The Lions have made it clear that they're serious about improving the wide receiver position. Signing Golden Tate a month ago was a step in the right direction for them. But does the signing of Tate mean that the Lions won't draft a WR early in this year's draft? Maybe, but I'm willing to bet that Mayhew wouldn't pass up one of the top WRs if they fell on his lap. We've already discussed all of the WRs that are likely going to be selected on Day 1, so now let's move on to some Day 2 options. Out of all of the likely WRs to be available in the 2nd round, I've noticed that most POD members have been enamored by the skill-set of Jordan Matthews. Matthews is a 6'3, 212 lb. prospect out of Vanderbilt who is currently the 69th ranked overall prospect, and 12th at his position on CBSSports. He is projected to be an early day 2 pick.
Matthews was invited to attend this year's Senior Bowl and had some ups and downs. Overall, he had arguably the most impressive week out of all WRs. However, most of the top WRs did not attend the event. During the Senior Bowl practices, he showed some inconsistency by dropping plenty of passes, but also making some difficult catches. He is an attractive prospect because of his large frame and enormous hands (largest among all WR prospects). Matthews' drop rate doesn't exactly measure up to his large hands, however. Only Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee had a higher drop rate among the top WR's last year.
Matthews' drop rate last year was slightly higher than your average WR (~7%). Some passes were jump balls siding in his favor, so the drop rate could be slightly higher, depending on how you look at it.
At the combine, Matthews put up some pretty average numbers overall. He ran an impressive 40-yard dash for his size at 4.46, and also had 21 bench reps, which is ranked in the 92nd percentile among all WR's drafted since 1999. He also put up a slower 60-yard shuttle than Mike Evans, and had his percentiles for 3-cone, broad jump and vertical jump of lower than 50 vs. other WRs. You can find the rest of his measurements here.
Jordan Matthews had an impressive 4-year career at Vanderbilt. He set the SEC record in receptions and yards with 262 career catches for 3759 yards. It's nice to see that his production steadily increased each year he was at Vandy. Out of his 112 catches last year, 45.83% of them were screen passes. That's about 20% higher than your average WR. Due to the excessive amount of screen passes he received, he also had the 2nd highest YAC average behind Watkins among top WR prospects.
Watkins and Matthews both have the least amount of average yards from the LOS, and the highest yards after catch. Nothing surprising there. Matthews did well under James Franklin's offensive system, but I'm guessing he will most likely be used differently in the NFL. His athletic ability and frame doesn't exactly fit your typical open field receiver mold.
Beating Zone Coverage
Matthews is a really smart player who is exceptionally well at beating zone coverage. He knows exactly where he needs to be against the zone, and is not afraid of taking a big hit over the middle.
On the very first series against Ole Miss on 3rd and 3, Matthews is able to work his way around the strongside linebacker, and immediately breaks across the middle to gain enough yards for a first down. He makes the contested catch and is met by the safety who is unable to break up the pass. If you skip about 5 minutes ahead, you'll see an eerily similar play on 3rd down, and Matthews makes another impressive catch while getting hit hard by the safety.
A couple drives later, Matthews beats zone coverage again on 3rd down and does a little extra, picking up another 10 yards after the catch. He does a fine job of finding a hole between linebackers and safeties and does it consistently. These plays seemed to be a theme for Jordan Matthews as well as screen passes.
Like I said earlier, Vanderbilt's offense used a plethora of screen passes, and Matthews was their go-to guy all year. When looking at his metrics, you would make an assumption that he's a speedy receiver who is great in the open field. He was able to gain a lot of yards after the catch on his screens, but when watching his tape, you tend to notice just how well his teammates blocked for him.
Here are a couple perfect examples of Matthews receiving a perfect block that ends up opening up the entire sideline for him to break away for the touchdown. He has good top end speed, and will finish plays like the ones above, but what separates him from guys like Odell Beckham Jr., is that he's not very elusive in open space.
Separating Against Man-Coverage
While Matthews does a superb job of beating zone coverage, he often struggles when going up against man-coverage, especially on shorter routes. He doesn't do a great job of selling those short routes at the top of his stem, and sometimes he looks a bit awkward on his initial break. I don't think he'll be able to get away with that in the NFL. Also, for a guy who lifted 21 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine, it's a little surprising to see a guy like Matthews get pushed off of his routes and lose one-on-one battles as often as he does.
The amount of screen passes Matthews caught often overshadows the fact that he was a big time deep threat for Vanderbilt as well. In fact, one of his go-to moves was the hitch-and-go route, which he had a lot of success on. In the play above, he tries to run a hitch-and-go route, but the cornerback isn't buying it at all.
My biggest concern with Matthews is whether he will be able to get separation in the NFL. Most of his success in college came from screens and slants beating zone coverage. I'm not sure if that will translate to the pros right away, but he definitely is a talented WR nonetheless.
One thing to really watch out for with Jordan Matthews is his hands. He had a lot of balls slip right through his hands, and he also made some pretty tough grabs as well.
In his game against Ole Miss last year, he made an incredible over the shoulder grab (above) to keep the game alive for his team on 4th and 18, which led to an eventual touchdown from his teammate to put them up 3 points with less than 2 minutes to go. Ole Miss ended up scoring another touchdown, and with 30 seconds left, Vanderbilt had a chance to win the game with the ball over the 50 yard line on 3rd and 4. Matthews had the ball slip through his hands, (below) which led to a game-sealing interception for Ole Miss.
Why We Should Draft Him
Jordan Matthews is a solid WR prospect that will most likely be considered by a lot of teams in the 2nd or 3rd round. Some experts have him projected as a late 1st to early 2nd rounder, but I have a feeling that he'll be there for the Lions' 2nd round pick. I would have no problem with the Lions taking him at #45 overall if they felt like he was the best WR available. If they select him in the 2nd round, then it's probably safe to say that they didn't address the WR position in the 1st round. The Lions already have Megatron and Tate as their top 2 receivers, so Matthews would have an easy time filling in as a #3 receiver for the Lions and immediately add some depth and upgrade their talent at the position.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
Matthews doesn't exactly have many elite traits. He is a very intelligent player, but isn't the most athletic at his position. He has good but not great speed, average hands, and average route-running ability. If you're the Lions, taking a WR with a higher ceiling might be a better option here. We already have enough guys who have problems holding onto the ball and getting separation, we need a guy who can get open more consistently and hold onto the ball.
In all honesty, I feel like Matthews is more of a 3rd round talent than a 2nd round talent. I think he can contribute right away, but I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to turn into a top 2 receiver. He will need to be coached up and find a way to beat man coverage more consistently. He has the size and strength to do so, but for some reason it just didn't translate on the field for him.
The Lions Select Series:
Draft is only a month away!!! Probably will only be able to do a few more of these. Not sure who I'll do next, but I want to get at least one day 3 option in. Discuss below and rec the post if you liked it. Thanks again for the support and feedback.