Jordan Matthews | Wide Receiver | Vanderbilt | Senior | 6'3, 205 pounds
2012 stats: 94 catches, 1,323 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns
Jordan Matthews enjoyed a breakout season during his junior year at Vanderbilt. He was Jordan Rodgers' go-to-guy on offense, and with the added success of the Commodore program, Matthews received a bit of recognition as one of the nation's top young receivers.
The trick now is for Matthews to take it to the next level. Rodgers is gone. Starting running back Zac Stacy is gone. Matthews now has to become the leader of the offense and show that his production will not be entirely dependent on the man throwing him the football.
The 2014 NFL Draft has a few talented underclassmen at wide receiver that are a cut above Matthews. USC's Marqise Lee and Clemson's Sammy Watkins have an explosiveness to their game that Matthews lacks. But while the juniors-to-be seem to have an edge on Matthews, he may have the fast track to becoming the nation's best senior wide receiver in 2013.
What he does well
Matthews is big and uses his size well. At 6-feet-3-inches tall and 200 pounds, Matthews does an outstanding job of positioning his body to make plays over the middle of the field. He is able to box out cornerbacks well and give the quarterbacks a huge target to throw to. In addition, Matthews has displayed a wide catch radius, adjusting well to poorly thrown balls and extending his arms to haul in passes.
For his size, Matthews is impressive after the catch. He's tough to bring down and actually has enough straight line speed to take a play to the house if given a crease. His speed also made him a vertical threat in Vanderbilt's offense a year ago. He tracks the ball well down the field and can make plays along the sidelines. More importantly, he has the leaping ability to win a lot of jump balls. Combine his ups with his body positioning, and Matthews could become a solid red zone target in the NFL.
What he needs to improve on
While Matthews has enough straight line speed to be a threat down the field, he's not particularly sudden in his movements. He lacks the explosive element to his game that other wide receivers in this class have. Due to his lack of quickness, it's tougher for him to gain separation on defensive backs. This might be a correctable issue, as Matthews often takes long strides which limits his ability to be smooth in and out of his breaks and allows defenders time to break on his routes.
Matthews also needs to show an ability to go after contested balls and come down with the catch. He's had some issues with drops, mostly due to allowing the ball to come into his body. He also just doesn't have the same hunger when he has to fight with a defensive back for a contested pass. All of the raw skills are there, he just needs to find a way to come down with those passes more consistently.
Matthews is not the same type of athlete that Lee and Watkins are, but he's the type of receiver that should be able to find a spot in the second round. With another solid season, Matthews could push himself into the late first round area, but he needs improve a few areas of his game, namely his quickness in and out of breaks and ability to make tough catches while being contested.