combine Wrap.  

I'll get into our take on Matthew's strengths in a second, but here's what Matthews himself said he believed were his best assets:  "I think my competitiveness. Being at Vanderbilt we had a lot of adversity, we had a lot of change. We had three head coaches, six different quarterbacks, three offensive coordinators, three wide receivers coaches. I think a lot of guys around the country played with a little more stability but I was able to adapt to change and I feel like I was able to come out and be one of the top in my field. So I feel like that is something different about me.”  Being that he’ll have to change offenses yet again in 2014, he makes a strong point.

Let’s take a look at Matthews’ strengths as we see them.

  • Size - You cannot teach it on the outside. Being 6’3” helps on the deep ball, the sideline and in the red zone.
  • Hands - Not only does Matthews have soft hands, he has massive hands and the combination is potentially devastating in concert with Matthews' already impressive skill set. We see a player who could be devastating if he lands on an offense with both oars in the water.
  • Catch radius - Jordan’s not quite Mike Evans on this front, but he is one of the next best things. What makes catch radius so important for Matthews is the great hands. The guy catches all kinds of off-center throws. He’ll grab balls down around his ankles without breaking stride. This brings me to the next trait.
  • Smooth athlete - In the words of the late Sherman T. Potter, there ain’t enough O's in smooth to describe Jordan Matthews. This kid is in-control and this is one of the things we look for in skill players. The ability to remain cool amongst the chaos is a huge plus. Do you remember how we gushed about Russell Wilson and Cordarrelle Patterson? This kid has that same air of cool confidence and he plays that way. He makes it look easy a lot of the time.
  • Ball skills - Matthews tracks the football very well, particularly over his shoulder, and makes excellent adjustments on poorly thrown balls. The massive hands certainly help with that, and in one-handed situations as well. He also gets his head turned very early and locates the ball, which caught Coach Turner’s attention right away. This gives Matthews a consistent edge on the defender or defenders.
  • Routes - We really like the way Matthews runs his routes. He gets into them nicely with a quick release and he sinks his hips nicely for a man his size. He gets in and out of his breaks effectively. He projects to be a very good route runner at the next level.
  • Production - While he was the center of his team’s offense, and while that can lead to some unnatural statistical trends, you have to point out how productive Matthews was. We’re always hesitant to get into college stats, but they are a piece to the puzzle and in this kid’s case, a very positive piece.  Not only was he highly productive, but he got better each season, which is a good sign.
  • Competiveness - It's mentioned above, but it's important to note, because Matthews competes hard all the time.  And, he's done it for several regimes, which is a plus since change is part of football ... for better or worse.  Jordan Matthews likes a challenge and he likes to compete.  We think this serves him well as he moves on to the next level.
  • Intangibles - Matthews' Mother is Jerry Rice's first cousin.  It's not a big deal, but it's hardly a bad thing.  He's also a very smart kid with a good work ethic and that certainly showed as he digested new offenses throughout his college career and got better through the process.

Here's a look at Matthews' highlight reel.

Here's a look at Jordan in his final college game.

I think you can see most of the positives on the tape, but what about negatives? I don’t have much here, because I think most of Matthews’ issues can be ironed out pretty well. For one, Matthews is tall with a slender lower body. That gives him a high center of gravity and this means he can get knocked off his base and rerouted at times. This is an area that he’ll likely improve on over time, and, in fairness, Mathews wins his share of hand-fights with defensive backs. He has the strength. With his body type, it’s more about leverage.

Another thing I worry about just a bit is Matthews ability to take NFL-level punishment, and this relates mostly to his body type. On film, he takes plenty of shots and responds as you’d like, but he’s a big target for hits and he’s not bulky. I’m nitpicking here as this kid was a prolific producer and he did it in the SEC while never missing a start in his four years.

Lastly, Matthews is bit of a glider or long-strider. He requires a little build-up time for full speed, and he’s not a guy who is going to shake-and-bake his way through traffic much. Yes, while he may be calm like Cordarrelle, he can’t break ankles like the former Volunteer does. That’s not his game.

As I said at the top, we feel the draftniks are underrating Matthews, but I don’t think the NFL will. In fact, I think he still has an outside shot at the first round. In the end, I see this guy being drafted some time in the second and I think he’s excellent value there.  If he gets to the third, he is a potential steal.

What teams would Matthews fit best with? Carolina would be a great spot as Cam Newton has desperately lacked a weapon like Matthews since he came into the league. Want a few more? The Jets, Browns, Colts, Broncos, 49ers, Patriots, Jaguars, Seahawks, Giants, Redskins and Saints would all benefit from having the Vanderbilt star’s services.

For fantasy purposes, we want to see if Matthews lands himself a decent QB. That, the depth chart, and the offense itself are the prime issues as they are for most rookie receivers. We’ll be recommending Jordan Matthews for sure, but to what degree is still an open question, as it is with all incoming players.

May is going to be an exciting month this year.  That's for sure.


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