NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
Oregon Ducks defensive end/outside linebacker Dion Jordan has been one of the most frequently-discussed prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft thus far; there’s a lot to like about Jordan, but he is also more of a projection than most of other top pass rushers in this year’s class. Would Jordan, a prospect whose ultimate draft position will be heavily influenced by his Combine results, fit in New England, and ultimately, will the Patriots even have a chance to select him in April?
Jordan’s appeal is obvious; he should measure in at 6’6” or 6’7” in Indianapolis, with long arms and a build which suggests additional growth potential. A tight end in high school, Jordan only recently transitioned to the defensive side of the ball in Spring 2010 and has a significant amount of developmental upside. In addition to Jordan’s height and length, his athleticism allowed him to handle a wide range of defensive responsibilities with the Ducks, adding to his value.
At Oregon, Jordan was employed as a pass rusher, most frequently out of a two-point stance, but was also asked to drop into coverage with regularity, using his size and length to jam tight ends and even wide receivers on occasion or make short drops into zone coverage. Jordan was also a member of Oregon’s kicking team. It’s fair to say that he’s one of the draft’s most versatile pass rushers, with enough film to make teams running odd fronts comfortable with his ability to stand up in the NFL. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock recently invoked Aldon Smith’s name as a comparison for Jordan.
However, it’s important to temper expectations for Jordan before they spiral out of control. The first issue with Jordan is that he didn’t play near his listed weight of 243 pounds last season, which in itself is low for a pass rusher who stands 6’6” or taller. Rather, Jordan was reported to have finished last season at a weight of 226 pounds, which is dramatically undersized for either a defensive end or an outside linebacker prospect.
Jordan is reportedly hoping to weigh in at 250 pounds in Indianapolis, which recalls formerly coveted Penn State pass rusher Aaron Maybin, who bulked from 227 pounds to 252 pounds before the 2009 NFL Draft. Maybin was ultimately selected by the Buffalo Bills with the eleventh overall pick, but didn’t work out; Buffalo released him in August 2011, in part because he had difficulty keeping his weight on, arriving at training camp at 225 pounds that season. Added weight may also fundamentally change Jordan’s style of play; one of his most appealing assets is his athleticism, which may be negatively impacted by an additional 25 pounds of mass.
Another issue with Jordan is his relative lack of impressive attributes as a pass rusher outside of his length and speed. Jordan doesn’t bend the edge particularly well, nor has he developed a wide repertoire of rush moves; he heavily leans on the speed rush or bull rush. The latter skill may not be as effective as desired in the NFL because of his relative lack of strength. Jordan’s long arms should help him shed blocks in the NFL, but at this point he cannot be considered a player with a strong anchor, which may also give a team such as New England pause.
It’s difficult to imagine Jordan in a Patriots uniform next season. He has a skillset which may appeal to Bill Belichick, but probably only if he weighs 250 pounds or more; there is almost no precedent for New England drafting thin players in their defensive front seven. Unfortunately, he won’t make it to the twenty-ninth pick at that weight. In a draft which is thin in terms of top-end talent, Jordan’s lack of bulk, strength, and polish are easy to overlook; if he weighs in around 250 pounds and performs well in individual drills, he could very well be one of the top ten picks in the class, perhaps to a team such as the Browns or the Jets. At 225 or 235 pounds, he may not be big enough for New England.