Jones doesn’t have ideal measurables for a 4-3 defensive end and is a little light for the 3-4 OLB position. He is listed at 6’3”, 241 pounds but it wouldn’t surprise me if he measured in at 6’2” and 235 pounds or so. He’s not a huge player and he doesn’t look like he has a ton of room on his frame to “bulk up” and get up to 255-260 pounds or so.
Jones isn’t elite in this area, but I think he is good enough to play 3-4 OLB or 4-3 OLB at the next level. He seems to diagnose plays pretty well, flows to the ball well and does a good job of setting the edge in the run game. He understands his responsibilities and doesn’t abandon his responsibilities in the run game to roll the dice on rushing the passer. He has been used to spy scrambling quarterbacks during his time at Georgia, and seems to have a good feel for when he needs to keep contain. There are times when he takes too wide of an arc when he attempts an edge rush and the QB escapes through the lane he created, but typically he adjusts and doesn’t make the same mistake over and over again.
Jones excels in pursuit and has impressive range despite what I perceive as a lack of elite straight line speed for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has a great motor and consistently gives good effort from the backside whether the play is near him or whether the ball is far away from him. He knows how to flow through trash and has a lot of experience taking on blocks because of playing at the line of scrimmage.
Jones isn’t a great tackler but he is a pretty good tackler. He attempts too many arm tackles for my liking, but seemingly every player I scout these days does. He shows that he can wrap up and he can generate pop on contact. He also has a great knack for forcing fumbles as evidenced by his 9 forced fumbles the past two years (including an incredible seven just this year) and that speaks to the power he can generate when he tackles a ball carrier.
This is one area that I’m not very comfortable with Jones on. He has been such a productive pass rusher the past two years that it’s almost criminal to drop him into coverage, but Georgia did mix that in at times and while I think he is raw in this department I think he can develop if asked to do more of it at the next level. I haven’t gotten to see him make straight drops in coverage, but I think he has the potential to fit at outside linebacker in a 4-3.
Point of Attack:
Jones isn’t elite at the point of attack by any means, but he’s not as much of a liability as I expected him to be. He doesn’t have ideal arm length for a pass rusher and it will hinder him if he’s asked to play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB in my opinion. He is stronger than I expected him to be and he has shown that he can anchor against bigger, stronger players at the point of attack, but at the same time I’ve seen him blocked effectively by tight ends like Michael Williams and Justice Cunningham. He has shown that he can use the length he has to keep blockers from getting into his chest and he has a pretty good feel for controlling the blocker before he sheds the block to wrap up the ball carrier. He has shown that he can set the edge and consistently shows that he has the strength to walk a defender into the backfield and help disrupt outside running plays even when he doesn’t come free and necessarily make the play. He’s not a dominant run defender by any means, but I don’t think he’s nearly as much of a liability as he is portrayed to be sometimes.
This is traditionally considered Jones’ greatest asset, but I’m not as convinced of his pass rushing prowess as some others seem to be. First, his get-off is not as explosive as you would think it was after hearing about how dominant he has been. He rarely fires off the ball using all of his athleticism, though I imagine some of that has to do with him being assignment steady. Still, it prevents him from gaining an instant advantage against blockers he theoretically should be able to beat off the edge if he is as explosive as we were led to believe. Second, I watched 14 games of him before writing this scouting report (it was a mix of games from his redshirt sophomore season and from his junior season this year) and I never once saw him explode off the ball, go with a straight speed rush, execute a shoulder dip and beat the tackle for a clean sack. That concerns me for a number of reasons: First, and most obviously, this signals to me that he can’t win with a simple speed rush in college which means there is no reason to believe he’s going to be able to win with a speed rush at the next level. Second, he seems to be a little stiff and it shows when he tries to bend the edge. Third, it means he has to use his quickness, power and non-stop motor to generate pressure (which he has obviously done quite successfully in college to the tune of 26 sacks the past two seasons). That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since quickness, and that kind of effort level generally translate pretty well to the NFL. However, at 240 pounds or less, I have questions about how well his power moves will translate to the NFL even though I’ve seen him convert speed to power pretty nicely when bull rushing. He is obviously a good pass rusher, and he has shown that he can slap away the hands of a blocker to gain an advantage when rushing. He has also flashed a spin move (though I’ve never seen him use it en route to getting a sack), but he could still stand to improve his hand usage and develop his swim move. He could also really use a good rip move since he likes to go inside so much. That is where Jones creates almost all of his pressure- beating tackles inside, stunting, and by chasing quarterbacks down after the pocket collapses even when he hasn’t necessarily beaten his man 1 on 1. By adding a powerful rip move he could improve his ability to win by going inside even more. The problem with that is at the next level he’s not going to be able to beat tackles inside nearly as easily if he can’t threaten their outside shoulder with a dynamic speed rush, and that is extremely concerning. Without at least the threat of beating them off the edge any smart tackle will avoid opening their hips up too early and be looking for him to attempt to dart inside or attempt a rip move on their inside shoulder. With those pass rush options taken away (remember, that’s how he generates a lot of his pressure) he won’t be nearly as effective and a lot of people that didn’t study him and realize that he just isn’t an explosive edge rusher will be completely dumbfounded. That’s why I don’t think he’s going to be a stud pass rusher in the NFL, and it’s why I’m not convinced his best position at the next level is outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
