As I said on Twitter while checking out his tape, Chris Jones was fun and frustrating to watch. Since I'm in a good mood, let's talk about the fun stuff first.
Jones is a big-ass dude at 6'5, 310 pounds. If you are keeping score at home, that means he is actually two inches taller than former Alabama defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson. Jones moves like a much smaller man. His deadly combination of power and quickness was on full display at times in each of the five games of his that I watched. It didn't hurt that Mississippi State's scheme allowed him to show a wide range of abilities.
I have to say that this was one situation where the team moving the player around a lot benefited both the team and the player. It gave the team a lot of flexibility with their calls and allowed Jones to showcase the full extent of his talent from almost literally every alignment where you could ever see a defensive lineman.
I saw him as a five-technique defensive end bull rush a left tackle a couple steps, then rip off to hit the quarterback and get a pressure on the play.
I also saw him as lined up in a 4-3 head up on a right tackle and split a double team with the right guard to make a tackle in the backfield against a toss iso on a pretty good running back.
I saw Jones as a three-technique execute a nice jab olé inside for a clean win.
I watched him as a one-technique nose tackle on third-and-1 jack up a left guard, then rip inside of him to tackle a running back for no gain on third-and-1.
Oh, and last but not least, I actually saw this dude line up as a zero nose, jack up the center and make a decent tackle on that good running back I was talking about earlier.
Some guys can't seem to flash at one position, and here is this Jones kid just all up and down the line kicking ass and taking names.
That's impressive as hell, period!
Look, nobody is going to mistake Jones for an edge rusher, and yet there he was lined up at defensive end winning with an inside move that looked better than any inside move I saw from some of this year's top edge guys.
You see that play and you're like wow, but then here Jones comes lining up as a one-technique nose tackle and beating the center and the running back to get a sack and you're all like, "What the fuck can't this guy do?"
Oh, and the best part is he wasn't just about using his athletic ability. Jones used his power very effectively both as a run defender and a pass rusher, and no matter how many times he benched 225 pounds, I can tell you he played powerfully on the field most of the time.
That's why he was so much hell on every one of those offensive lines, because Jones knew how to switch it up from power to finesse and back again from play to play. The offensive linemen would still be smarting over getting beaten with a power move and then here comes Jones running around them instead.
It's remarkable to see a guy switch it up between power and finesse at one position. To see him do it at multiple spots on both sides off the line is really really rare.
Speaking of flashing, just look at how explosive Jones looks on this play.
I don't know if he jumped the count or what, but if that running back wouldn't have been waiting on him after he had already beaten both the center and left tackle, I think Jones may have gotten to the quarterback before he was able to carry out the half roll.
Jones didn't show that kind of get-off on the regular, but this one play shows you what he might be able to do if he got some consistency about himself. Imagining Jones playing at this speed full time would be nightmare fuel for most offensive linemen.
The problem, however, is that he doesn't.
Oh, if you watch a highlight tape of Jones just from the five games I watched you might have the dude pegged to go No. 1 overall. Unfortunately, some of the plays he didn't make in those games are also instructive about who and what he projects to be on the next level.
Aaaaaaand now we have finally made it to the "frustration" part of our program.
Chris Jones is a lazy son of a gun, flat out. Well, he was lazy in the five games I watched, at least.
Y'all know I hate to see a dude loafing on tape and Jones is just shutting it down left and right in some games. I understand when the play is waaaayyy on the other side of the field and it doesn't look like there is any way to have an effect on the outcome -- then loafing doesn't seem like a big deal. That's why I don't generally even bring up those kinds of loafs in these breakdowns.
But the loafs I'm talking about with Jones are plays he wasn't that far away from.
I'm watching this guy jog while the offensive lineman who was just beside him takes off sprinting.
I'm watching this dude jogging as the quarterback scrambles past him.
I'm watching this dude just absolutely shut it down early on in plays if he doesn't think he can make it while his teammates are passing him up.
