PredictionMachine.com’s NFL Draft Expert, Matt Richner, takes his weekly look at three notable college prospects as well as who to watch in the upcoming bowl games.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Oregon (Dion Jordan, DE): At 6’7” and a lean 241 lbs, Jordan is an NBA power forward in a defensive end’s body. He has yet to showcase the dominant season that one would expect from a first-round pass rusher. What intrigues scouts about Jordan is his versatility to play with his hand down, as a stand-up rusher and even covering wideouts out of the slot position. With a lean frame for an outside pass rusher, Jordan is a liability in run support, but he has improved his technique on disengaging from blockers. For his career, he has 29 tackles for loss to go along with 14.5 career sacks. With his speed and acceleration, he could be used as a situational pass rusher in a 4-3 defense. If he were to gain quality weight, he could slide inside and be an inside pass rusher in the mold of J.J. Watt or last year’s first-round selection, New England Patriots defensive tackle Chandler Jones. There are plenty of NFL coaches who can find specific spots and positions to best utilize a talented athlete like Dion Jordan.
Kansas State (Arthur Brown, LB): The vocal leader of the nation’s stingiest run defense, Brown is one of the top linebackers in the country. Blessed with tremendous athletic ability and a high football IQ, Brown always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. Playing with relentless energy and speed, he flies around the football field. A film junkie, Brown will have to be on top of his game against the high-powered Oregon offense. With three career interceptions and six pass break-ups, he displays quality coverage skills. His style of play reminds me of Lavonte David.
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Texas A&M (Luke Joeckel, OT) (Jake Matthews, OT): These two book-end offensive tackles for the Aggies have been effective all season long at shutting down the nation’s elite pass rushers. Against LSU, Joeckel and Matthews were able to contain Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo for the entire game. Without a clear-cut number one selection in the upcoming NFL draft, there is some talk that Joeckel might be the first player chosen. A premier left tackle, Joeckel—who recently won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman—has been a consistent starter for the past three seasons. With long arms and a strong lower base, he has the lateral quickness to stop both the speed and the power pass rushers. His style of play and overall physical talents remind me of Duane Brown of the Houston Texans.
Sometimes overshadowed by his left tackle teammate, Matthews is a strong physical right tackle, who is capable of dominating his opponent with pure strength and power. A leader of the offensive linemen, he brings the mentality of an enforcer, who is looking to finish his blocks to the end of the whistle. Matthews is capable of handling the speed rushers from LSU and the inside power rushers, such as Sheldon Richardson, from Missouri. NFL teams typically wait to draft right tackles till the second and third rounds, but Matthews is an elite performer, who will be a cornerstone player in the league for a long time.
Discover BCS National Championship Game
Notre Dame (Tyler Eifert, TE): This is a game that will be won or lost on the play of the offensive and defensive lines for both teams. The season’s John McKay Award winner for the nation’s best tight end, Eifert recorded 44 receptions for four TDs on the season. He is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards for a tight end. A superb in-line blocker, Eifert is going to be tested against Alabama’s front seven. Showing soft hands, Eifert is viewed as the team’s go-to receiver in critical situations. With good body control, he is capable of making the tough catch in traffic. He received a third-round grade from the NFL advisory committee last year, but he has improved his draft stock so much that he could be selected in the early part of the second round.
Alabama (Jesse Williams, DT): This powerful, wide-bodied defensive tackle is more than capable of holding his ground, even when two or three offensive linemen try to push him out of his gap assignment. One of the strongest players in college football, Williams can bench press over 600 lbs. This former Australian football player is the tough, tenacious defensive lineman NFL teams covet. Last season, he played in the five-technique; this season he slid inside to the nose guard position. Williams lead a defensive unit that is first in rush defense; Alabama only gave up an average of 79.77 yards per game this season, an impressive 2.46 yards per carry. Williams won’t back down from a fight and will be the first to stand up for one of his teammates. Though he is still learning the nuances of the game, Williams has the physical talents to be successful at the next level. Notre Dame will have a difficult time getting their running game going with Williams clogging up the line. According to scouts I’ve spoken to, Williams is being compared to former first-round pick and current Denver Bronco Ty Warren.