2014 NFL Draft Prospects: Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt

Frederick Breedon

The Vanderbilt production machine is far from a one trick pony; his height is absolutely an asset but his ability to run after the catch makes him an excellent prospect for the Steelers' offense.

Jordan Matthews was the Commodores best offensive weapon for the last two years. The cousin of 49ers hall of fame receiver Jerry Rice, no wide receiver has done more with less QB talent in the SEC. The 6-foot-3, 205 pound receiver has had many players throwing the football to him but has still put up great production during his four years in the SEC.

In 2012 he was a first team All-SEC selection amassing 94 catches for 1323 yards and eight touchdowns. Electing to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season he had even worse QB play but yet again had another first team All-SEC selection also earning first team All-American honors from USA Today by catching 112 passes for 1477 yards and seven touchdowns. Matthews has been nothing but productive for the Commodores.

Strengths

The hard working Matthews has many tools that suggest he could be a successful receiver in the NFL. Like any receiver in the NFL his hands are the tools that start the discussion. Matthews appears to have large hands increasing the surface area of contact with the football and allowing for cleaner catches. He has a soft catching motion cradling the football into his hands. He has a good ability to go up and catch high throws and as the play below shows he isn't afraid to go across the middle.

On this play Matthews is lined up on the inside. Running a route over the middle against a zone defense, he knows he is likely to take a good shot from the safety. His QB hangs him out to dry throwing a high pass. Without hesitation Matthews goes up to get the football. He takes a shot but comes away with a clean catch highlighting both Matthews' good hands and his toughness.

Matthews is a smart route runner as well. He shows a good ability to find the holes in zone coverage and the awareness to either sit in the hole or slow his route down when entering the soft spot in the defense. He has efficient cuts in his routes and doesn't show his hand prior to cutting. This allows him to get separation in off man coverage. He is able to use his size to beat press coverage.

His best attribute as a route runner is his amazing ability to turn up field quickly becoming a north-south runner. This attribute is the main reason Matthews excels with his yards after the catch. As soon as he secures the pass he begins to start gaining yards. He has good acceleration showing the ability reach full speed in minimal steps. Matthews isn't an elite athlete and likely won't time well in the combine but he has game speed. As the play below highlights he is player who is a fast as he needs to be on the field.

On a quick wide receiver screen Matthews receives a great cut block from his fellow wide receiver. This gives him room to work. He uses his good acceleration to reach his top speed, forcing poor angles by the defenders. Running all the way down the sideline no one is able to catch him. Please remember this play when Matthews is being knocked at the Combine for running a forty in the high 4.5s range.

Weaknesses

Jordan Matthews isn't an elite athlete. He lacks exceptional long speed and likely won't measure well at the NFL Combine. Like many taller receivers, he lacks exceptional lateral agility. This becomes apparent when he is asked to make a defender miss in space which he becomes unable to do. He is a long strider when running. This becomes troublesome when Matthews has to stop when running full speed. His break becomes choppy and he is slow to stop his momentum. Taking many steps to slow down will only tip off defenders who are assigned to him and allow them to make a play on the route. The play below highlights this.

On this play Matthews is in the slot and is lined up against the safety in off coverage. He will run a curl route which should be effective against the off coverage. When Matthews goes to make his break he struggles. His break is choppy and takes time and it tips the safety off to react. The slow break also prevents Matthews from getting his head around. That combined with the safeties play on the pass forces a dropped pass. Matthews need to learn to come back to the football better on his curl and comeback routes. He also has dropped a couple passes in his college career because he tried to run with the football before he completely secured the pass.

Matthews also lacks the burst out of his routes to constantly beat the DB lined up on him. Can be guarded man-to-man be NFL corners.

Overall

Jordan Matthews is a tall, productive receiver despite poor quarterback play. He has big hands and uses them well to catch the football. He is smart enough to recognize holes in zone coverage which should help him as a slot receiver. He also has the size and speed to make plays on the outside.

Matthews has game speed which is more important than anything he times at the combine. He has some flaws in his route running like most college WR but he displays the work ethic to be able to fix some of the issues. Matthews is one of my favorite WR prospects of the 2014 draft class. In a class filled with big receivers, a poor combine might push him down to the first half of the second round but Matthews has all the talent of a first round WR and the making of a very good pro.

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