KCCD Contributor: Dalton Barker
A common practice when evaluating a prospect is to compare the individual with an already established player in a superior league . It helps the evaluator determine what possible strengths will translate and what weaknesses could hamper the viability of the prospect when facing tougher opponents.
The problem with Dion Jordan is pin-pointing a reference point in the NFL to gauge his talent and predict his transition. Most likely because Jordan was recruited to the University of Oregon to play tight end and switched to defensive end/outside linebacker in Oregon’s 3-4 defense in spring of 2010. His original position has led to Jordan having an uncanny ability to effortlessly play in space; an ability that most young 3-4 outside linebackers struggle with.
For standing at 6’7” and weighing slightly over 240lbs, Jordan has flexibility, balance and loose hips of someone much smaller and lighter. It is uncanny to watch Jordan drop from his 2-point stance into his zone, while losing very little speed and maintaining constant eye contact in the backfield. At times, Jordan looks more like a safety dropping into coverage than a linebacker.
It is this ability to drop into coverage and operate confidently in space that makes it so difficult to compare Jordan with current NFL players. At first, Aldon Smith with his size, speed, long arms and bend seemed like a pro parallel, but even in his second year with the San Francisco 49ers, Smith still struggles when he is asked to split-out on the slot receiver or drop in a zone-blitz.
A player who matches some measurables and athleticism of Jordan is Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Michael Johnson. Both players measure in at 6’7” and use their length to gain separation from offensive tackles, but Johnson is listed at 270lbs which makes him more effective when he is asked to anchor in the run game. Can Jordan gain adequate weight and play with his hand in the dirt? I believe so, but I think it completely nullifies his aforementioned ability to be a “joker” in a 3-4 scheme.
In my opinion, Jordan is the future of the 3-4 rush linebacker. Smaller, longer and more athletic to run with tight ends down the seam or drop into a bubble zone to take away one or three-step throws. Jordan’s main weakness is his weight and ability to anchor, set the edge and squeeze the C gap in the run game. But Jordan has long arms which helps him maintain leverage and he has a very quick hands that allow him to disengage and attack running backs.
Why Jordan will be, in my estimation, drafted in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft is because he is a blur as a pass-rusher. He combines aforementioned athleticism with deceptive speed and a blinding first-step. His initial step forward versus Arizona St. consistently put the Sun Devil tackles in an inevitably position of trying to combat his arm length. Bottom line: if Jordan is able to get a tackle to open his hips, he immediately creates pocket-pressure because he is able to extend his arms and create separation while he uses his natural bend to close the distance between himself and the quarterback. (For reference, tune to 11:56 of the 1st quarter)
To me, Jordan is the best pass-rusher in the draft and I would take him over Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. If Jordan is able to gain some weight and learn how to properly bend his hips and knees upon initial contact, he can be an effective 3-down player in the NFL.
As far as potential, if he can develop a speed-to-power bullrush or an inside counter move, I believe Jordan has Von Miller like potential as an edge rusher and limitless ability to play in space in a 3-4 scheme.
-Dalton Barker is a Journalism student at the University of Missouri. Contact Dalton on twitter @Dalton_Barker.