Production or potential?
That's the question scouts must address when assessing Dion Jordan. With a spectacular performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, the former Oregon standout proved himself to be one of the top athletes in the 2013 NFL Draft. Measuring in at 6-foot-6 1/4 and 248 pounds with 33 7/8-inch arms, Jordan posted top marks in the 40-yard dash (4.60 seconds), short shuttle (4.35 seconds) and broad jump (10-2). He also scored well in the vertical jump (32.5 inches) and three-cone drill (7.02 seconds), despite his long, lanky frame. Those marks reveal a superior athlete and suggest Jordan's game should translate well to the pros.
However, scouts come away from game tape of his senior season longing for more production. Although he was featured as the Ducks' designated pass rusher, Jordan finished the season with just five sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Those numbers are certainly respectable, but they're not eye-popping for a player poised to be a top draft pick. Not when other prospects like Texas A&M's Damontre Moore (12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss), Florida State's Bjoern Werner (13 sacks) and Georgia's Jarvis Jones (14.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss) racked up huge numbers as rushers off the edge.
Jordan, who originally signed with Oregon as a highly decorated tight end prospect, spent the last three of his five college years (including a redshirt season) on defense as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. Without having extensive prior experience at the position, Jordan was forced to learn the subtleties of rushing the passer while being counted on to post big numbers off the edge. Additionally, he was utilized as a seam dropper in coverage to match up with tight ends and slot receivers in the passing game. Given the wide array of responsibilities heaped on his shoulders, it is not surprising that Jordan failed to master any part of his game.
That's why scouts are grading Jordan's game tape on a curve. Evaluators are crediting him for his penchant to produce splash plays rather than dwelling on his failure to provide consistent disruption off the edges. When I looked at the coaches' footage, I came away impressed with Jordan's athleticism, movement skills and first-step quickness. He attacked blockers with a blistering get-off and showed an exceptional closing burst when tracking quarterbacks from the blind side. Most impressively, he displayed great balance and body control in dropping his inside shoulder to dip and rip past blockers on the way to the quarterback. While he definitely needs to develop an additional rush move, Jordan's fastball is good enough to win consistently in the NFL.
Jordan also stands out as a sideline-to-sideline pursuer against the run. He flies past blockers on his way to the ball; his quickness and hustle stand out on the tape. As a pass defender, Jordan displays the athleticism to handle tight ends and slot receivers in a short area. He changes directions well, and his ball skills and awareness deserve high marks, in my mind. Most hybrid linebackers are only asked to drop into the flats; Jordan shouldn't have any problem filling a hybrid role as a pro.
Jordan announced at the combine that a torn labrum would require him to undergo surgery, but I don't anticipate that this will interfere with his path to the NFL. Given Jordan's dynamic game and exceptional athleticism, I believe there are a number of defenses that would benefit from adding the former Duck to the lineup. Here are the five best fits, in my opinion:
Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4 overall pick)
Eagles coach Chip Kelly's intimate knowledge of Jordan's game from their five years together at Oregon makes this potential marriage a perfect fit. Jordan would give the Eagles a dynamic edge player to feature in their new hybrid 3-4 scheme. As one of the most explosive athletes in the draft (think of his 4.60 40 or 4.35-second short shuttle), Jordan can rush off the corner or drop into coverage from a variety of stand-up positions and alignments. Most importantly, he is a relentless sideline-to-sideline player with the desire to make plays all over the field. The Eagles recently went through some defensive struggles with their overhyped "Dream Team." Adding a blue-collar player with blue-chip talent should help Kelly change the culture in Philadelphia.
Cleveland Browns (No. 6)
New Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton built a ferocious defense with the Arizona Cardinals without having a dominant edge rusher on the roster. However, he would certainly welcome the energetic Jordan to his lineup card. Jordan's ability to play with his hand in the dirt or from an upright position would pose problems for opposing quarterbacks in the pre-snap phase. Additionally, Jordan's ability to drop into space in man or zone coverage would give Horton numerous options for attacking the opposition with pressure or coverage in critical situations. The Dawg Pound is desperate for a reason to make noise; the clever deployment of Jordan could lead to several splash plays for the Browns over the next few years.
New York Jets (No. 9)
Rex Ryan is unquestionably one of the best defensive minds in the business, but he needs a few more dynamic chess pieces at his disposal to return the Jets' defense to the ranks of the elite. Jordan certainly fits the bill, with a game that is built on speed, quickness and athleticism. Whereas the Jets' past pass rushers were high-motor guys with limited athleticism, Jordan is a relentless rusher with the first-step quickness and burst to create havoc off the edges. In addition, Jordan is a natural playmaker in coverage with the awareness and ball skills to make plays in space as a designated weapon in some of the Jets' exotic sub-packages. Ryan prefers to play some form of nickel defense on nearly 70 percent of the defensive snaps; Jordan's athleticism and versatility could make him a star on Broadway.
New Orleans Saints (No. 15)
Coach Sean Payton's return from suspension ensures that the Saints will rejoin the ranks of the NFL's elite on their offensive merit alone. Still, the defense must return to respectability if New Orleans is to seriously vie for the crown in 2013. To accomplish that feat, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will need to stock his version of the 3-4 with athletic playmakers who can wreak havoc on opponents from all over the field. Jordan is one of the few difference-makers in the draft, and Ryan would take full advantage of his skills to create steady pressure off the edges. If the success of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer during Ryan's time with the Dallas Cowboys is any indication of what Jordan could accomplish in Ryan's scheme, the Saints could re-emerge as a dominant force in the NFC.
Seattle Seahawks (No. 25)
Pete Carroll's insistence on adding more pass rushers to the lineup will certainly lead him to investigate Jordan's game closely over the next few months. As a freakish athlete with a high-revving motor, Jordan fits the mold of Seahawks defenders. Additionally, he is the kind of versatile playmaker that Carroll loves to feature at the "Leo" position. While 2012's selection of Bruce Irvin would appear to make this a redundant pick, remember that the Seahawks' pass rush was abysmal after Chris Clemons' injury. This makes it imperative for Carroll to stockpile athletic pass rushers like Jordan in the draft.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks