With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
#11: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
We continue this year's series with Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who originally committed to USC, but would up with the Bulldogs after he suffered a neck injury in the eighth game of his freshman campaign and USC's doctors wouldn't clear him for play in 2010. After the mandatory year off following a transfer, Jones started blowing the SEC up right away in 2011, amassing 39 solo tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. He was even more impressive in 2012, leading the nation in tackles for loss (24.5), sacks (14.5), adding an interception, and forcing an NCAA-high seven fumbles.
Everything was on track for Jones to ascend to the NFL until reports of his spinal stenosis diagnosis slowed everything down. He didn't work out at the scouting combine, but he was subjected to a battery of medical tests there.
"I have a slight narrowing in my spine between the C4 and C5 [vertabaes]," he told the media at the combine. "Like pretty much everybody – probably some of y’all have spinal stenosis and don’t know it – I have it. But most of the doctors checked me out and feel that I’m fine. I don’t have any contusion or anything like that in it.
"I only had one incident. A stinger at USC in 2009, my freshman year. I never had any symptoms after that. I played 2 years of SEC football, red-shirted, practiced every day, never had any symptoms. So I feel that I’m healthy. The doctors felt that I was healthy today. So I’m excited."
In early March, it was reported that leading orthopedist Dr. Craig Bigham had sent a report to NFL teams in which Jones was given a clean bill of health. However, the 4.92 40-yard dash Jones ran at his pro day was another speed bump in the process. Those teams looking for a speed-rusher will likely look past one slow time and understand what the tape shows -- that as a pure edge weapon and pocket disruptor, Jarvis Jones has special potential.
Pros: Jones has outstanding speed around the edge and can turn inside to the pocket in a hurry. Even when he's blocked out, can move back inside the octagon for the sack. Bursts off the snap to establish advantage against outside blockers. Gains speed quickly from wide formations. Gets under blocks when turning the edge -- already has a consistent "dip-and-rip" maneuver. Reads the action well at the line when asked to do so. Outstanding chase player who will take the play to the sideline. Good wrap tackler. Redirects well in space and will stop plays away from his starting point. Quick enough to drop into coverage and mirror tight ends and even outside receivers well. Tackles for loss by sliding off blocks -- does this better than he takes on blocks directly. Has an embryonic bull-rush but needs to develop better strength and leverage to effectively use it.
Cons: Needs open space at the edge to consistently disrupt -- tends to get wrapped up with inside contact. Got a lot of his sacks running around blockers. Will chase and read more than he alters blocks with pure power off the snap. Sometimes has blind spots on rushing lanes when he's edge-rushing; doesn't always push to re-direct. Tall (6-foot-3, 235 pound), rangy athlete who comes off the ball high (necessities of a two-point stance) and will lose strength and leverage battles in one-on-one situations. Not functional as a lineman in short-yardage situations -- gets washed out in power plays. Needs to develop a better array of hand moves, a spin move, and an inside counter before he'll be able to disrupt at the next level.
Has been cleared of the spinal stenosis issue, but some teams may still red-flag him. Slow 40 time at his pro day, but plays much faster than that on tape.
Conclusion: As a wide outside linebacker, or weakside defender, Jones has the ability to disrupt opposing offenses at an elite level. However, the fact that he hasn't yet developed a full palette of pass-rush moves is a two-edged sword -- some NFL teams may wonder if he can, and others will project what he can to with more and better technique work and rate him very highly.Comparisons to Von Miller when Miller came out of Texas A&M in 2011 are legitimate, though Miller had a better set of hand moves, and under the right circumstances, Jones could have the same type of NFL impact.