DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Justin Higdon
Often when studying an NFL Draft prospect, the tendency can be toward pigeonholing that player into a certain category. Drop back passer, possession receiver, power running back, run stuffer, pass rusher, etc. A few times each year, players come along who show variety on the field. A running back who can split out wide. A receiver who can return kicks or maybe even throw a pass. A lineman who can line up inside or out. These examples are fairly common. But this year’s draft features a 6’7” tall defensive end who can line up and cover a slot wide receiver. Oregon’s Dion Jordan is a rare bird, and will offer unique possibilities to any team that drafts him. But how will his game translate to the next level? This question will make Jordan one of the most interesting players from this draft class for years to come.
Dion Jordan Oregon 6’7” 243
A long, slender athlete with excellent closing speed in pursuit, Jordan uses a variety of pass rush moves rather than relying purely on that speed. His spin move, either to the outside or inside, appears to be his most polished and effective move right now. He’s a versatile player who can line up on a punt block, or cover a receiver in the slot. The Ducks will use him in this role extensively, depending on the opponent, and at times Jordan will get a solid bump at the line and stay step for step with the receiver. However, Jordan’s height and long strides make it less likely that he would be able to stick with quicker NFL slot receivers. It’s a fun skill at the collegiate level, but it takes Jordan away from what he does best, and puts him in a square hole, so to speak.
Jordan lacks strength and can be blocked one on one at the line of scrimmage with stronger tight ends. In reviewing footage from 2011, this occurred much too often. In fact, he’s even been blocked by some of the slot receivers he’s lined up against. While he gives good effort trailing plays, he’s not much of a factor versus the run. At times, Jordan will line up wide of the tackle, looking to gain an edge with his speed. In these instances, an opponent can take advantage of the alignment by motioning or lining up a tight end to Jordan’s side, and running right at him. Washington had some success with this strategy in a 2011 matchup.
Jordan exhibits good flexibility. He is able to gain leverage by taking a quick first step and dipping around the outside shoulder of the tackle. But if he doesn’t get that first step advantage he is liable to get overpowered. If he is going to play defensive end in the NFL he will need to add strength and bulk up without sacrificing his speed and athleticism. Considering that his playing weight dipped to 225 pounds last season, this may prove impossible. Trying to project if he’ll be able to do that makes him a difficult player to evaluate. For that reason he is almost certainly best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in which his primary responsibility would be rushing the passer.
Effort isn’t an issue with Jordan. He will fight to get off blocks, even if he is not always successful. He will pursue run plays down the line of scrimmage and hustle until the whistle blows. He also shows ability to adapt within games. For example, earlier this season, Fresno State tried to neutralize Jordan with cut blocks from the running backs in pass protection. Later in the game, Jordan recognized the cut block attempt, side stepped it, and applied pressure to the quarterback. It will be crucial for him to continue to make adjustments during the chess matches he’ll be a part of at the NFL level.
Jordan is an exciting prospect, but he doesn’t appear to have a natural position. Luckily, he does display top-flight athletic ability, a strong motor, and a willingness to succeed at a variety of roles. These attributes and the potential that comes along with them make Jordan a viable first round draft choice.
Vs. Arizona State (’12)
- Lines up on the slot WR but also gets blocked by that WR on the run play.
- Lines up as a standup OLB and beats the LT with speed around the bend for a sack.
- Lines up at OLB and beats the RT with speed but doesn’t wrap up and misses the sack.
- Dips under the RT’s reach and gets a sack
Vs. Fresno State (’12)
- Unblocked, they run away from him and he pursues down the line to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage (LOS).
- Gets cut blocked twice on a pass rush – is this an effective way to neutralize him due to his height?
- He is assigned to cover frequently but not sure he is that effective in coverage.
- Playing with his hand on the ground more in this game.
- He is able to fight off a couple of blocks for run stops near the LOS.
- Stays with a play to get a coverage sack.
- Effort doesn’t appear to be an issue.
- Later he covers the slot man and gets a bump on him and stays with him in coverage.
- Recognizes a cut block late and side steps it before putting heat on the QB.
- Pursuit down the line to stop a run at the LOS.
- Shows an inside spin move to get pressure
Vs. Washington State (’12)
- Covering on a kickoff and gets in on the stop.
- Gets off the snap quickly so WSU has to counter with quick passing before he gets into the backfield.
- Effort is not lacking – he continues to work until the play is over.
- Does a pretty good job using his arm length to keep blockers from getting into his chest.
- Stutter-steps, uses his long arms to discard a blocker and gets to the QB.
- Uses a swim move to get to the QB and force him up in the pocket.
- Effective on a delay blitz
Vs. Washington (’11)
- Notice that he lines up as a wide 9 DE often and that leaves him vulnerable to run at and block with a TE on run downs
Vs. Arizona (’11)
- Used almost exclusively as a pass rusher in the 1st half – got to the QB a couple of times
- Arizona’s O line was horrible
- Jordan needs work on his run D reads though he was better in this game
Vs. Washington State (’11)
- Covers the slot extensively here
- Used as a punt rusher
- Uses a spin move to get pressure and later on a sack
- Blocked by the TE on the run again – this happens a little too often
- Moved all over the defensive front in an effort to get pressure
- Gets a coverage sack late – good pursuit
Vs. Oregon State (’11)
- Long, thin athlete
- Excellent closing speed
- Speed rusher but can use a variety of moves
- Can line up in coverage in the slot
- Gets blocked by the TE, not a huge factor vs. the run