|Mark Zaleski/Associated Press|
|Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews made a career-high 13 catches last week in a win over Tennessee.|
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews is one of the most prolific players the SEC has ever seen, but I'm not sure he gets the credit he deserves.
The senior became the league leader in career receiving yards earlier this season (3,491), and just last week broke ex-Commodores WR Earl Bennett's league record for career receptions (246). With a game against Wake Forest (Saturday) and a third-straight bowl appearance remaining this season, Matthews has 96 catches for 1,209 yards and five touchdowns. He's fifth among FBS receivers in receptions per game (8.7).
Some evaluators might be suspicious of the numbers, mainly because he's at Vanderbilt, a program on the rise, thanks in part to Matthews, but still without a rich tradition. People wonder if he's the classic "product of a system."
They couldn't be more wrong. We'll see what underclassmen decide to declare early for the draft, but I think Matthews is one of the top five wide receivers in the class of 2014.
Look at his size (6-foot-3, 206 pounds), his ability and his strength -- he's not a system guy at all. He is a big-time player. I'm reminded of Eric Decker when I watch Matthews. He's built similarly to the Denver Broncos wide receiver.
Matthews has excelled against tough SEC defenses (he made 11 catches for 89 yards in a win over Georgia last month), and hasn't had the luxury of consistent quarterbacking throughout his career. He has put up huge numbers in a system that's not really designed for him to produce at this level. Defenses know he's coming. They roll coverages to him. They are gameplanning for him, and he's putting up the best numbers in SEC history.
He has terrific hands and runs excellent routes. We'll have to see about his speed when he runs at the combine, but I think he will surprise people as a runner. I love his toughness, which was on display in the season opener against Ole Miss, when he took a hard hit, vomited on the field, but returned to the game and was productive.
He has helped Vandy grow as a program over the course of his career. The Commodores had never been to a bowl game in back-to-back years before last season. Coach James Franklin deserves credit for the development, but Matthews is one of the team leaders and is about as dependable as they come.
Whether he lights up the combine or not, I think Matthews has all the tools to be a very effective player at the next level.
Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.