November 5, 2011; Gainesville FL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) during the second half against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt

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November 5, 2011; Gainesville FL, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) runs with the ball during the second half against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews was one of the most productive wide receivers in the country with an impressive 94 catches for 1,323 yards and 8 touchdowns.  He was a consistently dominant receiver that was the most productive and arguably the best in the SEC and in the state of Tennessee, which also featured Volunteers Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and former Vol turned Tennessee Tech receiver Da’Rick Rogers.  Matthews does not possess any overwhelming physical traits but his combination of size, strength, speed, and most importantly, great technique made him a big time player last year and make him a big time prospect for this year.  Other than being healthy and improving on what he already did well last year, the biggest question mark for Matthews having another great year is the quarterback at Vanderbilt since their quarterback from last year, Jordan Rodgers¸ graduated and is currently fighting for a roster spot in the NFL.  If Matthews can continue improving on what he has already done so far in his career and iron out some of the small flaws he has in his game, he could hear his name called early in the NFL Draft, potentially in the first round.

Vitals & Build

Matthews is listed at 6’3” 205lbs.  He has a good build but still has potential to fill out more and become a more physically imposing presence.  By the time the draft rolls around, he might add another 10lbs of muscle and look the part of a franchise receiver.

Route Running & Technique

Matthews has a great stance and gets nice and low to the ground in a position that allows him to fire out low and smoothly.  As a result, he gets out and into his route more quickly and smoothly making him appear faster to opposing defensive backs.  Watching him next to other receivers even on his own team, there is a noticeable difference for how much faster his start is.

As a route runner, Matthews is good for the most part but he is somewhat mechanical.  He can run crisp routes and create separation, but there are times when he tries to set up double moves and he rushes them a little too much.  He also needs to feel comfortable using moves to set up routes.  For the most part, he is running the route exactly as it is designed and will use fakes when the route calls for it.  Matthews tends to run the same route the same way every time.  There is nothing wrong with this in theory but there are guys who can run the same route a number of different ways to keep defenders guessing and create opportunities for big plays.  If Matthews trusts his moves and fakes more and sells them just a little bit longer, the y will be more effective.  There are also times when Matthews will round off his routes a little bit too much and they could have crisper cuts.

For the most part, Vanderbilt had him work from the hashes out unless he is running a post and attacks the middle deep.  Vanderbilt will have him run slants and inside routes on occasion but not often.  For the most part, he is attacking the outside and attacking down the field.  They have had him line up in the slot but when he is lined up there, he is setting up an outside route, particularly flag routes and post corner routes.   From watching the tape, they did not have him run too much in terms of comebacks or curls or dig routes.  Typically, he either goes down the field or goes out to the sideline.

Hands

Matthews has a good set of hands and a wide catch radius.  He has a great vertical leap and has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point and make the big time catch.  Matthews also makes it so his quarterback can put the ball up and he can go get it.  He needs to be more aggressive when it comes to going up and high pointing the football as opposed to letting the ball float over and lands in his hands without having his body in between the ball and the defender.  In multiple instances, when Matthews did not go up for the ball, the defender was able to knock the ball out of his hands because it was down by his torso as opposed to being up in the air out of reach.  Matthews is effective as a hands catching wide receiver but he will get lazy and use his body as a security blanket at times.  In an effort to make sure he secures the catch, he will allow use his body.  This is hardly the end of the world as he cannot do anything if he does not catch the ball but when it relates to turning into a threat after the catch, it slows him down and can make him look slow. He will drop a few balls he should not which probably only reinforces the habit.  Matthews shows good concentration when it comes to catching the football and is fearless going across the middle and through traffic, even though the Vanderbilt offense does not call him to attack the middle all that often.

Matthews shows an impressive ability to track the ball, both going down the field as well as when it goes over his head and shoulders to the outside.  He can make his quarterback look great and excels at catching deep passes and it is easy to see why he was Rodgers’ go-to guy last year.  Matthews does a great job at adjusting to balls that are underthrown.  He is effective at catching the ball going toward the sideline and seems to have a sense of where the sideline is.

Run After Catch

When Matthews catches the ball as he is going down the field, he demonstrates the ability to transition extremely quickly from pass catcher to ball carrier and it enables him to be a big time threat after the catch and make big plays turn into scoring plays.  He makes the catch and adjusts quickly so that he is able to make a move almost immediately after the catch, which makes him dangerous.  He is not nearly as smooth when it comes to catching the ball when he has to come back to the football or his body is facing the line of scrimmage on a wide receiver screen.  This is something that should improve with experience but he needs to get his feet and body more prepared to catch the ball and run to make him quicker like when he catches the ball going down the field.  His first step can be slow.  Matthews is definitely after catch threat who should only improve this year with more experience with the speed to go all the way.

System Fit

Based on what Matthews does at Vanderbilt, he could be a great fit in a vertical offense or a horizontal offense that wants him to catch and run with the ball down the field.  There is nothing to suggest he cannot be effective when it comes to coming back to the football but the offense he is currently playing just does not ask him to do it often.  Matthews stands out as someone that could fit into what Green Bay wants to do or a team like Cleveland and Pittsburgh that want to go down the field, but there really is not any system it seems like he could not fit.  He does stand out as an outside receiver that works the sideline, goes deep and works to the middle of the field.  Matthews is not a great fit for playing in the slot in terms of the traditional sense of the position.

2013 Schedule

Thu, Aug. 29 vs. Ole Miss
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Austin Peay
Sat, Sept. 14 at South Carolina
Sat, Sept. 21 at Umass
Sat, Sept. 28 vs. UAB
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Missouri
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. Georgia
Sat, Oct. 26 at Texas A&M
Sat, Nov. 9 at Florida
Sat, Nov. 16 vs. Kentucky
Sat, Nov. 23 at Tennessee
Sat, Nov. 30 vs. Wake Forest

Notable Games

Playing in the SEC, Matthews’ biggest games and opportunities to play against tough competition are the usual suspects such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas A&M.  Florida has Louchiez Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Cody Riggs while Tennessee has Eric Gordon that could offer interesting match ups for Matthews.

NFL Comparison

In many ways, Matthews plays like Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers.  They are both guys who are effective at attacking down the field, working post routes and post corners.  They can both come back and get the football but they really excel as down field threats and guys who are able to surprise with how open they can get.  Matthews probably offers a higher ceiling because he is bigger and faster than Nelson but no one is going to be upset if they get a productive player like Nelson in drafting Matthews.

Draft Projection

Matthews has a chance to go high in the 2014 draft as he could be a great #2 receiver or potentially a good #1 option.  He has a ton of ability and his technique and understanding of the position should only improve this year.  The X-Factor with Matthews that could hurt him is if the quarterback struggles this year, his production could drop off and he may slide slightly as a result.  This really should not be the case as Matthews shows the ability to be a game breaker, a down field threat, and a guy who can score points.  He has the frame to add strength and become a more physically imposing player.  Based on what he has done so far and projecting that forward, he should not do any worse than being a second day pick with a chance of going on Day 1.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Jordan Matthews NFL Mock Draft 2014 Vanderbilt Commodores Football Wide Receivers

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