In the coming 2013 NFL draft, the New York Jets must draft Dion Jordan out of Oregon University. The outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid and pass-rushing specialist fits precisely into the biggest hole on the Jets' current roster.
The Jets' two biggest needs on defense are currently both at the outside linebacker positions. Their strong defensive line, anchored by Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Kenrick Ellis (three young and talented starters), was able to pressure but not often sack opposing quarterbacks. Their outside linebackers failed them in pass rushing and in coverage, overall causing more damage to the team than any other defensive unit.
Having begun to patch those holes to some degree with the signing of veteran outside linebacker and potential starter Antwan Barnes, the Jets will doubtless be interested in a young player to fill the second hole. While many solid outside pass-rushers exist in this year's draft, Jordan is arguably the best one of all.
Jordan comes with all of the athleticism and talent one could ask for in a draft prospect. He boasts a 4.60 40-yard dash, 122-inch broad jump, 4.35 20-yard shuttle and a 6'6'' 248-pound frame. He is rated almost unanimously as a first-round prospect and is considered by many to be a reasonable option in the top 10 overall. According to analysis from CBSSports.com:
[Dion Jordan has] rare athleticism for his size with loose hips and smooth footwork to move naturally in any direction. Looks like a basketball small forward in football pads with his tall, long frame and flexible joints, looking comfortable in space. Fluid change of direction skills in his transition, quickly redirecting. Very good first step with natural bend and closing burst off the edge to flatten to the quarterback. Active and doesn't quit. Uses his length well with violent hand use, using quick mitts to make it tough for blockers to combat them.
As summarized by Brian Bassett of TheJetsBlog.com:
[Dion Jordan] might have ended his NCAA career on a bit of a down-note due to a torn labrum, a surgery he put off until after the Combine. Analysts loved that Jordan participated in most of the drills while in Indianapolis, even when he didn’t have to. His surgery and rehab will be done by the start of training camp and should not impact his rookie season. Jordan offers a rare blend of ease at covering in space, length, and the ability to attack the pocket. Many argue that his college stats aren’t representative of his skills because Jordan was often asked to cover receivers and tight ends lining up in the slot. In the NFL, Jordan could any number of positions. Jordan could play at the strongside linebacker spot in a 4-3 with the added ability to rush the passer, Jordan could play the defensive end spot in a 4-3, or Jordan could play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
The basic stats (which rarely mean anything at all in college) do not make Jordan stand out as much as his physical talents and developed game should. Most draft scouts have been able to look past this minor shortcoming enough to recognize his potential as a true NFL pass-rusher.
As one would expect, the Jets' front office has shown concrete interest in Jordan. They are meeting with him today in New York, according to Josh Alper of NBCSports.com:
Jordan will make the short jaunt to [New York Jets'] headquarters for a visit with the team currently slated to select ninth in the first round of the draft. Jordan is expected to visit with the Jets through Friday.
The fit appears to be a great one for both the Jets and Jordan himself, a fit that could have 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year written all over it. The Jets' heavily 3-4 defensive scheme and the young and high-quality players along the defensive line make New York an ideal target for someone with Jordan's skills. Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com elaborates on this:
[Dion Jordan's] athleticism as a pass rusher makes him a certain top 10 pick. He'll probably be most effective as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he can also put his hand in the ground and get to the quarterback as a 4-3 defensive end... With more teams using 3-4 alignments, outside linebackers who can both cover and get to the quarterback are prized possessions. Teams looking for the next Von Miller or Aldon Smith could get lucky in the 2013 NFL Draft.
It is worth noting that Iyer views Jordan as the best 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in this year's draft.
If the Jets are worried about other teams who could snag Jordan first, the most interesting competition comes from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles hold the fourth overall pick and would have to pass up on Jordan for him to reach the Jets and their No. 9 pick. The Eagles are in need of a pass-rusher, and their new head coach (Chip Kelly) was Jordan's coach in college. Additionally, the Eagles have reportedly brought Jordan in for a visit.
The Jets cannot control what the Eagles do. However, when the No. 9 pick comes, as long as Jordan is available the Jets must take him. He has the potential to be a franchise-altering player in New York. As Matthew Fairburn of SBNation.com put it:
Should the Jets select Dion Jordan with the No. 9 pick if he is available?
Dion Jordan is one of the most impressive prospects in this draft. He possesses rare length and athleticism that NFL teams will absolutely fall in love with. He has so much room to grow as a pass rusher, which is the scariest part about him. People will say he doesn't have a wide array of pass rush moves, and while that's true to an extent, Jordan can get away with athleticism. That won't be the case consistently in the NFL, but with some coaching, he could become a dominant player.