In continuation with our series of individual prospect evaluations here at Turn On The Jets, we turn our attention today toward Oregon Outside Linebacker Dion Jordan. Be sure to stay with our series of scouting reports as they are intended to provide an in-depth breakdown of individual prospects in this year’s draft class highlighting players’ overall strengths, weaknesses, potential upside, red flags, and what their best schematic fit will be at the next level.
Tale Of The Tape
Prospect: Dion Jordan
Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Measurables: 6’6″ 248 lbs, 33-7/8″ Arm Length, 10″ Hands
Dion Jordan is widely regarded as one of the top pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft class. Jordan has been on the rise recently after a very strong performance at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where he posted impressive numbers in the 40 yard dash (4.60 seconds), broad jump (122 inches), and 20 yard shuttle run (4.35 seconds). There is surely no denying the Oregon product’s immense athleticism, particularly considering his very long 6’6″ frame.
While Jordan is expected to be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft, possibly going as early as within the top 5 selections, there are some red flags that teams should take notice of before fully committing such an early pick to him.
The first, and most obvious, is Jordan’s lingering shoulder injury. Suffered in Oregon’s late October contest against Colorado, Jordan played through the following 4 games of the Duck’s season with what was thought to be an injury to his labrum, before sitting out of the Fiesta Bowl and ultimately the Senior Bowl. Following the season, Jordan was revealed to have, in fact, sustained a torn labrum and will require surgery that will sideline him for 3-4 months, leaving him unable to participate in heavy team activities until the beginning of training camp.
While this should not be a major issue in terms of affecting his draft stock, Jordan’s strength is an area of concern, and because of the injury, teams have been unable to gauge that due to his non participation in the bench press at the combine.
Aside from the labrum injury, Jordan certainly has a plethora of positive aspects to be intirigued about, countering the few areas of his game in need of improvement. Let’s take a look at both the good and the bad when it comes to Dion Jordan as a next level prospect.
As previously noted, Jordan’s most intriguing attributes are his length and superior athleticism. He is undoubtedly one of the fastest prospects at his position this year, but his top end speed is just a small part of what makes him so good.
There were initially some concerns about how well he would translate to the NFL due to how long his frame actually is. Typically, outside linebacker prospects as tall as Jordan have a difficult time in coverage as their long legs and arms sometimes hurt their overall body coordination, making it difficult for them to turn their hips in coverage and change direction quickly enough to react to the game speed of the NFL.
However, Jordan is very rare in this area. Not only is he very long and fast, but he is extremely smooth, not only for his size, but in comparison with all of his counterparts in this year’s draft class. On film, he looks very comfortable in coverage and turns his hips as well as, if not better than, any outside linebacker prospect in the draft pool. He recognizes routes well, shows the ability to keep his head on a swivel, and transitions extremely well in his turns and in and out of his breaks. More often than not, Jordan was slid out over an opposing slot receiver or tight end split out on the line of scrimmage during his time at Oregon. Rarely did he struggle to maintain good coverage within his assignment.
This is a plus for Jordan as several prospects at his position are often more polished in their pass rush, with needed work on their coverage skills. While Jordan will need more work to achieve success in this area at the next level, he is certainly further along than most. This athleticism allows him to effectively tackle in space very well, too, which is obviously crucial for any linebacker.
As a pass rusher, Jordan excels in several areas. His first step rivals that of LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo for the quickest of any prospect at the position this year, arguably the most crucial aspect of a pass rushing prospect’s game. He shows a great burst off the line of scrimmage and gains enough ground on the first step to always be in an advantageous situation on every pass rush.
Beyond the first step, Jordan’s most impressive ability lies in his hand work. He has extremely quick hands with a knack to anticipate the placement of the opposing offensive lineman’s hands, another crucial feature for any pass rusher. With the ability to keep a blocker’s hands away, a pass rusher can work in a move to get by that blocker much more quickly than someone who may have a tendency to get tangled up at the line of scrimmage and delay the overall rush. Combined with his first step, it’s no secret as to why Jordan is so quick off of the edge.
Beyond his steps and hand work, Jordan is also very flexible in bending around the edge. His smooth hips allow him to turn the corner, while getting an excellent dip in his shoulder, setting him up perfectly to turn the edge and accelerate toward the passer.
Beyond his athleticism, Jordan’s game gets a bit foggy. Rarely does he work any power moves into his technique. This is not to say he is incapable of that, but he likely was so confident in his ability to gain an advantage with his athleticism that he did not feel compelled to work in any power moves.
The question then, of course, becomes whether or not he has become reliant upon the speed and finesse moves to achieve success. If he has, it could create issues at the next level. NFL tackles are generally superior in athleticism, so a lack of variety of moves in a pass rusher’s arsenal will lead to predictability and eventually rather easy block-ability. A predictable pass rusher can fall down a slippery slope and become a 5-6 sack per season player rather than a player with a wide arsenal of moves capable of double digit sacks on an annual basis.
Outside of his pass rushing abilities, Jordan’s strength is a concern, as aforementioned. A bit on the lighter side at just 248 lbs, he will need to add some weight to be able to defend the run in the NFL and become a capable 3 down player. Considering his extremely long frame, he should not have a problem doing that, but will it sacrifice any of his athleticism? Unlikely, albeit a possibility.
Jordan is also clearly more comfortable standing up on the edge, rather than putting his hand on the ground in a three point stance. In Oregon’s defense, he was rarely asked to play from a position with his hand on the ground, but when he was, he looked slightly awkward and uncomfortable. This is interesting to note because many view him as a fit as both a 4-3 defensive end as well as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but from my point of view, his best chance to be an impact player in the NFL is at OLB. Can he develop into a 4-3 end down the road? Considering his physical attributes, he certainly has the potential to, but he is much further away from being a force at that position than he would be at outside linebacker.
Overall, Jordan is an excellent prospect. Scheme and coaching will be key for his transition to the NFL, but if drafted into the right scenario, there is no reason to believe he cannot become a very good to elite linebacker after a few years of development. His positive attributes will allow him to contribute as a pass rusher early, while slowly growing into a full time outside linebacker. How he improves his areas of weakness will be the key to whether or not he becomes an average player or an elite one.
His athleticism for his size is extremely rare, out of the Aldon Smith mold. But he likely will need to add some weight, strength, and variety to how he defends blocks to become the All-Pro that Smith has developed into in San Francisco.
Character wise, there have been nothing but excellent reviews from his former coaches and teammates about the type of work ethic and level of commitment he possesses, so I don’t see this becoming an issue. His upside is through the roof, but whether or not he reaches his immense ceiling, or settles in at what could be an average at best floor, will depend on scheme, environment, and most importantly, his willingness to constantly improve an already impressive skill set.