Predicting how well a prospect translates to the professional level isn't an easy task. Ask any scout or general manager and they'll tell you the same. These guys spend hours digging for every last bit of information that will give them a better idea of what they can expect from a potential draftee once they join their organization, but they can still get it wrong. Many of them will tell you that successful drafting largely comes down to whether or not the fire within any given twenty something prospect continues to burn after they've received their first pay day, but this is impossible to forecast. With that being said, there are some basic questions that must and can be accurately answered after picking the brains of their former coaches and watching their film. Here are five:
1. Did he sacrifice personal gain for the greater good of the team?
2. Did he work diligently in the weight room and practice?
3. Did he quickly absorb what he learned in film study and translate that knowledge onto the field?
4. Did he dominate his competition?
5. Did he make big plays in key moments of high pressure games?
There is certainly much more that can be asked when researching a prospect, but If one can answer in the affirmative on all five of these questions, then this should provide a solid foundation from which to work upon moving forward.
Without further ado, I give you
wide receiver Jordan Matthews
who I believe is a viable candidate to become our 2014 first round pick because he meets or exceeds all of the criteria presented in the quintet of questions above.
Matthews is just the type of guy that the Carolina Panthers would love to bring into the fold. By all accounts, he is a model student and teammate. One of the things that speaks to who he is as a person is the fact that he immediately tosses the ball to the referee after each of his receptions. He doesn't need to let everyone know how special he is after making a play, which is just the type of humility I could stand to see more often from our own players. Matthews has also been an active participant in community service projects throughout his four year career at Vanderbilt.
A quick look at what Matthews has been able to accomplish from a statistical perspective, and you soon begin to realize that he has been one of the best wide receivers the SEC has ever seen. The Alabama native is the only receiver to ever have back to back seasons with 90 or more receptions. On top of this, he recently broke the conference records for most overall receptions and receiving yards. Did I mention that this was all achieved while catching passes from three different starting quarterbacks? Furthermore, Matthews never had a dynamic counterpart on the opposite side of the field to take some of the pressure off of himself. Not only was he almost always facing the oppositions best cornerback, but he oftentimes had to circumvent defensive schemes that specifically rolled backside coverage his way in order to mirror his every move. You would be hard pressed to find another receiver anywhere that has produced as well as Matthews did under the same conditions.
On tape, Matthews is even more impressive than even his stats would indicate. He runs very crisp routes and has shown an advanced ability to precisely run the nine branches of the route tree. At 6-Foot-3, 205-Pound, he is able to position his well proportioned frame to haul in passes from all angles. He uses outstanding body control to twist and contort his way to catch almost any pass that is in his far reaching area code. Matthews is also a very good open field runner and will fight hard to gain those extra yards even after being hit.
At this point, I would only consider him to be an average blocker, but he seems willing to do the dirty work. One of the knocks on Matthews is the fact that he doesn't possess elite track speed. This is true, but you would be hard pressed to find film of someone catching him from behind once he gets past the defense. That's interesting because his distant cousin Jerry Rice had the exact type of on field acceleration.
Matthews' game reminds me of Keenan Allen, who the Panthers took a long, hard look at during the 2013 pre-draft process. Allen was ultimately drafted in the third round by the San Diego Chargers and is currently just 69 yards shy of a thousand yard season with two games remaining. This is exactly the type of rookie season I could see Matthews putting together should he wind up in the right system.
From my vantage point, Matthews has the ability to immediately vie for the Panthers number one receiver status should they draft him. It is clear to me that he possesses many of the tools that would suggest a long and successful career in the NFL. I firmly believe at this moment that Matthews will be in play for our late first round pick, and I would be ecstatic if they chose to do so.
Now it's your turn CSR. What do you think?
WR Jordan Matthews Career Statistics