No matter what, the Chargers need to come away from this offseason having added plenty of reinforcements to the interior of their defensive line. Whether it’s through this year’s draft or free agency, major moves need to be made in the name of fixing the team’s hellaciously bad run defense.
With plenty of other needs floating over the head of the team, there’s a chance the Chargers’ most precious draft picks are used elsewhere, such as the right tackle spot or cornerback. If the Chargers decide to forgo using their first-round pick on a defensive tackle, they’ll still luckily have the chance of landing an impact player early on day two thanks to a decent class at the position.
One name I really like that’s done wonders for his draft stock in recent weeks is UConn’s Travis Jones, one of the stars from this year’s Senior Bowl.
At 6’4 and almost 330 pounds, Jones looks like a traditional nose/one-technique but he showed some serious gas during the all-star showcase that made scouts believe he could thrive at any interior position whether in a 4-3 or 3-4 front. Just check out the video below where he walks back the center during a one-on-one session in Mobile.
Nobody helped himself more in Mobile than @UConnFootball NT Travis Jones. @bigtrav76 showed high-end starter talent all week. Clinic tape here for DL coaches. #BestoftheBest #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/uX79yXkzsA— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 22, 2022
In three collegiate seasons played (he sat out the 2020 season), Jones totaled 134 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. In his final season, Jones broke out for 48 total tackles, 7.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks.
As an independent school, Jones wasn’t able to be named to an all-conference team, but if the team was still in the AAC, I’m fairly certain he would have been a unanimous first-team selection.
In his scouting profile at The Draft Network, analyst Joe Marino notes that while Jones isn’t the most-explosive off the ball, he exhibits some eye-popping flexibility and agility for someone his size. His hands are constantly active even though he shows a preference to win on first contact.
Oh, and most importantly, he’s one heck of a run-stopper.
“(Jones) is a sturdy and unselfish run defender that processes run schemes extremely well,” says Marino. “He does well to anchor, maintain his run fit and keep the second-level clean. He holds his own against double teams and single blocks won’t move him.”
Linval Joseph is not getting any younger and despite him being the least-worrisome player among the interior, the Chargers must look forward and prepare for his inevitable departure/retirement. Jones is a perfect fit for the Chargers in that he can be used alongside Joseph or spell the veteran in the seemingly lone year that the two would likely be on the team together. Is Jones’ selection worth missing on adding an upgrade over Jerry Tillery and/or Justin Jones? Maybe. Maybe not.
UCONN DT Travis Jones has that "I can do whatever the hell I want" strength@seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/tOPF0bCNSe— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) February 4, 2022
Tom Telesco has had some horrendous luck finding players who make immediate impacts in recent years and I firmly believe a player like Jones would help him turn around that unfortunate streak.
Of course, let me know what you all think about Jones as a player and where you’d like to see the Chargers select him in this year’s draft, if at all.