Note: This post was originally published before the draft.
Jordan Matthews is 6-3 and ran a 4.46 at the combine.
He played in the SEC and finished his college career as the conference’s all-time leader in receptions (262) and receiving yards (3,759). Yet somehow, when discussing the top pass-catchers in the 2014 draft, the Vanderbilt product seems to often get left out of the conversation.
“Hey, there is nothing wrong with being under the radar,” Matthews told reporters at the combine in February. “At the end of the day I only compete with myself. The radar that I worry about is the one that Jordan Matthews is worried about. As long as I go each day and am trying to be the best player that I can be, then I feel like that is going to help me the most. As far as radars and projections and all those things are concerned, I really don’t pay that much attention. I just have to make sure I can be the best player I can be each day.”
In addition to his height (and the fact that he already has mastered the art of speaking in the third person), Matthews is long. He has 33 1/4-inch arms and giant hands (10 3/8 inches).
Here’s how the measurables compare to other receivers:
You can see the size/speed combination is there with Matthews. And so is the production. As a senior, he had 112 catches for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2012, Matthews caught 94 balls for 1,323 yards and eight scores.
It’s worth noting that some of the numbers are tied to scheme. Per Rotoworld, 45.93 percent of Matthews’ catches came on screens. But he averaged 7.8 yards per catch, second in the class.
Looking at his production from last year, I was impressed. Matthews’ straight-line speed shows up on the field. He’s good on screens, can track the ball well on downfield throws and makes catches over the middle. As is the case with many of the receivers in this class, he has the versatility to play inside or outside.
Let’s start with the screen game and a play from last season against Houston.
This concept should look familiar to you. The Eagles go to WR screens often – either when they have a numbers advantage on the perimeter or when opposing DBs are in off coverage.
Matthews gets a good block, but take note of his acceleration. He speeds down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.
Here’s another one against Ole Miss:
Same idea. He gets a good block, but the speed is there. He leaves defenders in the dust and scampers down the sideline.
Matthews showed the ability to get open downfield too.
Here, against Houston, he lines up on the outside, runs the 9-route (fade) down the sideline, creates separation and does a fantastic job of tracking the ball down. Those big hands come in handy as well.
In some ways, Matthews projects as “rich man’s” Riley Cooper. Both guys are 6-3, can track the ball downfield and make plays on WR screens. Like Cooper, Matthews is a willing blocker in the run game. He is 10 pounds lighter than Cooper was coming out of college, but also has better straight-line speed. And neither is especially shifty or quick in short areas.
What makes Matthews’ ceiling higher is that he can make plays after the catch. Here’s an example:
Matthews runs a slant and does a really nice job of running away from defenders for extra yardage.
Against Ole Miss, he finds a hole in the zone, flashes good hands and heads upfield.
Earlier we mentioned versatility. Below, Matthews lines up inside, makes the grab and takes a hit.
Matthews does a good job in traffic and when defenders are closing in. Another example against Ole Miss:
He will drop some passes. Per Rotoworld, Matthews dropped 7.69 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way, which is slightly above average. And as I mentioned above, he is not especially elusive. I didn’t see Matthews in many jump-ball situations, and he didn’t show the strength to run through guys or break a lot of tackles.
But as shown in the clips above, there’s a lot to like. The intangibles seem good too.
“Everyone was worried about his speed, and some wonder whether he’s going to be just a possession receiver,” wrote NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. “What I know about Matthews is that he’s one of the hardest-working prospects out there. He’s the guy who, whenever he stops playing football, will be a hugely successful person, whether it’s as a politician or a banker or an entrepreneur. He’s a really special guy.”
Matthews graduated from Vanderbilt with an economics degree in three-and-a-half years. He was also a team captain as a senior.