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 as a junior. He was a consistently dominant receiver that was the most productive and arguably the best in the SEC and within the state of Tennessee, which also featured Volunteers Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, and former Vol turned Tennessee Tech receiver Da’Rick Rogers.
Matthews has picked up right where he left off last season and had not been negatively impacted by Austyn Carta-Samuels taking over for Jordan Rodgers at all. Matthews does not possess any overwhelming physical traits but his combination of size, strength, speed, and most importantly, great technique enables him to be a big time player and a talented prospect. Matthews has the tools and talent to potentially crack the first round but just seems to be the type of player who slips to day two because he does not have overwhelming physical ability and then teams regret passing up on him down the road.
Vitals & Build
Matthews is listed at 6’3” 206lbs. He has a good, broad build for the position but does not look like he is maxed out physically. His speed is good but not great and at times can be deceptive because of his strides. Matthews’ burst is solid but not overwhelming. His strength is a nice asset and he can overpower opponents and block them out without too much difficult at the collegiate level. There still seems to be potential there and he just needs to keep working to improve and get stronger as he prepares to go to the NFL.
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 last year, Vanderbilt had him work from the hashes out unless he is running a post and attacks the middle deep. Vanderbilt would have him run slants and inside routes on occasion. They seem to be more intent on using in the middle of the field this year in addition to the route tree he was running last year. They have used him in the slot and they are comfortable using him attack the middle as much as the outside and down the field. They also seem to have him do a little more in terms of comeback type routes where he sets up defenders deep and comes back to the football. He is able to create a good amount of separation and get open for his quarterback.
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 passes 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 has been the go-to receiver for two different quarterbacks. Matthews does a great job at adjusting to passes 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. Matthews 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 an after catch threat who should only improve this year with more experience with the speed to go all the way.
This year, the Commodores have not been afraid to use him on quick wide receiver screens to get the ball in his hands and allow him to make a play with his athleticism. He has not only shown the speed to capitalize on these opportunities but he is extremely aggressive and not afraid to use his power in how he runs. He can run away from opponents but is not afraid to go right at them.
Matthews clearly has the ability to be a good blocker, but he is inconsistent at times. For the most part, he does a good job of shielding off opponents from the ball carrier and his natural ballast works to make him a real asset. At times, he will lock onto an opponent and try to drive them out of the play, which he can do.
The problem for Matthews is that he will also have times where he simply does not finish a block and lets up which gives the defender the ability to beat him. The other thing that seems to show up is when Matthews will run up and set up a block but giving a lane for the defender to go by with not much movement on his part. Some of this comes to experience but most of it is sheer effort and it could be more consistent.
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.
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.
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. Matthews just seems to scream the type of wide receiver who truly understands how to play the position and will get overlooked slightly because he does not have overwhelming physical ability. There will some less polished receivers who go ahead of him and they will possibly flame out while Matthews has a long, productive career with people looking back and wondering how he could slip. He could end up as a first round receiver but is more likely to end up as a day two pick.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com