Christian Jones | 6'4, 232 pounds | Outside linebacker | Florida State
2012 stats: 95 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three passes defended
Transitioning to weakside linebacker a season helped transform Florida State senior Christian Jones into a legit NFL prospect. Playing that position, he finished 2012 with 95 tackles and seven tackles for loss. Previously, Jones was used on the strong side, but switched last season to replace Nigel Bradham.
Following last season, the NFL Draft Advisory Committee gave Jones a middle-round grade. In an effort to allow Jones to rush the passer more, he's switching back to the strong side. As a prospect, he has to show better pass rush ability. Should he, it will go a long way in ensuring a spot in the first round.
What he does well:
At his size, you wouldn't expect Jones to be lined up against wide receivers in the slot. But take a look at least year's Florida State/Clemson game and you'll see Jones lined up over future first-round pick Sammy Watkins in the slot. Of course, Jones shouldn't be expected to play a full game covering a slot receiver, but he has the athleticism to shift out and cover wide receivers occasionally. Jones will be an attractive player in the draft to teams looking for linebackers who can cover tight ends. He has the height and strength to not get beaten.
Last season, Jones proved himself adept playing the run. He can quickly disengage from blockers and get back up to speed to chase the ball carrier. He effortlessly moves around the field. For a bigger linebacker, he's the exact opposite of being heavy footed.
Where he needs to improve:
Although Jones led Florida State in tackles a season ago, his instincts don't currently match his natural ability. Generally speaking, Florida State's linebackers have been underwhelming the past several seasons. That may be a consequence of coaching, and the Seminoles have added a new linebackers coach this year in Charles Kelly. If he can help improve Jones' instincts and get him to play with more discipline, Jones' draft stock should rise.
Jones hasn't done much as a pass rusher. A season ago, he mostly played the run and would drop back in coverage. Because of that, he's somewhat underdeveloped as a pass rusher. This season, Florida State's defense is going to rely on Jones to get up the field more and blitz. How he does doing that could help determine his draft stock. A linebacker that can rush the passer is much more ideal.
This season Florida State is expected to utilize a more aggressive style, which should suit Jones nicely. He should split time between playing traditional linebacker and putting his hand in the dirt and rushing as an end. The Seminoles are in desperate need of a pass rusher this year following the departure of Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. If Jones can dutifully replace them, his place in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft should be solidified.
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