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The San Diego Chargers Should Draft Barrett Jones

Barett Jones is an outside-the-box idea for a new Left Tackle on the Chargers. But is it so far outside of that box that it should be considered a dumb idea?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In some (OK, several) comments this offseason, I have stated my fascination with Barrett Jones, the Center for the National–Champion Crimson Tide of Alabama. Jones won the Rimington Award in 2012, which is awarded to the best Center in NCAA football for the season.

Hey Tex, you know the Bolts still have Hardwick on the team, right? The Chargers don’t need a Center, nimrod, we need a left Tackle.

In this year's draft there are two winners of the Outland Trophy (given to the best Tackle in the NCAA). Luke Joeckel, the consensus #1 overall pick, won it for the 2012 season. The 2011 Outland Trophy winner was Alabama's Left Tackle, Barrett Jones. If you don’t believe me, here is the National Championship game from January 2012, featuring Jones (#75) playing Left Tackle, fresh off his Outland Trophy–winning season:

Alabama offense vs. LSU defense (BCS National Championship) (via maj0915)

This was after the 2010 season, when he was named to the All-SEC team playing Right Guard.

If he’s that good, why didn’t he stick to one position?

Because of Nick Saban. When Saban would find the weakest link on his line, he knew he could count on Jones to slide into that spot and turn the weakness into strength. Last year at Alabama, Center was looking shakier than Left Tackle and into the Center slot went Jones.

OK, Jones is a special kind of player. But we don’t pick until 11 and if he is that good, he may be gone by then and definitely gone by the time the Bolts’ second round pick comes up.

Unfortunately for Jones, during the 2nd quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, played on December 1, 2012, he injured his left foot.

Hey, I remember Jones playing all of the game against Georgia and then in the National Championship game, too. So the injury was not that bad, right?

Well, the team and Jones said throughout December and the first week of January that he had a "sprained foot" and that he would play in the National Title game. He did play on January 7, 2013, and played well. After the game, the team and Jones revealed that he had a lisfranc break in his left foot.

Tex, you’re nuts! Nobody comes back from a lisfranc break and is the same player they were before! The only real cure for that is to amputate the foot! He’ll never play football again!

I actually studied up a lot on this type of injury, trying to convince myself that my budding bromance was misplaced. What I discovered was actually encouraging with respect to the object of my man crush.

Darren McFadden had this injury in 2011 and it sure seemed like he could play last year. The literature suggests that the surgical treatment for a lisfranc displacement is advantageous. Screws or wire stabilizes the joint forming the arch of the foot and leads to quicker recovery time. Jones had the surgery done by Dr. Bob Anderson on January 9, 2013. (Anderson is recognized as the nation’s best lisfranc surgeon.) This indicates that the foot should be ready for full weight bearing in the first week of May and with the ability to rehab fully for more than a month, Jones being ready for OTA's and training camp is not unrealistic.

Even if he takes longer to heel heal, there is a large drop off in Draft talent after Lane Johnson. The Left Tackles after Johnson are not projected to be reliable starters in 2013 (a group that includes Terron Armstead.) I was unable to find any sourced information on the web suggesting that Barrett has had any setbacks in his recovery, only vague un-sourced rumors.

Here's another thing: Jones played 6 quarters of football at a high level in Championship Games with an untreated Lisfranc injury. I'm pretty certain he will say he's ready when camp opens.

OK, assuming he can come back from the foot surgery, what makes him so special? Why are you so sure he’s the answer and not just some college guy that won’t make it in the NFL?

McCoy has talked a lot about attention to detail. I think that a young man with a Master’s Degree in Accounting (and accompanying 4.0 GPA) would fit in with the "attention to detail" philosophy. The offensive system (as much as it has been discussed) seems to highlight flexibility and week–to–week adjustments, something that requires intelligent players. I think Jones would thrive in that type of system.

Telesco has talked about changing the team culture. Could a young man that was team captain on two NCAA national championship teams (and played on a 3rd FCS winner) maybe help bring a culture change to the Bolts?

