Chandler Jones - Mr. Upside.
The 5th prospect in this series on pass rushers is Syracuse Junior DE Chandler Jones. For whatever reason jkvandal didn't include Jones in his post-combine post on the pass rushers. However, Mel Kiper, Jr. has been projecting the young QB chaser as a Chargers pick as recently as his last mock draft ($). Chandler Jones was at the combine so we have the numbers to rank him with the rest of the prospects that jkvandal talked about. He had a 10' broad jump, 35" vertical jump and put up 22 reps in the bench press. Add those up and you get an explosiveness number of 67. That's just behind Whitney Mercilus, a few behind Melvin Ingram and well behind Nick Perry. He also had 11 sacks and 27 TFLs in his 32 games at Syracuse. That puts his plays/game stat at 1.1875. That's ahead of Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw, but behind Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry.
The Syracuse Orange didn't draw much of my attention throughout the college football season, they were light on prospects and light on quality opponents. Since Jones was a Junior and not a guarantee to declare, he flew under the radar and didn't help raise any awareness that Syracuse was worth watching. Nevertheless that doesn't make him a viable prospect and it's about time I wrote something on the young man:
He's got good size for the position and has athletic genes with his brother being a Ravens draft pick in 2010 and his other brother a champion UFC fighter. He's a high character guy. He's versatile in that he could play with his hand on the ground in some situations, but can make the transition to 3-4 OLB. His pass rushing skills are raw, but show tremendous potential. His first step quickness, wrestling background and long arms help him get easy leverage on blockers. If he perfects his hand fighting skills he could be special in this area. Shows explosiveness in his hits at times and has the athleticism to improve this further. Can operate some in space. Needs to become more instinctive in the run game as he can be a step late. Knee injury cost him 5 games last season and injuries could be a concern for him. (1st round)
When Mel Kiper projected him to the Chargers he had the following to say:
Listed as a defensive end at Syracuse, Jones has the talent, upside and a great frame to make the move to OLB in a pass-rushing role. He's still a little raw, but the instincts are there and offensive linemen have a really tough time getting their hands on him. Could blossom into a star for the Chargers.
The Chargers need an outside 'backer, and Jones is moving up as fast as any player in the draft. He has the size to hold up as a 4-3 defensive end, but I don't think he'll have a tough time working effectively in San Diego's scheme.
6'4 5/8, 266 pounds | Defensive end | Syracuse
Pass rush: Jones times the snap well, but he doesn't have great get-off quickness. Has long arms and active hands to keep blockers out of his frame. Has the athleticism to get low around the corner. Because of his length and athleticism, Jones has the potential to develop into a high-level pass rusher. To do that, though, he needs to refine his secondary move. Jones will get held up when his initial move fails and doesn't have the best lateral movement to work inside. Has lined up inside and outside the tackle.
Pursuit: Jones' get-off at the line of scrimmage was inconsistent throughout his career. Against Pittsburgh as a junior, he was routinely the first player off the line. But in other games, he was a non-factor. Uses his length to close quickly and get a hold on the ball carrier.
Run defense: Isn't always fast to redirect against draw plays. Needs to develop better instincts against the run. Has to figure out how to get off blocks quicker against the run. Knows how to keep his feet clean. Has a long wingspan that he uses to his advantage to take up more space.
Strength: Plays stronger than his long, lean frame suggests. Jones is particularly strong in his upper body but he still manages to get a good leg drive. Has a frame that can get much bigger if he lands on a 4-3 team.
Tackling: Although Jones is a textbook perfect wrap and drive tackler, he has the length and power to make up for it. Gives good effort in pursuit to chase down the ball.
Technique: If Jones wants his potential to match his athleticism, he needs to consistently play with a lower pad level. Coverage technique is largely unknown. He dropped back a few times, but will most likely have to work on his footwork if he goes to a 3-4 team. Does a good job of keeping his hands active and will use his free hand to make a play while still being blocked.
Final word: Jones played just seven games this season after suffering a leg injury in the season opener. Still, Jones earned first-team all-conference honors after finishing with 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. But his development as a prospect was hampered by the injury. Jones will enter the NFL loaded with potential because of his size and athleticism. But he needs to get better against the run and his technique needs some work.
Make no mistake, Jones is likely to be a project and not an immediate impact guy. However, as opposed to some of the guys available in the 2nd round he is a project with a very high upside. Would the Chargers gamble on that upside when they typically focus on guys that were productive in college and still show upside?