+3-4 outside linebacker that has virtually no weaknesses
+Uses great fundamentals in all aspects of the game
+Has an amazing arsenal of attacks to create pressure
+Terrific strength for size
+Already has experience at 3-4 outside linebacker
+Uses his hands very well
-Lacks body control
-Prone to offsides penalties
-Athleticism is only average for a first rounder, below average for a top 5 pick (keep in mind, the standards there are high)
-Doesn’t have amazing length
-Technically plays outside linebacker, but coverage responsibilities are limited
-Will miss some tackles due tight hips and lack of elite quickness
-Extremely vulnerable to cut blocks. I cringe every time he gets hit in the knee
Earlier this year, I said that I thought Johnathan Hankins was the best prospect of the 2013 draft. I’m taking it back. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Hankins (best combination of size and stamina I’ve ever seen), but I have to give that distinction to Jarvis Jones. The guy is an absolute beast, who should have an excellent career in the NFL.
Jones has decent measurables, but they have to be his biggest weakness. Don’t get me wrong, 6’2, 242lbs, and a 4.74 40 yard dash isn’t bad. But it’s pretty bad for a guy who is supposed to be a top 5 pick. For the sake of comparison, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo (a projected top 5 pick) is 6’4, 240lbs, and runs a 4.57 40. Obviously, Jones isn’t in the same athletic class as Mingo. Jones has solid measurables, but they are unspectacular for a future top 5 pick.
Jones has terrific stats. Through 4 games in 2012, he has 32 tackles, 8 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks, and an interception. In 2011, he had 70 tackles, 19.5 TFL’s, and 13.5 sacks. I don’t usually reference quarterback hits as a defensive stat, since many schools don’t keep track of it, but last year he had 49 QB hits, which is just hilarious. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t seem possible. But that kind of domination is just funny.
Jones is amazing against the pass. What really strikes me is the amount of ways he can create pressure. Earlier this year, I said that Chase Thomas was overrated because, as a pass rusher, he is “the Jack of all trades, but the master of none.” Basically, Thomas has a bunch of different pass rushing skills college linemen may find to be difficult to stop, but he doesn’t have one specific skill that sets him apart in the NFL level. Jones, however, is basically the master of all trades. He has numerous amazing abilities that will set him apart in the NFL. To start things off, his hand usage. First of all, I have always loved defenders who can use their hands effectively. I think it’s crucial. The main thing I love about hand usage is that pass rush moves are the most consistent way to create pressure from anywhere on the line. Athleticism and a good speed rush rarely gets pressure from the interior, and the bull rush almost never works against an offensive tackle. But good hand usage? That can work against anyone. It makes defensive line stunts a much more viable option, since guys who use their hands well can create pressure from wherever they want, and it’s a great asset for 3-4 outside linebackers. Jones uses his hands very well. In terms of hand usage, he’s not Aldon Smith (a guy a loved out of college), but he is pretty close. The keys to being effective with pass rush moves are length, strength, arm quickness, and just using the pass rush moves with good fundamentals. The only thing on that list that Jones doesn’t have is length. Long arms can help with pass rush moves, because good hand usage only works if your hands can reach the opponent, but Jones still has great strength and knows how to use these pass rush moves with great effectiveness.
Some guys who use their hands well don’t succeed in the NFL because many of them lack a technique that will work against the run. However, Jarvis Jones doesn’t rely entirely on good hand usage. He also can be an absolute leverage master. He kinda short but also flexible, so there are times where his lack of great height can be an advantage since he can just stay so low and get good penetration. Combined with his hand usage, it’s a very effective technique. In football, coaches preach the importance of staying low. However, when it comes to using your hands well, you actually need to play high. You have to hit the offensive lineman’s arms, and THEN get under them. Offensive linemen are instructed to play high when defending guys who use their hands well, because, if the arms are too low, a good pass rush move will simply knock the arms out of the way and the lineman will be beaten. There are two advantages to this. One, if a defensive lineman can play high and still create pressure, he can better see the play developing in front of him. Two, if a defensive lineman sees an offensive lineman playing high, he can exploit him, and that’s what Jones does so well. If an offensive linemen is playing low, he uses a great pass rush move and beats him. If an offensive linemen is playing high, then he gets under him and beats him. It’s an amazing way to keep opponents off balance, and it will translate to success in the NFL.
Jones still has other methods of creating pressure. One thing he does really well is use the lineman’s momentum against him. He has great lateral quickness (though average lateral range), and, if an offensive lineman tries to lunge at him and engage in a block, he swiftly dances around the block and the offensive lineman ends up whiffing. Some linemen, after being burnt by this move, try to play farther off of him, giving themselves a cushion to work with, but he has another move to counter it. If he sees an offensive linemen playing pretty far from him he does this amazing stutter step move that can beat offensive linemen every time. He makes a nice, sharp plant in one direction, makes a great head fake, and then cuts back the other direction and gets past the lineman. It’s similar to methods basketball players use to get past their man. He basically can juke out a lineman. It’s pretty awesome. He also has tremendous strength for his size, and he gets a good initial punch. On the downside, he is very vulnerable to cut blocks, and I’m amazed he hasn’t needed more ACL surgeries considering how often linemen try to take out his legs. I cringe every time I see it happen.
My biggest problem with Jones is that he isn’t great in coverage and doesn’t fit the profile of an effective cover linebacker at the next level. As a linebacker in coverage, Jones is what I call a tweener (yes, a basketball term, but still a good description of Jones) linebacker; he lacks the quickness, fluidity and athleticism necessary to cover running backs at the NFL level, yet he lacks the size (namely, in height) to cover tight ends. In coverage, think Anthony Spencer. Even with good strength, at 6’2, Jones is unlike to be great in coverage against tight ends (in most cases, he’ll be giving up 4 inches in height and an additional 2 inches in arm length). Yet, at the same time, his hip tightness and mediocre lateral speed means that covering running backs under 230lbs will be tough. I only trust him against big backs, H-backs, and fullbacks. Beyond that, I worry. Not too mention, he has little experience in coverage (the only reason I call him a linebacker is because he lines up in a two point stance), and he hasn’t been very impressive in coverage in the small sample of seen. His only chance for success in coverage is a lot of zone, and even there he will still have to refine his instincts.
Jones is good against the run. He plays with terrific on field intensity, he has solid instincts, and terrific strength for his size. His instincts are generally sound, although he can be too aggressive as a pass rusher and open up a gap to run through, and he can make tackles in traffic and get good penetration. My only questions for him is that his range is only average, and he is only average at disengaging from blocks. But he is still relentless in pursuit and takes good angles to the ball.
Jones is an average tackler. Although he rarely overruns the ball and has very good strength, he has very tight hips and can occasionally struggle to wrap up smaller, quicker backs (Chris Rainey) as a result. However, if he does get his hands on the ball carrier, not only does he always make the tackle, but he never allows yards after contact, he uses good fundamentals, and he can force a fumble or two when needed.
Ultimately, I like Jones. I think the amount of ways he can create pressure will make him very tough to gameplan against and take him a long way at the next level. His injuries may be a concern, but he is a pretty complete play otherwise.
NFL Comparison: Clay Matthews, with a little bit more strength but a little bit less quickness
Grade: 100 (worthy of the top pick in the draft)
Projection: 99 (will be a top 3 pick)