2014 NFL Draft: Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews Projects Upside, Value as Prospect

BJ KisselContributor IFebruary 23, 2014

FAIRHOPE, AL - JANUARY 20:  Jordan Matthews #87 of the South team catches a pass over Aaron Colvin #14 during a Senior Bowl practice session at Fairhope Stadium on January 20, 2014 in Fairhope, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It may be more than two months away, but it doesn't feel like the NFL draft isn't just right around the corner.

That's the power of today's NFL, constant newsworthy content and just enough events conveniently spread throughout the year that there's never a lull in coverage. 

The NFL combine has become one of the marquee events during the NFL offseason.

It's where these NFL hopefuls do everything in their power to put their best foot forward, both during the drills and tests but also in the meeting rooms and interviews with NFL front office personnel. 

They are interviewing for their dream jobs. 

One particular player who can simply ask NFL teams to investigate his body of work, both from a work ethic and production standpoint but also from an upbringing and character standpoint, is Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. 

Matthews gives you all the upside you want in a receiving prospect, but what separates him from others is the value he brings as well. 

He projects as a high-ceiling, high-floor kind of receiver, and those players are very rare to find. 



Matthews attended Madison Academy in Madison, Ala., a Christian pre-K-12 college prep school. 

It was there that Matthews learned about more than just football.

While he impressed on the football field, the things Matthews did away from the field will be of just as much interest to NFL teams. 

According to Jerome Boettcher of VUCommodores.com, Matthews didn't have summers full of traveling from one football camp to another in high school, like you'll see from many other prospects. 

Jordan and his older brother Justin volunteered at the local library and hands-on science museum. They were busy with prior service obligations at Madison Academy. 

Four years ago, before his senior year of high school he went on an eye-opening two-week quest to Ghana. Along with more than 20 classmates from Madison Academy, Jordan joined his father, Rod, who had taken Justin (Jordan's older brother) the year before, in building a school for orphans. 

Matthews took piano lessons for four years, taught Sunday school classes and along with his brother was active in Madison Academy's honor society.

All of these things are going to show NFL teams a well-rounded person, not just a prospect. When you're talking about potentially millions of dollars on the line with these contracts, NFL teams want to know the kind of person they're giving this money to. 

In that same article, Matthews' mother, Brenda, shared her feelings on Jordan being involved in all of these different activities. 

We tried to make sure they were well-rounded kids,” Brenda said. “They were involved in the arts. They were involved in academics, and they were involved in community activities. Just to make sure they had an understanding that it wasn’t all about just sports. Understanding there was a lot more. 

One of the other obvious connections people will make and discuss with Matthews has to deal with his family ties; former 49ers great and Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice is his second cousin

It's probably not a bad thing to be related to arguably the greatest receiver in NFL history, especially if you're a receiver prospect. 

While the family connection to Rice is a great talking point, Matthews has a pretty good resume all by himself, thanks to a storied career at Vanderbilt. 


Career at Vanderbilt

One of the most decorated receivers in Vanderbilt history, Matthews left a legacy of excellence on the one school that offered him a college scholarship coming out of high school. 

Matthews left Vanderbilt as the Commodores' all-time leading receiver, but his 262 receptions and 3,759 receiving yards are also the best in SEC history. 

He was named a USA Today first-team All-American and Biletnikoff (top college receiver) semifinalist in 2013. 

Jordan Matthews Career at Vanderbilt

One player comparison for Matthews that's been floated around is Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson

But it's more than just measurements and numbers that connect these two players. 

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Wide receiver Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers appears to make a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter, but it was ruled an incomplete pass at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, W
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Matthews' college coach for the last three years at Vanderbilt, James Franklin, was the offensive coordinator for Kansas State during Nelson's senior season. 

Nelson, a former walk-on safety at K-State, developed into a premier college receiver under Franklin's guidance. 

While Nelson has since made a name for himself with the Packers catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, Matthews spent two years of his college career catching passes from Rodgers' younger brother, Jordan (h/t ACME Packing Company). 

The connections are there and will only continue as we go further into this draft process.

Matthews is 6'3" and 206 pounds, while Nelson is 6'3" and 217 pounds.

They have about the same speed and were both considered strictly possession receivers before their respective drafts. 

Nelson was taken in the second round with the No. 36 overall pick back in 2008; Matthews is projected as a second-round pick by many. 

Expect this comparison to continue. 



Matthews' numbers are impressive. 

It's easy to look at the accolades, see "SEC's all-time leading receiver" and forget about the skill set and details that put him into that position. 

From a character standpoint, Matthews passes all of the tests with flying colors. 

He's currently the No. 48-ranked player (No. 8 WR) according to CBSSports.com.

Bleacher Report's head NFL draft writer, Matt Miller, has Matthews going No. 45 overall to the Detroit Lions in his latest mock draft. 

At 6'3" and 206 pounds, Matthews has good size for the position and has a wide catching radius.

As you can see from this video below, the ceiling for Matthews is high. He might not be a blazing-fast runner, but he can simply make plays.

There was another famous receiver who also wasn't known to have blazing speed; Matthews happens to be related to him as well.

Rice wasn't known as a burner, but he did alright for himself. 

In this article by Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Wyatt shares a bit about recent drafts and the infatuation with speed. 

According to the NFL, 15 receiver prospects have run a sub-4.40 in the 40-yard dash in the last five years. Of those 15, Mike Wallace is the only one to produce a 1,000-yard season (2010 and 2011).

Wallace, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Johnny Knox are the only three to have even reached 1,000 career receiving yards.

This isn't to say speed isn't important.

Obviously it's a factor for a receiver, but Matthews was consistently productive playing receiver in the top college football conference in the country. He knows how to produce on the field, and that's more important than a 10th of a second on a 40-yard dash time. 

The fact that Matthews could be available in the second round would present great value for any team with a need at receiver.

Matthews gives you all of the physical measurements you're looking for at the position.

He checks out from a character standpoint and is constantly praised for his work ethic. 

He even watched tape on cornerbacks he was going to face at the Senior Bowl before he headed down there. He stayed after practice in Mobile to get extra reps in with quarterback Derek Carr. 

He's simply wired the right way.

Matthews gives you the upside you want with his size and athleticism. He presents excellent value in that he's a very low risk to not contribute at all. 

Whether Matthews strictly becomes a possession receiver or graduates toward something bigger, there's no denying the team that takes him is going to feel good about its chances in getting the most out of him. 

He's proven time and time again to make guys look smart who give him an opportunity.