Jordan Lucas was the first player to commit to Bill O'Brien when he took charge. He recorded a lone tackle his freshman year but got a full-time job in his sophomore season. With the scholarship sanctions in effect, and depth a luxury Penn State could ill-afford, Lucas took up a starting corner role and never looked back.
In that 2013 season, Lucas was all over the place. He was third on the team in tackles, behind linebackers Mike Hull and Glenn Carson, and sixth in tackles for loss. He played out wide and also covered slot receivers at times, the first showings of his excellent versatility. He did all this while also being the team's most valuable cover corner. He tied with Ryan Keiser for the team lead in interceptions with three, forced two fumbles, and led with thirteen defended passes. His best statistical season, one in which he established himself as a rising star, came under the much-maligned John Butler regime. His interception early in the amazing 43-40 win against Michigan is a good example of his solid close out speed and skill in man coverage.
In 2014, Bob Shoop took over and the Penn State defense became one of the best in the country. Lucas recorded 59 tackles (third behind Hull and Nyeem Wartman-White), seventh in tackles for loss (the most of any secondary player on the team), and was sixth in the Big Ten in passes defended with nine. Though he had no interceptions, this was more a case of teams not throwing at his side of the field. Teams learned that trying to attack Lucas was a poor decision, and focused more on teammate Trevor Williams, a converted wide receiver. He wasn't quite Lucas Island, but he was not a man you wanted to test on the outside thanks to his leaping ability, speed, despite middling ball skills. Lucas was the leader of the secondary along with Adrian Amos, and helped Penn State to a third-straight winning season in the post-Paterno era.
That offseason, Amos departed for the NFL, and Penn State had a hole at safety. The versatility and leadership Lucas showed in his career came through in full, as he made the position switch in the offseason. Always an adept tackler with a nose for the ballcarrier, Lucas took to the position well. Though injuries held him to just nine games, he again led all secondary players in tackles (56), had three passes defended (fourth behind mega human Anthony Zettel, his replacement at corner in Grant Haley, and breakout linebacker Jason Cabinda), and logged his fourth career sack. He took a bit of adjusting, but Lucas made the transition from man cover corner to safety very well. His Penn State career ended a bit early, but he'll be fondly remembered by those who followed the sanction-era teams.
What You're Getting
First of all, you're getting a leader. Lucas is a three-year starter at two different positions in the secondary and was a team captain as well. His 4.45 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical leap show the foundations of a very interesting project secondary player. He's a likely third-day pick, but should provide significant upside at that spot. Adrian Amos' excellent rookie season with the Chicago Bears may, in fact, boost Lucas' value. He has great skill in run support, and is smooth on turns. He also showed excellent man coverage ability, as evidenced by his 25 passes defended, despite not being a great interceptor of the ball. He has good closeout speed and rarely beats himself. He's not the elite athlete many are looking for at corner now and is no ball hawk, but could provide value there, at safety, and on special teams based on how he develops.
Jordan Lucas is not currently a finished product and has played multiple positions, and is a sort of tweener defensive back. As such, he'll get labeled as a day three project player. There is nothing wrong with that, but it's also not entirely fair to him. He's shown to be adept at both spots, and has the work ethic and football IQ to continue to improve as a player. He's the type of guy who can spend a very long time in the league thanks to his versatility, even if it's as a depth player rather than a starter. Whoever drafts him is going to get a player that can provide value at multiple positions and in multiple sets, be it run support or coverage outside or in the in slot. They'll also be getting someone who multiple head coaches and defensive coordinators have trusted to be leaders on their defense.