Cameron Jordan on Bourbon Street? Look out.
The fun-loving defensive end from Cal was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 24th pick in the NFL draft Thursday night. It was a little later than most prognosticators projected Jordan would come off the board, but the former All-Pac-10 first-team pick has to be thrilled he is heading to the Big Easy.
"I'm just happy to be selected, period," Jordan said during a conference call with the New Orleans media. "I was getting a little bit worried. I'm doing well."
Jordan is pretty good at finding a good time, but he's even better at seeking out opposing quarterbacks. A late bloomer at Cal, Jordan finished his college career with 16½ sacks and 34 tackles for loss.
Most projections heading into the draft had Jordan going anywhere from ninth to 18th overall. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper had Jordan going No. 9 to Dallas in his final mock draft. Several others predicted Jordan would go No. 12 to Minnesota, where his father, Steve, played 13 seasons and was a six-time Pro Bowler as a tight end. Others believed New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was very interested in Jordan and might even trade up to take him.
The Vikings surprisingly took Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick, and the Patriots, at No. 17, selected Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder.
Jordan was the seventh defensive end to come off the board.
"I don't know if I was surprised," Jordan said. "It was definitely eye-opening seeing how the draft works firsthand. You always have some crazy things that happen. I don't pay too much attention to mocks anyway, so I'm just happy I'm here."
Jordan didn't turn himself into a top-level prospect until his senior season, when he emerged as one of the Pac-10's most disruptive defensive lineman. He finished 2010 with 62 tackles and 5½ sacks.
But his stock really escalated with his performance in the Senior Bowl, where personnel evaluators from every NFL team converge on Mobile, Ala., after each college football season to watch the top senior prospects practice and then play in an all-star game. Jordan followed that up with a strong showing at the NFL scouting combine and was firmly in the first round after that.
Most evaluations placed Jordan's stock high because of his versatility. Despite Jordan's playing strictly defensive end at Cal, many NFL teams believed he could play defensive tackle as well. He demonstrated that ability at the Senior Bowl.
"We actually thought he was going to go a little higher," Saints director of college scouting Rick Reiprish said. "We were very surprised and nervous the last two or three picks before we got there, because there were some people calling and asking if we wanted to trade up. We thought about trading up and in the end we tried to make a decision on what to do, and sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make."