Vanderbilt Commodores 2014 NFL Draft prospect Jordan Matthews is part of a very talented group of wide receivers in this year’s class, and Matthews’s work ethic has been the subject of much praise. He impressed us all by requesting tape on cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl prior to the event, and he also made ripples when he showed incredible work ethic and dedication at practices by staying after. There’s no doubting Matthews’s dedication and toughness, and there isn’t a wide receiver in this class with better intangibles. That said, intangibles don’t matter nearly as much at the WR position as they do at a position like MLB or QB, so Matthews has to continue to prove that he has the physical tools that can make him a very good receiver in this league.
I’m one of those people who is high on Matthews, and his college production was just outstanding. I don’t think there’s anyone in this class who is as good as holding onto difficult catches and making tough plays on hard collisions in the middle of the field. There’s a lot to love about Matthews’s game with his size, strength, hands, route-running, and intangibles. But at the same time, there are some things he needs to work on, and that includes being a better vertical threat and using the tools that he has better. Work ethic is one thing, but putting all that work to use and translating that to better play on the field is another. Matthews is coachable, but coachability doesn’t always correlate to improvement.
The NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks is one of the draft analysts that I respect the most, and his “Scout’s Take” piece was excellent. Nothing stood out to me more in that piece, though, than Brooks’s thoughts on Jordan Matthews, and the feeling that I got out of reading his analysis of Matthews is that the Vanderbilt wideout needs to do a better job of gaining separation. Brooks wrote that Matthews needs to improve on his short-area quickness, release off of the line of scrimmage, and “separating from tight coverage at the top of routes”.
Releasing off of the line of scrimmage is critical for bigger wideouts, because most of the corners they will face off against are press CBs. Those are the guys Matthews struggles against, because he doesn’t do a good enough job of quickly getting off of the line of scrimmage to get a step on the CB early on. He doesn’t have the long speed to compete enough downfield, so he has to take advantage of his frame by being savvy at the LOS. That’s something Kenbrell Thompkins was able to do coming out of the draft for the New England Patriots, and it enabled him to overcome average speed. Matthews reminds me of a more fluid, higher-upside version of Thompkins, and I think he’s worth a second-round pick with his work ethic being a big plus. He’s not as polished as some think, though, and Brooks’s piece sheds some invaluable insight on what Matthews needs to do in order to improve.