Leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, there is no hotter player than Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones. Observe:
"I'm gonna make a statement. Three years from now, I'm gonna say Chandler Jones is the best defensive player to come out of this draft." – Mike Mayock
It's not just one person who thinks as much, either. Michael Lombardi of NFL Network thinks Jones is the best defensive player in the draft. He's mocked to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 12 by Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times.
So how did Jones go from being an expected second-round pick to a possible top 15 choice in the 2012 NFL Draft? Size matters.The prototype for defensive ends right now is the New York Giants' Jason Pierre Paul. From a size standpoint, no player is more similar to Pierre Paul than Jones. The Syracuse end has nearly an 86-inch wingspan and a 35.5-inch arm length. Size can't be coached and no end in this draft has it better than Jones.
"I stay humble through it all, but I feel like what raised my stock was the way I interviewed," Jones told ESPN.com. "I met with 14 different teams, talked to the head coach, general managers, talked to coordinators and position coaches. I felt like I carried myself very well. I came to every single interview like it was a job interview. I sat down with a coach, told him what I know, and all the coaches were impressed with how much I know, and were very intrigued with me. We watched film, and I explained what went on. They were impressed with my football knowledge."
An injury to his knee limited him to seven games and he had just 4.5 sacks. But he has experience at end, defensive tackle and even nose tackle. His versatility, especially for a team like the Seahawks and their unique line principles, is tremendous.
Although he never dominated a game, Jones flashed plenty of potential at times in 2011. His final game of the year against Pittsburgh, he finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss an interception and a forced fumble. But he was routinely the first player off the line of scrimmage and getting into the backfield.
It's his first step, which at times was inconsistent, that leads to so much buzz. Jones will need to be coached up. He'll have to add strength. But if a team can figure out how to couple Jones' athletic gifts and length correctly, the comparisons to Pierre Paul may be more than just physical.