Jarvis Jones called it two days ago.
“If I even get to 17, I don’t think I get past the (Pittsburgh) Steelers,” Jones told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. “I mean, from what I’ve been told, I don’t think I get past the Steelers.”
He was right.
Thursday nigth the Steelers found the player they feel will be the next force at linebacker, taking Jones with the 17th overall pick as he fell right into their laps.
Jones, from Georgia, was the highest rated outside linebacker for the Draft. He’s a two-time Consensus All-American and two-time First Team All-SEC.
The LB has 26 total sacks for the 2011 and 2012 season combined earning 13.5 each year. Some even had him rated as the highest defensive player overall in the draft, and now he’s a member of the Black and Gold.
Jones was one of the best pass-rushers in college football over the last two seasons and dominated the SEC, the nation’s strongest conference. He started out his career at USC before a neck injury caused the Trojans staff to tell him to quit football. Other doctors disagreed and Jones transferred to Georgia. After sitting out a season, he took the SEC by storm in 2011.
Jones tied for fifth in the nation in sacks with 13.5 that year. The sophomore also had 70 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss, two passes broken up and two forced fumbles. His season was highlighted with a four-sack game against Florida.
Despite all the teams sending double-teams his direction in 2012, Jones was even better as a junior; he led the nation in sacks, forced fumbles and tackles for a loss. Jones totaled 85 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, three passes broken up and one interception on the season. He had a string of dominating performances while missing the Kentucky game with a knee injury and didn’t look the same against South Carolina, but bounced back in late October.
Jones had a game for the ages in Week 2 against Missouri. He stepped up with huge plays to help lead the Bulldogs to a win. Jones had nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, a pass batted and an interception returned 21 yards to the goal line. The turnovers he created came late in the game and sealed the win for Georgia.
Once again, Jones dominated Florida and carried the Bulldogs to a win that secured them a spot in the SEC Championship. He had 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery against the Gators. Late in the fourth quarter Florida was driving for a game-tying touchdown, but Jones made the game-saving play with a forced fumble on a tackle from behind on tight end Jordan Reed at the Georgia 5-yard line. The Bulldogs recovered for the win.
In the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, Jones notched two sacks and a forced fumble. His sack-fumble was a phenomenal play on which he beat blocks from right tackle D.J. Fluker and running back Eddie Lacy to take down A.J. McCarron. Jones picked up another coverage sack later, but the Crimson Tide had a lot of success running straight at him. It was an ugly game for Jones as a run-defender. He finished his collegiate career strong with two sacks against Nebraska.
Jones should be a pass-rushing demon and a phenomenal edge-rusher in the NFL. He fires up field off the snap and is extremely hard for offensive linemen to get a hold of. Jones has good hands to fight off blocks with moves to get around linemen. While he isn’t a power player, he uses some functional strength along with his athleticism to shed blocks.
Jones is a heat-seeking missile in pursuit. He is great at chasing down quarterbacks and running backs from behind. Jones is always cognizant of the ball and does a great job of slapping it out to force turnovers. He was a sack-fumble machine in college. While Jones does not have blazing speed, he is football fast and that was clear with how he dominated the SEC.
There are a few areas Jones needs to improve for the pros. He needs more strength to hold up against runs that come directly at him. That would also help him to avoid some missed tackles.
Scouts at the East-West Shrine told WalterFootball.com that Jones would slide on draft day because it was their belief he would test poorly before the draft and isn’t a hard worker in the weight room. The scouts said that watching the game tape, Jones is worthy of being a high first-round pick, but they didn’t feel he will go that high. That prediction was validated in the months to come. Jones declined to work out at the Combine and had an ugly showing at his pro day with a terrible 40-yard dash time between 4.9 and 5.0 seconds.
WalterFootball.com spoke with scouts who were in attendance at the pro day, and they said he did well in the linebacker drills, but really struggled in the timed tests. Scouts said that Jones isn’t a bad teammate or a bad guy, but he isn’t a guy who coaches will love during the week because he doesn’t put in a lot of work. However, scouts said they loved the way he showed up on game day.
Jones could be an elite pass-rusher at the next level. If he goes to a good organization and coaching staff that can motivate him, he could be an absolute force. If Jones lands with a bad team that has frequent coaching changes and instability, there is the potential for him to not pan out. With the workout concerns and the neck injury, he could easily fall to the middle of the first round.