Jarvis Jones | Linebacker | Georgia* | 6'2, 245 pounds
Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is a tough guy to bet against. After being told he couldn't play football because of his spinal stenosis, Jones left USC. He transferred to Georgia where he went on to become one of the nation's most exciting and productive linebackers this season.
Finding a fit for Jones in the NFL isn't as simple as it seems. His biggest strength is his pass rushing ability as a linebacker. Given that and his size, Jones would appear to be an ideal fit at rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense. However, at the 2013 NFL Combine, Jones says he thinks he fits best into a 4-3 defense and would prefer to play in that scheme.
His play on the field didn't always match that sentiment, but that's why every team will do their due diligence on the polarizing linebacker prospect.
Jones' game is predicated on speed. When running in a straight line, Jones has what it takes to be a difference maker. He closes on the ball well and gets into the backfield in a hurry. In addition to the speed, though, Jones has the get-off to disrupt plays quickly. He shows good anticipation off the snap and solid burst to beat offensive tackles.
More impressive is Jones' hand use. He has strong hands and knows how to use them, displaying the technique to keep blockers out of his pads and create the space he needs to get after the passer. From a technical standpoint, Jones' hand use is probably his best asset.
Jones was also one of the most productive linebackers in the country, which is due in part to his outstanding hustle. Jones refuses to quit on a play and uses his speed to chase down ball carriers with regularity. His motor is always running hot and he is always battling with offensive tackles to the whistle. That hustle makes him the type of finisher he is in the backfield.
For all of Jones' flash and production, he has a fair amount of flaws as a player that keep him from being a slam dunk prospect. While he has the speed necessary to wreak havoc off the edge, Jones lacks a consistent counter move. He often tries to rely on his speed to create enough momentum heading into the backfield rather than avoiding blockers. He has a tendency to play upright, despite not having much size to begin with. He lacks the length and frame to get bigger in the NFL. That makes his lack of in-space athleticism somewhat surprising. He doesn't show the bend around the edge that you would expect from such a productive edge rusher.
That lack of short-area athleticism shows up when Jones is playing in coverage, where he has been inconsistent throughout his career. While he has displayed an ability to make big plays, his hips are too stiff to keep up in coverage on a regular basis.
The biggest issue facing Jones at the next level, though, and the reason why he is more suited to play 3-4 outside linebacker, is the lack of strength he shows when anchoring against the run. He doesn't have enough power and plays too upright to seal the edge or take away any space in the running game. In the Alabama game, Jones was targeted often by the Crimson Tide rushing attack and constantly got blown off the ball.
Jones also has some non-football red flags that will scare some teams off. The linebacker has spinal stenosis, the details of which are a bit murky. NFL teams are going to have to determine if the longevity of his professional career will be affected by this condition if that is worth taking a chance on early in the first round.
Jones is far from a finished product. While his numbers and highlight reel will impress (he led the nation in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles this season), his skill set may not stack up immediately in the NFL. He will have to develop as a pass rusher if he hopes to hold up against the biggest NFL tackles. And he's going to have to get bigger if he wants to play ever down as an outside backer in a 4-3 defense.
Pro Comparison: Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks
While I don't know if Jones is as dynamic of an athlete as Bruce Irvin is, the two have similar strengths and weaknesses as prospects. Both excel getting after the quarterback but struggle against the run when trying to anchor against bigger tackles.