In the first installment of a five-part series on polarizing prospects, Dane Brugler and Rob Rang take a look at Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan.
Oregon's Dion Jordan, universally considered a first-round talent, enrolled in Eugene with the idea he'd be a tight end in Chip Kelly's helter-skelter offense.
Two position switches later, he's recognized as one of the top pass rushers in the 2013 draft.
NFLDraftScout.com analysts Dane Brugler and Rob Rang are split on Jordan's value.
Brugler projects Jordan as a top-five pick in the draft; Rang has him 15th to the Saints in his latest mock.
BRUGLER'S QUICK TAKE: A very unique prospect, Dion Jordan moves like a basketball small forward on the football field with his rare athleticism for a 6-6, 250-pound athlete with 34-inch arms. His best attribute, besides his natural athleticism and length, is his versatility with experience lining up on the edge as a pass rusher, off the line of scrimmage at linebacker and even in the slot as a cover man. Some question his average production (just five sacks in 2012), but a large reason for that is the fact that he wasn't asked to simply rush the passer. He was dropping in space in most cases because Oregon valued his ability to be a playmaker away from the line of scrimmage as well.
Jordan looks comfortable in space with fluid change-of-direction skills and a smooth transition in his movements. As a pass rusher, he shows good flexibility off the edge with closing burst and speed to flatten to the pocket. Jordan wins with a quick first step, flexible hips/joints and natural bend to redirect his momentum. He has a fiery demeanor and is a physical striker to separate man from ball, using his length well to wrap or get his hands on the ball. The biggest concern with Jordan? His durability, with a lean frame, he needs to prove he can add bulk and stay healthy to be a three-down player at the next level. But for me, the upside is worth that risk.
BEST FITS: Jaguars, Eagles, Browns
RATIONALE: Besides quarterback, pass rusher might be the most sought after position in the NFL and good ones don't last long in the draft. Jordan is a different breed because not only does he bring immense upside rushing off the edge, but his versatility to drop in space and be a rangy playmaker only adds value to what he'd bring to a team. For the Jaguars at No. 2 overall pick, Jordan would be a fit in the hybrid “LEO” position that new head coach Gus Bradley utilizes on defense. For the Eagles at No. 4, Jordan's college head coach is at the helm in Philadelphia and would be a natural fit as they switch to a 3-4 scheme. For the Browns at No. 6, Cleveland is switching to a 3-4 as well and linebacker depth might be their biggest need and target in the first round. There are questions about his ability to hold up physically at the next level, but I'm OK taking a chance on that special athletic upside.
Rang, however, isn't as high on Jordan's prospects.
RANG'S QUICK TAKE: Considering his 6-6, 250-pound frame, Dion Jordan might just be the most extraordinary all-around athlete available in the 2013 draft. Unfortunately, he is lacking in three of the most critical traits necessary for success in the NFL -- instincts, physicality and durability. Unless he makes significant improvement in all three categories, Jordan will not produce in the NFL at the level expected for an athlete with his talent.
In the NFL, potential wins nothing. Production is all that matters. And that is the simplest reason why any team considering Jordan within the first 10 picks of the draft is rolling the dice: Jordan simply didn't make enough big plays throughout his career to warrant this high of a pick.
Jordan's fans will point out that he's a moveable chess piece. This is true and it is the reason why scouts are excited about his potential and why he'll ultimately be selected in the first round. He lined up as a traditional hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, a stand-up pass-rusher, an outside linebacker and a nickel cornerback on defense. While this versatility is certainly a plus, Jordan hasn't demonstrated the ability to consistently make big plays in any of these roles. He has an explosive first step and the flexibility to dip under the reach of pass blockers, but is controlled if his opponent latches on so he is strictly a speed rusher, at this time. The Ducks moved Jordan often to gain favorable matchups and yet he still only registered five sacks in 2012 and only 7.5 in his "breakout" junior campaign. While some laud his coverage ability, Jordan has never intercepted a pass and has a grand total of two pass breakups in 39 career games as a defender.
It isn't just Jordan's lack of big plays that troubles me, however. He is a high-cut player whose lanky frame makes him susceptible to injury. Jordan has been limited by nagging injuries throughout much of his career with the Ducks and is a currently recovering from surgery to replace a torn labrum.
BEST FITS: Jaguars, Eagles, Browns, Jets, Saints, Steelers, Seahawks, Falcons
RATIONALE: Jordan is a more explosive pass-rusher out of the two-point stance than he is with his hand in the dirt so teams operating out of the 3-4 are going to be sure to value him. He is such a gifted athlete, however, that some 4-3 clubs might envision playing strongside linebacker and dropping into coverage while also occasionally lining up as a traditional defensive end. Jordan does not possess the bulk at this time to play in this role for all 4-3 teams, but could as a "LEO" in the scheme preferred by Pete Carroll in Seattle or potentially with his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, now the head coach in Jacksonville.