January 21, 2014 | 9:34pm
MOBILE, Ala. — Jordan Matthews ran around the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium feverishly looking for something. The South team’s practice for the Senior Bowl had just ended and scouts and reporters were closing in on the Vanderbilt wide receiver, but he kept darting around the field.+
Finally, Matthews found what he was searching for — a football. He wanted to catch more passes from quarterback Derek Carr.
“I’m trying to make sure I’m the best possible player I can be at the end of the day,” Matthews said after he was done running the extra routes. “Whether it’s staying after or watching some extra film, all those things I have to make sure I keep doing them.”
Matthews is the top wide receiver at the Senior Bowl, but the early projections have him behind a number of underclassmen who have entered the NFL Draft. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and USC’s Marqise Lee are generally regarded as the top of this wide receiver class. Matthews falls into the second wave of wide receivers with Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Penn State’s Allen Robinson and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper has him as the seventh-best wideout in the draft.
He is projected to go in the late first or second round. The Jets, whose biggest need is wide receiver, may miss out on the top wide receiver prospects picking at No. 18 overall and have to address the position in the second round, where Matthews might fall. The team interviewed Matthews on Monday night at the Senior Bowl and the prospect of playing in New York excites Matthews.
“It would be an awesome opportunity,” Matthews told The Post. “Rex Ryan, I have all the respect in the world for him as a coach. [He’s a] great guy. The wide receivers there are talented from [Jeremy] Kerley down to Santonio Holmes, also Stephen [Hill]. They have a great group of wide receivers. It would be awesome to play alongside them.”
Matthews had a record-setting career at Vanderbilt. He holds the SEC records for career receptions and receiving yards, as well as receptions in a single season with 112 in 2013. He had nine 100-yard receiving games last year.
The 6-foot-2, 201- pounder is a relative of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. His mother and Rice are first cousins, and Matthews said he models his game after his famous relative.
The scouts do not question Matthews’ production, but wonder if he has the speed needed in the NFL. The biggest question mark is whether he can get separation.
“He’s a big-bodied kid,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to see him in person. He’s massive. I thought he had a really nice day today. I think he’s good out of breaks and cuts. I think his hands are there. I’ve always admired his toughness because I think he goes into the briar patch and takes some hits and keeps on ticking. Obviously, people are going to want to know what he runs. That’s what it’s going to come down to. … But all in all I think he’s a big-time prospect.”
Matthews knows he is ranked behind several of the underclassmen now, but said he’s not trying to prove he’s better than anyone.
“[I] just continue to work and don’t worry about anybody else,” Matthews said. “You have to look at your future through a straw. I can’t worry about what Marqise Lee, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins are doing. I have to worry about what Jordan Matthews is doing and make sure I’m the best possible player I can be.”