Fantasy Football: Jordan Matthews- Rookie Pulse

On July 16th, 1992 a potential NFL star wide receiver was born in Madison, Alabama.

Jordan Matthews

The Alabama native attended Madison Academy HighJordan Matthews School where he racked up 138 receptions for 2,417 yards and 31 touchdowns.  Matthews went on to be a 3 star recruit according to He subsequently committed to Vanderbilt on 12/26/2009, shortly after a verbal commitment on Christmas day. While attending Vanderbilt, Matthews was a stand-out man, both as an athlete on the field and as  an active volunteer off the field participating in several community service projects.  He even spent 10 days in Africa on a mission trip. As everyone is well aware, Matthews is the cousin of Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. Take a look below at the plethora of awards Matthews accumulated while attending Vanderbilt:

Star-Caliber Excellence

• 2013 First Team All-America WR

• 2013 2nd or 3rd Team All-America WR

• 2013 Consensus First Team All-SEC WR

• 2013 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist

• 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Week (Nov. 16)

• 2013 Maxwell Award Watch List

• 2013 CFPA Wide Receiver Trophy Watch List

• 2012 First Team All-SEC

• 2012 Third Team All-America

• 2012 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Along with several awards and accolades, Matthews put together and impressive stat line over his 4 year collegiate career. If you only looked at stats and his combine numbers you could build an argument for the #1 wide receiver in the 2014 class.  While that’s great on the surface, I’m sure you’d want to dig deeper, right?


Film Room

My first game film of Matthews was in early 2013 and prior to the 2013 draft; I expected him to declare after his junior season. Initially, I was impressed by the amount of big plays he was consistently making by stretching the field, taking screen plays 60-70 yards, and I said to myself, “this guy is impressive.” I felt the same way when I circled back to his 2013 game film in January of 2014.  I felt confident slotting him in as my #3 wide receiver. That is when the great Sigmond Bloom dropped a bomb on my Twitter timeline saying something along the lines of Matthews being very similar to Brian Hartline or to a lesser degree Brian Robiskie.  Sigmund added that Matthews struggles getting separation vs man coverage and is a zone player; his big play screen routes were a result of great blocking, and he doesn’t high point the football.

When I read this I instantly disagreed and probably overreacted.  I frantically began digging into more cut-ups – looking for a defense case for Matthews as time was ticking with each cut-up I watched.  I was frantically looking for something to grasp onto,  an “ah-ha moment” if you will.  I wanted to be able to say, “See!?  He does this right here.”  After several different games I had nothing to argue and felt deflated about Matthews and my ability to evaluate the wide receiver position.  Bloom’s evaluation had legs — sturdy legs.

The Ironic Ah Ha Moment was Found

This paragraph will slightly get off topic but I feel its necessarily to point out, so bare with me. After watching Matthews I learned there were flaws in the way I evaluated players, I was seeing the big picture rather then breaking down each play, this is why I think I “missed” on Matthews early on. With that said, I did numerous hours of research to study more detailed skills of the wide receiver position, studying the route tree, defensive schemes, and offensive formations to get a better grasp of what my eyes were seeing. Basically scraping my old way of evaluating prospects, the new and improved version consisted of more detail and should be more effective. Here is a list of what is meant by more detail:

  • High points football
  • Breaks back to football
  • Sinks hips into breaks
  • Sets up breaks
  • Catches ball away from body with hands
  • Clean release from LOS vs press coverage
  • Catches ball in tight coverage or after contact

My evaluation goes beyond the list above but those are some primary examples of what I look for in a wide receiver and serves as a qualitative check list.  Lets get back to Matthews.

Film Study

This cut-up is Matthews vs Houston- 2014 Compass Bowl (Matthews was MVP)

0:34- Matthews is lined up at the top of the screen – this is a simple screen play. Matthews catches the football with his hands away from his body and gets up field for a long touchdown. Yes, he catches the ball away from him body, and Matthews showcased his 4.40 speed by out running one defender.  The credit of this play should go to his teammate who sprung Matthews loose with a fantastic block.

1:45- Matthews runs a slant route with the DB playing off man coverage while the safety is dropping into an underneath zone.  The Throw was a little high, but I believe it was a catch-able ball. The fear with this play is it appears as though Matthews doesn’t make a full attempt at the ball when going over the middle.  This can be expected from some wide receivers, but the perception on Matthews has been work ethic, heart, and will.  This play doesn’t show evidence of that.

2:52- Matthews runs a fade route, and the DB is playing man press coverage with safety help over the top.  I credit Matthews for the difficult catch with the DB draped all over him. This is a good example of catching the ball in tight coverage. Here is the issue: Matthews doesn’t generate any separation with his initial quickness off the LOS, and this keeps the DB in his back pocket.  He also doesn’t out run him on the fade route, so I can’t say lacking in these two departments will translate well on Sunday’s.

The next cut-up is Matthews vs South Carolina.

1:35- Here you will see Matthews lined up as a slot wide receiver.  The nickle DB plays off-man coverage and because the DB doesn’t press him or even attempt to move him off his breaking point, Matthews gets a clean release during his post route.  He catches the ball away from his body with his hands and shows good body control  adjusting to the football thrown slightly behind him. When Matthews can get a clean release and not be contested during his route, he is as good as anyone in this class.  This will be a rare occasion in the NFL.

This final cut-up is vs Ole Miss.

5:38- Matthews runs a fade route here.  He is pressed at the LOS by the DB, but the DB wasn’t physical enough to move him or disrupt his route. Matthews shows off his speed again and creates just enough separation to make the catch on a perfect throw. Overall, this cut-up was one of his better showings on film.  Matthews displayed willingness to go over the middle and take the hit while high pointing the football on post routes, albeit, the defense was playing zone on those particular plays.


Parting Thoughts

All-in-all Matthews is a good NFL prospect- I would like to see him attack the catch point better and be willing to high point the football on a consistent basis while in tight coverage.  The one thing that draftniks can’t measure or breakdown is heart and will. Matthews demonstrates an elite work ethic, and that is hard to measure. Matthews is currently ranked 9th in my wide receiver rankings: he displays many great attributes, but he’s not elite in any particular skill. Matthews will drop a few spots when I put together my overall big board dynasty rankings because I expect to have Eric Ebron, Isaiah Crowell, and possibly more players higher depending on how the draft shakes out.  March ADP data at has Matthews coming in at 71.2 and the 5th rookie off the board — that is a little to rich for my blood.

–Eric Harrison/@FFPrimeTime






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