All-time SEC career leader in receptions (364) and yards (4,950). Is first SEC player with 90 receptions or more in back-to-back seasons and is the first player in conference history to record 100 receptions in one season. In 2013, made 112 receptions for 1477 yards, and 7 TD's. Led SEC in receptions, and receiving yards in 2013. Cousin of NFL Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice.
A philosophy that has been conveyed by Chip Kelly since he has arrived in Philadelphia is, "Big people beat up little people". The first thing that catches your eye about Jordan Matthews is his size (6-3, 212 lbs). His measurements compare closely with Chicago Bears WR, Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216lbs). He has a long reach with arms that span over 33", and enormous hands which are the largest in the entire 2014 WR Draft Class, measuring 10 ⅜". Matthews uses his size to catch balls in traffic, and shield his body from defenders while making contested catches. The Eagles could become even more potent with an additional Red Zone threat, and in an Offense that places a premium on downfield blocking from it's Wide Receivers, Matthews’ size would be a welcomed addition.
One of the biggest criticisms of Matthews heading into this years NFL Combine was his speed. Many believed he would be considered a top tier WR if only he had the elite speed that WR's such as Sammy Watkins have been praised for. He quieted critics when he ran an official 4.46 in the 40-yd dash, comparable with Sammy Watkins who ran a 4.43. Matthews proved that he possesses NFL caliber speed, and showed that he deserves to be in the conversation as a 1st Round selection. His Coach at Vanderbilt didn't need a stopwatch at the NFL Combine to know Matthews had speed. Screens designed for Matthews were a focal point of Vanderbilt's Offense. I've embedded game tape from the 2012 Tennessee game. I want to specifically point out the End-around at the 0:48 mark, and the WR Screen at the 2:14 mark. Both look awfully familiar to plays we see drawn up on Sundays. Does this look like a WR that lacks speed to you?
Matthews displayed impressive Upper-body strength at the NFL Combine by completing 21 repetitions of 225lbs on the Bench Press exercise. While Upper-body strength is not critical to success at the WR position, I believe it's worth noting for two reasons. First, Matthews recorded the 2nd highest repetition total amongst the WR Class. This led me to believe that Matthews treated his preparation at the collegiate level and leading up to the NFL Combine like a professional. It takes hard work and dedication to train week in, and week out, preparing your body to be successful. That's exactly what would have been necessary to complete 21 repetitions of 225lbs with the build of a WR. I could be looking way too far into the significance of one simple exercise, but I think it may point to the work ethic and dedication that could be expected out of Matthews in the NFL. Second, Upper-body strength can be an asset to Wideouts when facing press coverage, and when blocking downfield. Although this attribute might not be significant, I think it's worth pointing out.
The skill that is most overlooked, but also the most important when it comes to the WR position, is route running. You can have all the speed in the world, and the best hands in the game, but if you run poor routes in the NFL, you'll quickly find yourself on the bench, or playing Special Teams. Route Running is probably Matthews' greatest strength. He's great at finding the soft spots in zone coverage, and gets in and out of his breaks extremely well.
At the bottom of this post, you’ll see a highlight reel from Matthews’ career at Vanderbilt. One of the things that will probably impress you the most, is how Matthews is able to make difficult catches. Whether it be in tight coverage, or while fending off interference from a defender, Matthews is capable of hauling in the football. His more routine catches are made cleanly as he tracks the ball with his arms extended from his body, which is the sign of a good receiver.
Jordan Matthews is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft. I think he projects to be a very productive WR in the NFL, and has a high ceiling if matched up with the right QB and Offense. Matthews comes from a strong family, has a good head on his shoulders, and was a Team Captain at Vanderbilt who acted like a professional on and off the field. With all of the uncertainty and drama surrounding our current #1 WR, DeSean Jackson, I would be excited to add another piece to our Receiving Corps. Let me know what you think of Matthews in the comments below.