What Position Should Dion Jordan Play in the NFL?

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What Position Should Dion Jordan Play in the NFL?
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

When you have an intriguing talent like Oregon’s versatile defender Dion Jordan, it can pose a few welcome yet tricky problems in today’s NFL—problems such as determining the best way to use his natural ability.

To reach any conclusions about what position best suits this highly coveted prospect, we had to take an in-depth look at him.

Height: 6'6"

Weight: 248 pounds

Arm Length: 34 inches

Ideal Position in the NFL: Outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. 

Career at Oregon

Thirty-nine games over the last three seasons (omitted freshman year when he played in only six games).

  • 1.84 solo tackles per game. 
  • .74 tackles for a loss per game. 
  • .37 sacks per game. 
  • 4 forced fumbles. 

This output over a three-year college career is neither eye-popping nor impressive, but once you put on the tape, you begin to see what makes this kid so special.

 

Amazing in Coverage

Jordan is quite possibly the most versatile football player I’ve evaluated. He can line up as the slot corner locked in man coverage and not give up a single catch. It is amazing to watch Jordan flip his hips and run stride for stride with wide receivers.

Dion Jordan lined up on a slot receiver and his movement in space. Image courtesy of bigcatcountry.com

Normally a guy with a long frame such as Jordan will struggle to shift his momentum effectively. Tall athletes must contend with their high center of gravity, which can dramatically affect their ability to plant-and-go. Stabbing that foot in the dirt and redirecting in coverage requires impressive reaction time and a great deal of balance and body control. Being able to do this efficiently at 6’6” is a real strength of Jordan’s game.

I could easily make the case that Jordan could hold his own in the NFL as a starting slot corner. His fluidity in motion and overall coordination is what sets him apart from other prospects with similar measurements.

 

Sound against the Run

Jordan does a fantastic job using his long arms to control blockers, which seems to compensate for a perceived lack of strength. His hand placement, use of leverage and good base allow him to be surprisingly effective at the point of attack. He won’t drive blockers back with leg strength, but he can set a reliable edge while also having the ability to shed blockers when the ball declares.

One of the lesser-known nuances to his game is his understanding of the need to reduce running lanes. He does this by not getting too far up the field when the running play is declared early. He also squeezes down blockers while not giving up ground.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan makes a play against the run.

Jordan is impressive out in space and can consistently make plays in the open field using those same abilities which allow him to play in coverage. His long arms are effective tools in shortening the distance between him and the ball-carrier.

If a team is looking to add serious bruisers to its defense, Jordan will not be an upgrade to most NFL rosters. He’s primarily an arm tackler and will never be a guy who torpedoes into his tackles like a Dashon Goldston. Finesse is perhaps the most accurate term for summing up his playing style.

 

Effective Pass-Rusher

Staying true to the finesse theme, Jordan rarely incorporates the bull rush into his pass-rushing repertoire. However, this is not the result of ineffectiveness—whenever his power rush does make an appearance, it was often met with positive results—I can only assume his reluctance to use this tool is the result of a slight aversion toward physicality.

His favorite rush moves are the dip-and-rip around the edge, a grab/pull, which is rarely executed effectively, and a smooth inside-spin move.

Because of his quickness and burst off the edge, Jordan has had success beating linemen to the point and ripping under their shoulders. This method generated most of his collegiate sacks.

. Jordan applying pressure to the QB. Image courtesy of zimbio.com

To succeed as an elite pass-rusher in the NFL, he must be able to add more variation to his bag of tools. Formulating pass-rush strategies and setting up your opponent several plays in advance are critical elements to consistency in a pass rush. These are not yet elements found in No. 96’s game.

One glaring weakness running rampant throughout his game tape is a strong tendency to run himself out of the play. He does this by consistently disregarding the keys which can help determine the quarterback's depth in the dropback. As a result, Jordan can often be seen running around linemen at depths much greater than the quarterback’s drop, essentially eliminating himself from the pass rush.

If there is an elite ability to Jordan's pass-rushing arsenal, it would be his remarkably fast closing-speed. With his long arms and quick feet, Jordan can close the gap on a quarterback with the best of them.   

 

The Breakdown

Jordan can play nearly every position on a defense. Believe or not, if I had to determine his least effective position, it would be defensive tackle. This includes positions in the secondary as well. This speaks highly of his athletic ability and suggests a skillset which favors a linebacker. 

If greatness eludes this former Duck at the next level, it will likely be because he fails to stand out in the critical realm of effort. This is not to say his effort is necessarily a weakness, but more to emphasize effort is definitely not his strength. It is this intangible that’s most often the common denominator found in players we deem as “great.”  

The many things Dion Jordan can do.

If Jordan would have played his college career as a high-motor guy, that variable alone could have doubled his production and impact on the game.

One oddity I noticed for a guy of his stature is the extreme lack of pass breakups at the line of scrimmage. For a guy of his length and size I failed to see a single pass deflection after his rush was stalemated . In his 39 games over the last three seasons, Jordan surprisingly only broke up two passes.  Some of this can be attributed to his tendency to run that wide corner we mentioned earlier, while other factors include his marginal effort and momentary lapses in awareness.

Jordan’s long, lean frame will need to add bulk to hold up against pro-sized offensive linemen. In doing this, he must be careful not to sacrifice his speed and quickness.

Though every prospect comes with flaws, Jordan’s athletic potential far outweighs any shortcomings worthy of a red flag.

Who is the better pass-rusher?

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He does not have the strength, thickness or physicality to hold up as an every-down defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Nor does he fit well as a linebacker in that same defense. Besides, using Jordan primarily as linebacker in that defense would be a considerable waste of rare pass-rushing potential. 

As a result, the ideal position for Jordan at the next level is clearly outside linebacker in a 3-4 front. This will allow him to do the things he does best while maximizing his versatility. Not only can Jordan apply pressure to the quarterback, but he’s also stout against the run and superb in pass coverage. After all, this is technically the position he played more often than not while at Oregon. 

Any team hoping to acquire Jordan's services better have an early pick, as he'll likely be gone long before the middle of the first round. 

 

All measurements are from NFL.com

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