Too often, teams get caught up in finding the “perfect” fit for their schemes when they should be searching for talented players and then tailoring the scheme around them. Oregon defensive end/outside linebacker Dion Jordan is one of those players.
At 6’7’’, Jordan has rare length. You’d think he’d be clumsy in his movements at that height, but Jordan is one of the most fluid defensive ends I’ve studied in years. He’s such an incredible athlete that he was used to cover receivers at times. I watched him press, turn, and run with a slot receiver on numerous occasions.
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Jordan could be asked to drop into coverage in the pros as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker, but his skills would probably best be utilized as a pass-rusher. Jordan has elite speed off the edge, exploding at the snap of the ball and almost always beating his defender. Jordan uses his length well, always keeping separation from blockers so he can shed them to make plays. He contorts his body well so that offensive tackles can’t get their hands into his chest.
At only 243 pounds, it’s popular to say that Jordan can’t play the run, but it isn’t true. Jordan is incredible in pursuit, running down ball-carriers like a safety, and he can even make plays at the point. Power isn’t his game, but Jordan is still strong enough to hold his blocker, disengage, and make the tackle.
Jordan’s play recognition is good, especially when you consider he came to Oregon as a tight end. The team moved him to defensive end in 2010, so he’s really still learning the position. That’s one reason not to be overly concerned that he had “only” 13 sacks in the past two seasons.
Overall, Jordan is an extremely rare athlete. He’s got a non-stop motor and more upside than just about any pass-rusher in this draft.
NFL Comparison: Aldon Smith and Michael Johnson
Jordan has the size of Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and the explosiveness of 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith. He’s really a hybrid player who can succeed in a number of roles in the NFL; while others are saying he’ll be solely a 3-4 outside linebacker, I think he’s scheme diverse in spite of his size. Don’t forget Jordan has the frame to easily add bulk, if needed.
Jordan’s range is wide since many see him as a “raw” player; I’ve seen him anywhere from the early teens to the late-first round in mock drafts. I can’t see how 20-plus teams will pass on Jordan on draft day, though. I think there’s a good chance that Jordan eventually moves up boards and could even sneak into the top 10.
Fit In Dallas
Jordan will probably go to a team that plays a 3-4 defense, and it’s very possible that the Cowboys don’t give him much consideration because of his size. That would be a huge mistake, in my view, because you simply don’t usually get an opportunity to draft players like Jordan in the bottom half of the first round. If Jordan doesn’t “fit” in the Cowboys scheme, then the scheme should evolve to accommodate him. If he’s available at No. 18, I can’t imagine there will be a superior prospect on the board.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.