One of the more experienced and productive play among the Chargers’ 18-man undrafted free agent class is linebacker Mikel Jones out of Syracuse.
After prepping at national powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Jones took his talents to the ACC where he wasted little time in seeing the field as a freshman. During the 2019 season, Jones played in 11 total games for the Orange with four starts. He led all freshmen on defense with 38 total tackles to go with two tackles for loss, a half sack, and one pass breakup.
Jones began to hit his stride for Syracuse as he began to breakout during the 2020 season where led all linebackers in the FBS with four interceptions, as well as being in on eight different takeaways throughout the season (four picks, two forced fumbles that Syracuse recovered, and two other fumbles he recovered).
He truly hit his stride during the 2021 season where he recorded career highs across the board with 110 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and four sacks en route to being named a First-Team All-ACC selection.
Syracuse LB Mikel Jones is an undersized sparkplug in the middle of this defense— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) July 27, 2022
Impressive range/physicality combo for 6'1 225lbs. I don't exactly know where his projected NFL position is yet but I don't see it being at MLB pic.twitter.com/NiiZH7ipnA
Jones would finish his senior year on another solid note with 84 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, and another forced fumble, His efforts earned him Second-Team All-ACC by the Associated Press and an invite to the NFLPA Bowl.
During the Syracuse pro day, Jones recorded a 4.70 in the 40 with a 30” vertical jump and a 9’5” broad. He underwhelmed in his agilities with a 4.57 short shuttle and a 7.21 in the three-cone drill.
When it come to my evaluation of Jones, I see him much more as a true-and-tried football player that gets by on his instincts and feel for the game rather than his elite athleticism. In the video below, Jones shows some great feel and body control for the pass rush before taking down the quarterback. While it’s just one play, a play like this tells me much more than you’d expect.
After this moment, we knew that Mikel Jones was in for a special season #cuse pic.twitter.com/1MwmHmYZL1— Playmaker Syracuse (@PlaymakerCuse) February 21, 2023
Due to his lack of long speed, Jones could struggle greatly in man coverage, especially when it comes to carrying tight ends up the seam. With his lack of size, he’ll also have to find a way to better take on blocks at the point of attack. His instincts do him well when it comes to slipping blocks and pursuing ball carriers horizontally, but that won’t be enough to save him at the next level.
Overall, Jones plays much bigger than his listed size and I could easily see him earning a spot as a special teams contributor early on. All he has to do is show he can be more valuable than Amen Ogbongbemiga or Nick Niemann which isn’t the largest of hills to climb, in my opinion.