There are polarizing prospects in every draft and this year’s is Georgia’s outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
The six-foot-two, 240 pound Jones has been one of the most dynamic pass-rushers in college football the last two years, logging a monstrous 28.5 sacks during that time. But as evaluators continue to put him under the microscope prior to the Combine, questions arise about his true physical talent and just what kind of production he’ll have at the next level.
Some say he’s not going to be as productive as he was in college while others suggest he’ll be a top sack artist. If there’s any chance of him becoming an extraordinary hunter of quarterbacks in the pros, it’ll start with his hands. Jones has very heavy hands that are deadly at the point of contact. When he lays his hands on a blocker’s jersey, usually the blocker is jolted back, taking a couple of shocking short steps regardless of his size and power.
Against Alabama center Barrett Jones, who’s two inches taller and 65 pounds heavier, the linebacker literally lifted the Crimson Tide lineman off the ground and back into the pocket. It was a sight worthy of multiple rewinds and most certainly of discussion.
On the play, the Georgia defense had multiple players hovering over the line of scrimmage as if they were blitzing. Jarvis Jones stood just inside the right offensive tackle, D.J. Fluker, prior to coming across the formation and making a beeline at the center. Barrett Jones (75) appeared to be prepared for the rush, as he had his knees bent, his shoulder pads low and was sitting in his stance.
However, when Jones struck him in the chest, the center was knocked back onto one foot.
At that point, Jarvis Jones had the leverage advantage even though he didn’t have his arms extended. His strong hands enabled him to control the center and, furthermore, lift him into the air despite his lack of size in comparison.
This is a very important trait to have as a pass-rusher because if or when Jones starts to play with proper footwork, consistent hand usage and develops his rush repertoire, it is going to be very problematic for offensive tackles to keep him at bay.
Moreover, his lethal hands will have to be relied on because he doesn’t have the ability to dip his shoulder and turn the corner with consistency. He flashes this ability but it’s not constant due to him being a straight-line athlete. He also doesn’t have great agility or flexibility, which is glaring at times when he goes to turn the corner and ends up on the ground. This makes it difficult for him to become a dynamic speed rusher and will force him to learn how to convert initial quickness and speed to power as a main pass rush tool. At the moment, he doesn’t do this well because of the way he uses his hands.
Despite being heavy handed, Jones doesn’t always win battles at the point of attack. This is partly because his hand placement tends to be poor, with them often on the shoulder pads of blockers opposed inside. As a result, he tends to struggle to shed blockers after engaging with them, as seen in the Alabama game against tight end Michael Williams.
Jones was lined up in a nine technique on this particular play, standing across the outside shoulder of Williams, who was in-line.
When the ball snapped, Jones came forward and engaged with the 6’6″, 270 pound Williams. He struggled with his hand placement and allowed the tight end to reach his chest, thus giving him leverage and control. The leverage was taken advantage of properly, as the tight end kept his pad level low by bending his knees and established a strong base with his feet.
Jones, who lacks a counter move of any kind, then attempted to beat him with a wide but that didn’t work either. Because he was unable to disengage, Jones was controlled by Williams, who slid his feet to mirror the rush, and was shutout of the play.
This is the concern that some evaluators will have with Jones at the end of the day. He doesn’t always play with proper technique and footwork, leading to him struggling to deal with blockers of all kind. He should have been able to beat Williams, who is a very good blocker in his own right but an inferior athlete.
Even though Jones has the above issues, they aren’t the biggest questions with the highly rated prospect. The biggest question is his medical history, which includes spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a serious issue that could have implications on his draft stock and to get more information about it, I listened to a Draft Countdown podcast that featured injury expert Will Carroll. Carroll elaborated on just what spinal stenosis is and how it could affect Jones in the long run.
“Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the column, through which the spinal cord itself runs. You can see why this is a problem. Spinal cord doesn’t need to move a lot but it is flexible and needs some room there. Anytime its touched, anytime its impacted, its bad. You can see spinal stenosis occur a lot of times later in life through degenerative conditions. Some are born with it,” he said.
Carroll also pointed out that there have been some players who have played with the injury, namely former San Diego Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill who recently retired at age 29, but it’s an issue that could knock Jones down draft boards, depending on the doctor and general manager.
Overall, Jones has many questions to answer. His instincts, strong hands and athletic ability will certainly pique the interest of GMs but the combination of his questionable medical, inconsistent technique, lack of great stature and build could lead to a slip in his stock.
All use of videos to take snapshots is done by DraftBreakdown.com.