+Above average change of direction skills
+Some potential in coverage against tight ends
-His long arms mean nothing if his hand usage is terrible
-Terrible instincts against the run
-Very raw, and has no excuse
-Knows the speed rush and nothing else (and he’s not that fast)
-Bad against the run
I’ll be pretty sad for the team that makes the mistake of drafting Oregon defensive end/outside linebacker Dion Jordan. The sad thing is that he’s probably going to be a first round pick. If he is, he’ll be right up there with Zach Ertz, Sam Montgomery, Bjoern Werner, Eric Fisher (haven’t written about those three yet), and John Jenkins in the running for the title of most overrated prospect of the draft (Jenkins has the lead, Werner isn’t far behind). The odd thing is that Jordan was considered by most to be a 3rd round pick heading into the season. He has made virtually no improvement since then (on paper and film), and is now seen as a first rounder. They were right the first time. And seriously; other than a small improvement in coverage, is there really a difference between last year’s Jordan and this year’s Jordan? I don’t see it.
Jordan has solid measurables. He has elite height at 6’6, really long arms as well, below average bulk at 243lbs, and average speed for his size with a 4.68 40 yard dash, per NFLDraftScout.com. He also has a nice, muscular build, and clearly has room for bulk on his frame. Although the height and length is nice in theory, I must emphasize that, as a pass rusher, the only good thing about being tall is that it usually means long arms. Jordan has long arms. However, they’re absolutely useless since his hand usage is absolutely atrocious. He has absolutely no idea how to use his hands to shed blocks. Until he learns to do so, his height is more of a disadvantage than an advantage, because he is too tall to get low and get solid leverage.
Jordan has poor stats. Again, I really don’t understand why his stock rose so much this season. He had 42 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 13 TFL’s in 14 games in 2011. He had 44 tackles, 5 sacks, and 10 TFL’s in 12 games in 2012. Not really an improvement. I don’t worship stats by any means, but they do a better job of explaining the production of defensive ends than they do any other defensive position (tackles aren’t a result of mistakes in coverage, a sack is a sack, and stats don’t give defensive tackles credit for drawing double teams, but ends don’t get double teams anyway). Plus, he does have a tendency to inflate his stats against poor competition (Bjoern Werner should be famous for that, and Robert Quinn was also guilty of it). He didn’t have a single sack against an FBS team with a top 80 (that’s right, 80) ranked O-line this season. And he only had 1 sack against a team in the top 100 (vs. Fresno State). Statistically, Jordan is mediocre at best.
Jordan is absolutely awful against the run. Starting with the positives, unlike most pass rushers who struggle against the run, Jordan’s effort is actually pretty solid. He really does put up effort against the run. He also has solid range. Beyond that, there is absolutely nothing to like. His instincts are awful, he lacks quickness, he’s too tall to get good leverage and doesn’t make up for it with good hand usage, he’s a mediocre tackler, his body control is mediocre, he takes poor angles to the ball, he isn’t a great tackler, his fundamentals aren’t great, his strength is awful, and his strength is so awful that it counts as two negative aspects of his game against the run. His strength is just so bad at this point. People say it will be better when he bulks up, but, if he gets above 250lbs, I don’t see him being fluid enough for outside linebacker, and I definitely don’t trust him to set the edge as a 4-3 end (more on that later), so he’ll be a man without a position. I don’t ever expect him to be good against the run.
Jordan is not a good pass rusher. I can’t emphasize this enough; at this point in Jordan’s career, his height is a disadvantage, at least as a pass rusher. When you are as tall as Jordan, you need to be as flexible as a gymnast to be able to get low enough to get solid leverage as a pass rusher, unless your being blocked by a tackle as tall as Nate Solder or taller. Jordan has above average flexibility, but he’s not Jason Pierre-Paul, so he’s never going to be able to get good leverage as a pass rusher thanks to his height. Also, tall defensive ends may have long speed (long strider), but lack the quickness to dominate with inside stutter steps and other counter moves. So how do tall pass rushers have success? They know how to use the long arms that are usually found on 6’6 bodies. They know how to use swim moves and other pass rush moves to completely control the arms of other opposing linemen and make it difficult for opponents to even touch their chest. Aldon Smith uses his hands as well as any player in the NFL, with J.J. Watt and Kevin Williams right up there. There isn’t a single defensive end in the NFL 6’6 or taller that doesn’t use his hands very well but can still get 10 sacks in a season. A tall defensive end who doesn’t know how to use his hands is absolutely hopeless as a pass rusher. Right now, Dion Jordan fits that definition as a player hopeless as a pass rusher. He has no idea how to use his hands at all, and he also needs some strength even if he does improve his fundamentals. It’s like this is his first year playing football. I’m yet to even see him really attempt some sort of pass rush move. And, unlike Margus Hunt and Ezekiel Ansah, Jordan has absolutely no excuse for why he hasn’t really learned how to use his hands to this point in his career. Although he did play tight end until spring practice of his sophomore year, football experience is football experience, and Aldon Smith, Logan Thomas, Zach Boren, and Owen Marecic are all proof that a player with football experience can switch positions and show some feel for the game. Smith was a wide receiver in high school who got I think 12 sacks his freshman year at Missouri, thanks to brilliant fundamentals. Most players can learn how to play the game just by being around it. But Jordan hasn’t. I have little faith in his hand usage. Right now, the only thing he knows how to do as a pass rusher is use the speed rush (no inside counter moves either). Given that his speed is fairly ordinary (4.68 40 at 243lbs), it won’t give him 10 sacks a year in the NFL by itself. Actually, it didn’t do that in college. As long as his hand usage is terrible, Jordan will not be a good pass rusher.
The one area Jordan has potential in is coverage. His instincts in coverage are average at this point (far worse against the run), he has above average fluidity for a guy his size, and his height and length can actually be useful in this area because he can deflect passes and cover tight ends. Still, having good instincts in coverage is more important, and his are average, but he does have some potential covering the Rob Gronkowski’s of the world. That’s the main reason I see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s terrible against the run at every position, and he’s useless as a pass rusher until he learns how to use his hands, but he actually does bring something to the table in coverage.
Basically, I think Jordan will be a bust. His “enticing” height and length mean nothing unless he learns the first thing about hand usage. Until then, he won’t do anything.
NFL Comparison: This may sound very cruel. Oregon fans and Jordan fans may hate me for this. But, right now, there is a lot of resemblance to Jarvis Moss, except Jordan has no character issues. Moss had tremendous height and length, really lacked bulk and strength at 250lbs, interested many as a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end but really had problems with his hand usage and his ability to stop the run. Moss also had an eerily similar, projectable frame. They’re similar in every way, except Jordan never got suspended in college. Moss didn’t exactly pan out. I don’t think Jordan will either.
Grade: 75 (worthy of a mid 3rd round pick)
Projection: 91 (will be a late first, maybe early second round pick)