November 25, 2014

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NFL Draft 2013: Oregon’s Dion Jordan hardly a Duck out of water when it comes to the 3-4

Dion Jordan has the body of an NBA small forward (6-foot-6, 248 pounds), the strides of a deer and the quick-twitch fibers of a sprinter (4.54 in the 40) and the motor of a supercharged V8.

He’d be the result if a general manager asked a scientist to build a 3-4 outside linebacker.

“When you’re that tall, 250 pounds and run like a deer and have enough strength to play fundamentally and enough speed to chase people down and rush the passer, and enough mobility to start and stop like he does, you’re an outstanding athlete,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said in an interview with The Chronicle-Telegram. “And he plays 100 mph every snap with a toughness and attitude. That’s what he does best. He gives unbelievable effort.”

Jordan converted from tight end as a sophomore with the Ducks. Three years later, he is expected to be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft that begins Thursday. The Browns might sprint to the podium if he’s on the board at No. 6 as they’re determined to beef up the pass rush.

“I understood that that was the best opportunity for me to get on the football field, so I took it,” Jordan said at the scouting combine, regarding the position switch. “And things worked out for the best for me.”

Jordan had 7.5 sacks in 2011, five in 2012 and 14.5 for his career. He added 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles as a senior. The numbers aren’t staggering, but the potential is.
Aliotti believes Jordan can be an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

“Yes. Because he has long arms, is fast and relentless,” he said.

Aliotti doesn’t like to make comparisons — but did, bringing up San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, who has 33.5 sacks in two NFL seasons.

“I think Dion’s bigger, faster, stronger. So that’s the only thing I go by,” Aliotti said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Something that can’t be measured at the combine is toughness. Jordan has two examples of his to answer any questions.

As a senior in high school in Arizona in 2007, he and his friends siphoned gas from one of their cars to another with a vacuum cleaner in a garage. When they were done and Jordan unplugged the vacuum, a spark started a fire and Jordan suffered severe burns on 40 percent of his body.

“The vacuum cleaner exploded in front of me,” Jordan told the Oregonian.

He spent a month in a burn unit, needed skin grafts on his left leg and had to relearn how to walk.

“I lost a lot of things and being 18 years old and having to deal with that type of struggle, for me it showed me how blessed I was and the route I’m going,” Jordan said last week on ESPN. “I just decided to take every day as a blessing and just work really hard, so when the time does come I’ll be ready.”

The second example is less extreme, but perhaps more valuable to scouts. Jordan suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder making an arm tackle as a senior but finished the season.

“Dion is always wanting to play for his own inner self, his soul,” Aliotti said. “He will be out there until they drag him off the field. It says quite a bit about him.”

Jordan postponed surgery until after the combine so he could work out for teams. He said the recovery is going well.

“I’ll be ready when training camp comes,” he said on ESPN.

The biggest concern regarding Jordan is his build, which some think isn’t big enough. He played around 240 pounds, was up to 248 (only 3.8 percent body fat) at the combine and believes he can put on more if asked to by the team that picks him.

“It’s weight I feel like I could put on easy,” he said. “I have the frame to add as much as possible.
“The thing I feel like I have to improve is my strength. Getting to the next level, it’s a big-boy game.”

Aliotti agrees there’s room to grow, but said Jordan’s fine the way he is.

“He’s just naturally raw-boned strong,” he said. “Some of the things he can do with his hands, arms and body, and he understands leverage and gravity. He’ll get bigger and stronger, but he’s naturally stronger.”

The Browns are switching back to a 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and one of the issues can be projecting college players as outside linebackers. That’s not a problem with Jordan. At Oregon, he dropped in coverage and can run with tight ends and tailbacks.

“It’s the best spot to utilize my athleticism,” he said of 3-4 outside linebacker. “It shows that I can line up all over the field and get after the quarterback, it shows that I understand defense and just my speed. Just having the speed to come off the edge every play. I never came off the field. I was all three downs, even four downs if you needed.”

Aliotti talks like an old-school coach not prone to exaggeration. But he can’t contain himself when discussing Jordan.

“I never give any guarantee on anything in life,” he said. “But after him being here five years, I have no doubt about his abilities on the field and how he’ll handle himself off the field. He’s an A-plus.”

“Dion’s just a special guy in my heart,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who left Oregon after the season, said at the combine. “He just had a huge impact, not only on the field but off the field.”

Jordan is confident that will continue at the next level.

“I just hope to be productive and I’m going to make an impact my first year,” he said.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

SCOTT PETRAK’S TOP OF THE CLASS

Cornerbacks

• Dee Milliner, Alabama: The top cover guy in the draft, but he lacks elite talent.
• Xavier Rhodes, Florida State: Ideal measurables for a press corner — 6-foot-1½, 210 pounds, 4.4 speed.
• D.J. Hayden, Houston: Suffered a freak tear of a vein leading to his heart in practice as a senior. Some experts rank him No. 1 at the position.

• Other notables: Desmond Trufant, Washington; Darius Slay, Mississippi State; Jamar Taylor, Boise State

• How the Browns fit: Desperate for a starter, Milliner will be tempting if he’s around at No. 6. They need to find someone somewhere in the first three rounds.

Safeties

• Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: Good size, athleticism and cover skills make him the top free safety.
• Matt Elam, Florida: Shorter (5-foot-10) than desired, but a playmaker at strong safety. Brother Abram played for the Browns.
• Eric Reid, LSU: Impressive athlete who’s not afraid to hit from the free safety spot.

• Other notables: D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina; Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International; T.J. McDonald, USC

• How the Browns fit: In search of a free safety to team with T.J. Ward. There could be a run on safeties in the second round, when the Browns don’t have a pick.