Saints 2016 NFL Draft Profile: Chris Jones
With the 2016 NFL Draft drawing closer every day, we’re continuing to focus on the top available college prospects. Chris Jones’ stock is rising in his bid to be one of the first defensive linemen selected, and he slots in perfectly where the New Orleans Saints are expected to make their first selection. Should they bring him to the Crescent City?
The Mississippi State Bulldog was an early entrant to the NFL Draft, and is a key piece to the deepest defensive line class in recent memory. He’s got a rare combination of size and ability that could take the league by storm.
- Height: 6-foot-6
- Weight: 310 pounds
- Arm length: 34 1/2 inches
- Hands: 10 3/4 inches
As you can see, Chris Jones is a large human being. He’s got one of the broadest wingspans in the draft (seven feet between his fingertips) and the height to match; he can disrupt passes thrown as high as eleven feet off the ground. His long arms let him affect the play even when blocked, as he can reach out and around blockers to hit the ball-carrier.
The trouble is that Jones was very inconsistent in college. Some days he was unstoppable (vs Missouri’s talented interior line, he bagged two tackles for loss and a sack) and others he was a non-factor (Auburn, Troy, and Ole Miss stonewalled him).
For what it’s worth, Jones may not have been playing at his best alignments. Because he was Mississippi State’s best defensive lineman he played all over the defensive front; lining up as a one-technique nose tackle, five-technique end, and two-technique tackle all in the same game.
That versatility is prized if you produce from all spots, but there’s a clear divide in Jones’ effectiveness between playing end and tackle. Per Pro Football Focus’ NFL Draft Guide, no interior defensive lineman was more productive rushing against between right guards and right tackles. He was a top-fifteen rusher using a simple bulrush, stunt, or racing through lanes unblocked. Jones scored above-average ratings on third down and against quarterbacks’ blindside. No other defensive lineman was more effective within 2.5-seconds of the ball being snapped.
How he fits the New Orleans Saints:
It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints’ defensive line is starving for talent. Cameron Jordan is the only member to have made the Pro Bowl. It seems half the locker room took to lobbying Nick Fairley, playing for his third team in as many years, on social media to join them. As of right now, here’s the base four down-linemen look you can expect to see the Saints roll out in the fall:
Nine-technique wide defensive end: Hau’oli Kikaha (2015 second round pick).
One-technique nose tackle: Tyeler Davison (2015 fifth round pick).
Three-technique defensive tackle: Nick Fairley (2011 Detroit Lions first round pick).
Seven-technique defensive end: Cameron Jordan (2011 first round pick).
Kikaha projects to be a force now that he’s playing end full-time, Davison had flashes of good play, and Fairley was wildly disruptive for the Los Angeles Rams in St. Louis last year. Jordan is a reliable eight-to-ten sacks per year guy to lead the charge. But the Saints still need help on the interior defensive line.
Enter Chris Jones. He rushed the passer 311 times last season in Stark Vegas, collecting three sacks, 12 hits, and 34 hurries. Add another four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and you get a Pass Rusher Productivity rating of 12.1. That would have been by far the best rate of any Saints defender in 2015.
There are questions surrounding Jones’ usage and effort in college, and they should be considered when the Saints go on the clock this Thursday. But his elite length and the production he gathered when the lights came on are impossible to ignore. Jones is a fascinating prospect who could work his way into the lineup splitting time at the three-technique with Nick Fairley early on. This is common practice for defensive linemen, as it keeps them fresh throughout the fast pace of a 60-to-80 snap game.
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