Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles has a marked propensity towards using multi-dimensional, versatile playmakers in his offense. Kelly’s second-round pick, Vanderbilt‘s Jordan Matthews, is no anomaly. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Matthews brings a rare combination of size and speed, and has the hereditary skills needed for a wide receiver thanks to his cousin, Jerry Rice.
The Eagles’ staff can check productivity off the checklist, as Matthews arrives in Philadelphia as the SEC‘s all-time leader in receptions and yards. This past year, he capped off his illustrious Vanderbilt career with 112 receptions for 1,447 yards and seven scores. His numbers paint a pretty picture, but his real value derives from his size.
With his surprising 4.46 40-yard dash speed, Matthews brings a much-needed utility to the Birds aerial attack, which is looking to fill the void left by DeSean Jackson. Matthews may not have the blazing, straight-line speed of Jackson, but his wide catching radius and large frame provide Nick Foles with a legitimate target in the red zone.
The Eagles ended their 2013-2014 campaign seventh in the NFL in red zone scoring attempts per game, but were only 13th in touchdowns per red zone trip. The Vanderbilt product can amplify those numbers with his 35-inch vertical, which could propel him over smaller defensive backs.
Work ethic is often what separates the alphas from the betas in the NFL. When first asked about the subject by reporters, Matthews made it abundantly clear he will earn his spot in the league. “I like to compete in everything I do … In the NFL, everybody works hard, but I just try to give myself the extra edge.”
Although these words are a common thread for new players entering professional sports, the former Commodore is not all talk. During his tenure in Nashville, Matthews was known as the last guy to leave the practice field or weight room. Prior to the Senior Bowl, he took a page out of Peyton Manning’s playbook by requesting film on every corner he would face in the game. His perpetual thirst for improvement is a key ingredient in succeeding in a league that hemorrhages wide receivers.
Although a second-round pick is rarely considered a draft “steal,” Matthews fits the title as he enters the league in a draft class laden with wide receiver talent, and is overshadowed by more prominent names. Analysts and GMs may have initially overlooked him, but his strong combine performance bolstered his draft stock.
Unfortunately, Jordan Matthews remains an unknown commodity until August. His star potential is clear to the Eagles’ front office, however, since they traded up 12 spots to select him.