California defensive end Cameron Jordan is the latest prospect I'd like to feature as I continue my theme of the week on players I believe could significantly alter their stock with a strong performance in the upcoming all-star games.
Unlike North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin (who is coming off a year-long suspension) or The Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen (who is making a huge jump in competition), Jordan is, by comparison, one of the safer prospects in the draft. He's a four-year starter who played in 50 of 51 games in his career. He's improved each year, culminating this season by making the First Team All Pac-10 squad with eye-popping numbers (61 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) despite playing defensive end in the 3-4 alignment -- a scheme that does not typically translate into big numbers for their defensive ends.
Jordan is also different from Austin and Allen in another way. He'll be playing in the Senior Bowl rather than the East-West Shrine game.
I've spoken to half a dozen teams about Jordan. All believe he's a first round prospect.
And yet, I'd still argue that despite Jordan's production, he ranks among the draft's most under-appreciated prospects.
I expect to see this change next week in Mobile.
The beauty of all-star games is that is allows scouts to compare apples to apples. Jordan will be lining up next to some of the other, more highly touted senior defensive linemen in the country. I'm a fan of Adrian Clayborn's technique, Cameron Heyward's power, and of Ryan Kerrigan's effort.
I'm a bigger fan of Jordan's versatility and feel that he ranks second behind the three senior defensive linemen I just listed in each of the catergories mentioned.
While at Cal, I've seen Jordan line up at both end positions and even on the nose in their 3-4 alignment. I've seen Cal switch to a four man front and watched Jordan moved inside to the three-technique defensive tackle position. I don't believe he can make a living playing on the nose, but I do envision success in the NFL at any other position. There isn't another defensive lineman in this draft who can boast that type of versatility.
In the days before last year's draft I posted a note on the blog highlighting five "mock-busters." These were players I thought could surprise and be first round picks. Amng them was two former Cal Golden Bears in Tyson Alualu and Jahvid Best, who, of course, did make the first round.
Unlike his former Cal teammates, Jordan wouldn't be a surprise to go in the first round. His versatility, consistency and bloodlines (father was a six-time Pro Bowl tight end with the Vikings) stand out too much in a draft blessed with talented defensive linemen -- but many of them being essentially one-year wonders.