Jones was recognized as "the absolute best scholar-athlete" in the nation in 2012, winning the William V. Campbell Trophy. He has also earned the Weurffel Trophy for his play, academic achievments, and off–the–field work in the community and beyond. While at Alabama, Jones went on two mission trips to Haiti and one to Nicaragua. He was also active in Campus Crusade for Christ. Jones is a natural leader; a positive force in the locker room and on the practice field.

Inside the Huddle-Barrett Jones (episode 6) (via Britton Lynn)

OK, Tex, we get it – you think he is a great guy and would be positive guy to have on the team. But what about playing in the NFL? Can he make it the NFL?

Absolutely he can. When you play Offensive Line in the SEC, you are regularly playing against guys that are going into the NFL. Last September, a survey of opening day rosters revealed that fifty (yes, five–zero, 50) defensive linemen in the NFL played in the SEC. Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers, Melvin Ingram, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, and Jake Bequette were all front–7 SEC players taken in the first 3 rounds last year. Marcel Dareius, Nick Fairley, Kelvin Sheppard, Justin Houston, Drake Nevis, and Akeem Dent were also picked in 2011.

This year’s list of SEC Defensive front–7 prospects ranked 3rd–round or higher includes Sharriff Floyd, Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo, Sheldon Richardson, Jesse Williams, Damontre Moore, Kevin Minter, Jonathan Jenkins, Corey Lemonier, Sam Montgomery, and Lavar Edwards. Jones either played against or practiced against all of those guys in his career and dominated them en route to winning his awards.

During film study throughout the 2013 season, it is likely that Jones will have some special insight into one or more starters on an opponent’s defense, because he'll have played or scrimmaged against a good number of them. His draft profile suggest that his game has some flaws, but I see a guy that is able to sustain his blocks and either shield or steer his defender away from the play more often than not, even if he cannot overpower his opponent.

Barrett Jones - 2013 NFL Draft Profile (via Erick Ward)

Well, all that’s fine, but does he have that nasty streak that an offensive lineman in the NFL needs? And does a guy that played center even want to play Left Tackle in the NFL?

Well, let me put it this way. If PR has a problem with something on the Offensive Line, he may want to yell at somebody other than Barrett Jones:

AJ McCarron & Barrett Jones - Shove Then Hug in BCS Title Game (via SECDigitalNetwork)

Good hand technique.

The National Title game was 42-14 at that point, Jones could have easily been sitting out of the game way before that. Nobody on the Tide would have said anything negative about him not playing the entire game on a broken foot (which I’m sure was really, really painful). Even with a known and diagnosed serious injury, Jones insisted on playing and he was still playing with passion in a blow out. Quite a contrast with the "I won’t play unless I’m 100% healthy" that has been heard around here recently from a nameless Left Tackle previously employed by the Chargers.

As to the question about whether he wants to play Left Tackle, I’ll let him speak for himself:

I'll play whatever position I'm asked to play. If you made me choose I'd probably choose Center right now because number 1: I played there last year and number 2: I'm kind of a control freak. But that being said, wherever they think the best fit for their team and can help them win, that's where I want to play.

-- From AP Sports at the Alabama Pro-Day, 3/16/13. (Emphasis mine)

So there it is my friends, my unhealthy mantasy for a Center with a busted foot that I believe may be a future Pro-Bowler at any O-line position he is asked to play, including Left Tackle.

I’ll leave you with this video from the SEC Championship game. Savor the play of Jones (75), Chance Warmack (65), and D.J. Fluker (76) going up against Jarvis Jones and Jonathan Jenkins. Remember that Jones played on a broken foot after the 8 minute mark in the 2nd quarter. All five of these players will hear their names called in New York starting on the last Thursday of April.

Chance Warmack,Barret Jones, DJ Fluker vs Georgia 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)

Please talk me out of this obsession or you know that I will be crushed if the draft concludes without hearing "and with the _____ pick of the 2013 NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers select Barrett Jones, Center, University of Alabama". Otherwise, join me and let the team know you want them to take a serious look at Barrett Jones to become the team’s next great left tackle.