And frankly, that shit pissed me off. He is too good of a player to be going through the motions on some plays as he appeared to in the five games I watched.
Truth be told, there were other plays where Jones wasn't necessarily loafing but was lazy with his technique, where he wasn't able to have the impact he should have. As good as he flashed as a pass rusher I didn't expect to see many times where he would get blocked easily one on one by a guard, and yet sometimes it was like he just didn't even try that hard to beat the guy.
Where was the quickness? Where was the footwork? Where was the handwork? All of the stuff he showed on the good pass rushes, where did it go? You can't tell me that's good enough from a guy I'm seeing lined up as an inside linebacker, blitzing and getting pressure in the same damn game.
If Chris Jones played at his best -- or even close to it -- let's say 90 percent of the time in the games I watched, he may have been unblockable. Way too often he took his foot off the gas and let his opponents off the hook, however.
Look, effort is pretty much the only major thing I can knock Jones on. His technique isn't perfect, but it certainly is good enough for him to get by at the next level. I've already talked about his crazy combination of athletic ability and power, and he has almost the perfect height and weight to play anywhere and everywhere on a defensive line.
Effort, however, is kind of a big deal.
I have seen wayyyyy too many talented defensive linemen lazy their way out of the league to assume that Jones won't do the same thing. The margin between making and not making a play in the NFL is razor thin at times, and a little effort, or a lack thereof, can often be the key. You running to the ball when it doesn't look like you could possibly make the play can be the difference between the running back getting tackled 10 yards down the field after he cuts back or him taking it to the house.
So if I were a team looking to draft Jones high, we would have had to have done extensive checking into his practice habits and how he worked in the weight room. We also would have had to have sat down with him and looked him in the eye and talked about the loafing. I'm not sure what he could possibly say to make me comfortable believing that he would play harder more consistently in the future, but I would for damn sure be a hard sell.
Taking him after the first relieves some of that pressure because, as I said a couple seasons ago about Falcons defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman in his breakdown before they drafted him, hardly anybody remembers second-round busts. If you take him in the first round and he has the same effort issues in the pros and he doesn't work out for the team that drafts him, everybody is going to remember that.
As far as minor issues with his play, I saw Jones get pancaked a few too many times for my liking. A guy who is that big and strong, I just normally wouldn't expect many guys in college football to be able to take him down like that one on one.
I will say that when he did go down, it was usually on plays where he was once again lazy with his technique. Whether he didn't try to escape off the block or just didn't play as quickly as normal, he didn't look like the same guy on those plays.
They were, however, for the most part anomalies. When a guy is as talented as Jones is, even when he plays lazy it's hard to block him unless he lets you.
I also thought Jones ran too far upfield and ran himself out of plays a little too much as a three-technique. His inside moves were really good from there, but I didn't see him turn the kind of tight corner you want from a guy inside. That's really why I see him more as a one-technique than an undertackle in the NFL, although he has some potential there too.
Jones has the potential to be a fantastic player, especially in a 3-4 defense where he could go up and down the line whupping ass just like he did in college.
After thinking on it some, I think he could also be an incredible 4-3 nose tackle who could play all three downs and have good production as a pass rusher from the A gap.
He certainly excelled at it in college at times, and if he does end up playing with more consistent effort he could be a great complement on a 4-3 team that already has an exceptional three-technique/undertackle.
At the end of the day, there is no doubt that Jones has top-15 talent in this year's draft, but as far as I'm concerned he showed too much rookie free agent effort on tape at times. I think how high he gets drafted is going to come down to which team is most willing to believe that he will play harder as a pro.
A guy with that much talent, though, it probably won't take much to convince some of the teams that he will turn over a new leaf as a pro. That's just how it goes.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games I use the next-best thing for my draft profiles, Draft Breakdown. They are the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go. Also their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app that turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker," which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched the former Mississippi State defensive lineman play against LSU, Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Those represented the second, fifth, seventh, 11th and 12th games on Mississippi State's schedule last season, respectively.