I have never spoken to Jones so it’s hard to evaluate his character, but from everything I have read he seems like a great kid. First, there is this CBS special focusing on how he overcame his 19 year old brother being murdered outside of a bar on his birthday. Second, there was this article in Sports Illustrated discussing his brother’s tragic death and being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord. USC was concerned that this could lead to a serious neck injury and wouldn’t clear him to play. He requested and was granted a release from his scholarship and that led him back home to Georgia in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense. It’s hard not to root for a kid like Jones who has been through so much on and off the field and come out a better person for it. I was particularly moved by the last part of the Sports Illustrated article where he discussed opening a rec center in Stewart County in honor of his older brother. He really seems to have his head on straight and that combined with his great motor and effort level on the field makes me think that he won’t be any kind of character risk even after he signs a multi-million dollar contract. The spinal stenosis is going to be heavily scrutinized though. I imagine a number of teams will take him off their board completely because of that medical red flag despite the impressive production he has had in college. That will hurt his draft stock, but it only takes one team and even if that red flag pushes him down draft boards I think that will just be another hurdle that Jones finds a way to overcome on the way to a successful NFL career. I’m no doctor so I can’t make any educated guess about how long of a career he will be able to have, but that will be something that every NFL team inquires about at the combine.
I think Jones is a quality NFL prospect, but I don’t think he is going to be a dominant pass rusher at the next level and I have questions about how well he projects to the 3-4 OLB position in the NFL despite his obvious success in that role at Georgia the past two years. This probably won’t be typical of many evaluators, but I think he would be a great 4-3 OLB candidate at the next level, particularly at strong side linebacker (which is ironically where USC was playing him). He has a lot of experience blitzing off the edge, stunting inside and has even been used to spy scrambling quarterbacks so he won’t have issues rushing the passer or spying the passer at the next level. He may not be a dominant run defender for a defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, but for a 4-3 outside linebacker he has more than enough size, strength and block shedding experience to fill versus the run, set the edge on the outside and make impact plays in the backfield. I am not that comfortable with him in coverage yet, but he has shown flashes of being able to turn and run with receivers and has some experience dropping into short zones. There’s just not a ton of tape available showcasing his ability to drop into coverage, but I believe that he has the athletic ability and the intelligence to do it well if he is coached up. I think the 4-3 OLB position plays to his strengths best- he won’t be hindered by his struggles to win off the edge with a pure speed rush because he will be blitzing instead of being relied upon to generate pressure as a defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker every snap, his perceived struggles versus the run as a DE/OLB may even be turned into a strength since he has so much experience attacking blocks and shedding them at the line of scrimmage, and he has enough athletic ability to at least give dropping into coverage more a try. Even if he doesn’t excel in coverage the strongside linebacker is often taken off the field in nickel and dime packages where he could put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer if the defensive coordinator wanted to keep him on the field. He’s a good linebacker and a quality kid, so even though I don’t think he’s going to be a dynamic pass rusher I still like him as a prospect. He just has such a knack for making plays through his effort (look at all those forced fumbles, plenty of them are because his motor never stopped running and he caught a player from behind and punched the ball out) and I think NFL teams are going to be impressed with him when they interview him if they can look past his potential medical concerns.
Projection: Top 40-50.
This might seem outlandish, but I don’t think he’s even close to a lock for the top 15 right now and after people start overreacting to his medical condition there will be plenty of people exclaiming that he will fall to the 3rd round or maybe even further if enough NFL teams take him off their draft board. I won’t try to downplay how serious his condition can be because based on what I understand he could be at risk for a serious injury, but I think that a team in the late 1st round will see a kid with a great motor, work ethic and a history of impressive production and either slide down to select him or move up and get him in the 2nd round. I personally think he could be a very good 4-3 strong side linebacker, but I’m sure plenty of NFL teams will assume he will be a quality 3-4 OLB as well. I’m not quite so sure, but it’s hard to ignore all he has produced at the college level.