With the 2010 NFL season in the books, the draft edging ever closer (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Michigan State inside linebacker Greg Jones. One of just 10 players in the nation to earn unanimous All-American honors after the 2010 season, Jones if one of the more decorated players in Spartans history. The first true freshman to lead the team in tackles since 1976, Jones enters consideration for the NFL as one of the few true four-year standouts. Playing inside and outside linebacker, he led Michigan State in tackles each of those for years and became the emotional leader of the defense.
At the 2011 scouting combine, Jones was asked what he wanted to prove. "Just to reassure (teams) that my athletic ability that they see on film is the same thing in these drills right now," he said. "I realize some teams they think based upon my 2009 stats and whatnot, I dropped in my athletic ability and speed, and don't think I have at all."
Jones did drop in his overall stats from 2009 to 2010 — from 154 tackles (67 solo) to 98 (43 solo), and from nine sacks to one, but he also upped his interception total from zero to two and his numbers on forced fumbles and passes defensed also went up, further pointing to his overall versatility. In his Michigan State career, Jones posted an ungodly tackle total — 457 with 230 solo. 44.5 of those were for loss (34 solo), and 16.5 were sacks. Jones also picked off two passes, forced five fumbles, had 17 quarterback hurries, and broke up seven passes.
Do those stat drops represent any loss of ability, or was Jones just over-targeted? Does he fit better inside or outside? Let's go to the tape.
Pros: Against the run as a middle linebacker, diagnoses the action very well — Jones doesn't generally fall victim to play misdirection or foot-fakes. Gets up to speed quickly to close or blitz; has a good sense of opposing offenses and snap counts and uses his game savvy to his advantage. Redirects well for a player with his speed in space. Good edge speed as a pass rusher; can get around a tackle quickly and closes well in pressure. Very quick to the ball when taking on and bouncing off blocks. Excellent wrap-up tackler. Shows good pursuit to the edge, though faster backs might beat him to the edge and around. Flips seamlessly into pass coverage.
Cons: At 6-foot-0 and 242 pounds, Jones looks and occasionally plays undersized for an inside position — while he sets well to the run, he can get blocked out a bit too easily by backs and tight ends and doesn't really have a contrary power move. Needs to anticipate oncoming linemen at the second level; will have trouble with them unless he can get the advantage and bounce off at the right time. Easily enveloped by bigger blockers inside and can really be rocked back.
Conclusion: If Jones is going to stay inside in the pros, I see him doing so with a team that uses a lot of nickel sets that require the man in the middle to do more chasing than hitting. Like the Colts' linebackers (Gary Brackett and Clint Session) and players in certain sets for teams like the Jaguars. Saints and Seahawks, Jones will be most effective in situations where he can use his intelligence and athleticism to overcome any power deficits. Jones' ideal fit may be as a hybrid 'backer in 4-3 and 4-2 fronts, where he helps finish off collisions more than he creates them.
NFL Comparison: Kirk Morrison, Jacksonville Jaguars
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 -- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada | #55 — Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas | #56 -- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU | #57 — Davon House, CB, New Mexico State | #58 -- Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt | #59 — Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU | #60 — Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | #61-- Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina | #62 — Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami | #63 — Titus Young, WR, Boise State | #64 — Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia | #65 -- Stefen Wisniewski, C/G, Penn State