(Editor's note: More than 320 standout college players put their skills on display at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. From that group will come the majority of young men who will hear their names called during the 2011 NFL Draft in April. Buccaneers.com was at the Combine, and during the weeks leading up to this year's draft, we will be taking a closer look at some of players who participated in six days of workouts, interviews and medical evaluations in Indianapolis. This series is NOT meant to reflect any specific opinions of the actual draft decision-makers in the Buccaneers' player personnel department. Any mention of draft-board status or a player's strengths and weaknesses are from outside sources, not the team's own scouting work. Next up in our series is Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan.)
Steve Jordan played 13 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, went to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986-91, caught 498 passes and earned a reputation as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.
Apparently, in the eyes of his 21-year-old son, that qualifies him to offer NFL-related advice roughly, oh, half of the time.
Cameron Jordan will soon join his father in the NFL fraternity. In fact, the outgoing defensive end from Cal-Berkeley is considered a near-lock to come off the board in the first round of the 2011 draft next month. Part of what is considered a very deep group of pass-rushers in this year's class, Jordan has been slotted by mock-drafters anywhere from his father's former team at #12 to San Diego at #18 and, yes, even to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #20.
Obviously, given the strong competition at his position, Jordan could use any guidance he can get to stand out. Given that he played primarily left end during his senior season at Cal, which means frequent tangling with opposing tight ends, he would seem to have a great source just one notch up the family tree.
And that's true…to a point.
"Since before college, my dad has always tried to give me tips on how to beat a tight end, because that's what he played," said the younger Jordan. "Being that he was more of an O-lineman type of tight end anyway, he has just always given me tips on how to beat a guy, control a guy. He gives me any tips that he can – I may listen to about 45% of it. He gives me a lot of advice, so I take it for what it is.
"He is my father, so I listen to most of everything he says. But yeah, some of it goes in one ear and out the other. He would probably tell you the same thing."
In other words, he listens to his dad about as well as virtually every teenager/young adult out there. At least he can laugh about it. And, furthermore, he had a crowd of reporters laughing with him during his media session at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. As Buccaneers.com noted at the time, Jordan was one of the most charismatic players to take to the podium during the Combine, coming off as confident, fun-loving and the sort of prospect that gets a lot of joy from playing the game.
For instance, he was asked if his ever-present smile is with him on the field, as well.
"If you see my film, I'm hitting people, I'm laying people out," he said. "It's sort of a switch, because I've still got the smile on my face but it's all for a different motive. It would pit the biggest smile on me to hit the quarterback and hear the wind come out of his chest. That definitely puts a smile on me. I've got that nice little step, that swag on me, just because of what I've done on the field. That just pleases me the most. Then when I hit a running back…a running back doesn't have too much of a chance, so when I lay him out, I come up with a smile. I'm telling him I'm coming back next time. I'll be there soon."
Cameron also turned another expected question around while sporting a sly smile. Did he think he could uphold the family name? "I don't know about upholding it," he said, "but I'd like to advance it for sure."
If Cameron performed as well behind the closed doors of his individual interviews with interested teams during the Combine's night hours, it surely helped his already-strong draft stock. He had already put that stock on a bullish track a month earlier at the Senior Bowl, where some observers considered him the top performer of the week. He dominated against a roster of all-star tackles during the all-important practices that led up to the actual game, described repeatedly as "unblockable." One report said he appeared to be on a mission to prove he had first-round talent.
And what of that talent, specifically?
"I'm really explosive off the line and I have great lockout," Jordan self-assessed. "With lockout, I can control my man, shed and make tackles and make plays in the backfield."
Jordan gets "lockout" against opposing blockers by keeping his long arms extended and thus keeping his man off his body. The Cal defender has 35-inch arms, which give him a tremendous wingspan that he himself refers to as "a tremendous advantage." He also looks the part of an every-down end, with height (6-4) and a ripped physique but enough weight (281 pounds) to be more than just a one-dimensional edge-rusher.
Those dimensions also might keep Jordan in play for more teams than some of his D-line peers. He should be in consideration for both 4-3 teams like the Buccaneers and 3-4 teams like San Diego and New England.
"I was a left-side defensive end this past year," he said. "Previous years, I was both left and right. I've played both the 3-4 and the 4-3. I've done it all at Cal and Cal has set me up to be a versatile player. I feel like I can play anywhere, given any circumstances."
In his four seasons with the Golden Bears, Jordan played in 50 of a possible 51 games and made 32 starts. As a senior, he earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors after recording 62 tackles (first among Cal linemen), 12.5 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At the combine, he backed up his on-tape production with strong measurables, running the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds and notching 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press. At the podium, he said the one area he'd like to improve in was pass-rush technique, though he certainly didn't believe it was a deficiency in his overall profile.
Jordan might have been one of the more entertaining defensive ends to take to the podium during Combine week, but he was far from the only one that drew a big crowd. With the likes of Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, North Carolina's Robert Quinn, Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State's Cameron Hayward and Missouri's Aldon Smith also looking like serious first-round candidates, it will be difficult for even a confident Jordan to guess where he will land.
In the end, though, it may be a player from a different time and the other side of the ball he ends up measuring his success against.
"Being in any draft, there's a plethora of talent, really," he said. "This one is more focused on the D-line and there are a lot of guys that are pretty good and pretty great. Luckily, I think I'm one of the guys that's pretty good, anyway.
"My father was a great player and I'm looking to be better than him."