The 2013 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at the Defensive End position, especially in the first 45 picks or so. For example, CBS projects that as many as 9 DEs could go in the first 45 picks, or 20%. Clearly one of the most important positions on the field, it's well worth investing a first round pick in one of these guys. One guy that has been slowly moving up draft boards is Datone Jones from UCLA, who seems to be a great fit at 3-4 DE.
Jones was a three year full-time starter at Defensive End for the Bruins, plus he appeared in 10 games as a true Freshman, starting two of them, which adds up to 43 starts in 51 career games. He amassed 148 career tackles, including 12.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. His senior season was by far his most productive with 62 tackles, 19 of which for for a loss, and 5.5 sacks, earning him all-conference honors. The coaching change to Jim Mora, Jr.'s defense really helped Jones be a lot more aggressive, and a lot more productive.
He didn't stay on just one side of the UCLA DL, as he moved around on both the right and left, as well as in the middle, giving him the versatility that teams love. It showed at the Senior Bowl as well:
Jones lined up all over the defensive line in college and it's tough to classify him at one position, but his scheme versatility will make him an attractive prospect for hybrid defenses like in New England. Considered a second rounder entering the week, he made a strong case on Monday as to why he should be considered a top-32 selection. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
Jones talked about his versatility at the Combine too:
I feel like the game is changing. There's more versatile defensive linemen in today's game. You don't really see every-down defensive linemen now. You see a guy who plays first and second down, then goes and sits down. Then another pass-rush specialist comes in on third down and takes his spot. I want to be a guy who can play every down.
This guy was made to play the DE in a 3-4 scheme, with both his size and abilities, and by sheer coincidence the Colts are pretty thin at the position, with many people thinking this is where they'll go in Round 1. You'll see below the NFL.com write-up compares him to Cory Redding, so who better to show Jones how it's done in the NFL than they guy he most closely resembles? Some may say that Jones is a reach at pick #24, but several places now are saying he's a definite Round 1 guy, and in some he's moved past Damontre Moore from Texas A&M, who had a really bad Combine, who was initially being projected in the Top 10. The Colts need playmakers on Defense, and Jones looks to be a guy that can do exactly that, and at any number of positions.
Versatile lineman that can fit in an odd or even front. Fires off the ball with impressive pad level and is often able to shock the offensive lineman with a quick jolt. Use active hands to disengage quickly. If he cannot disengage, he keeps his arms extended. Maintains the line by keeping his body leaning forward.
Must prove he can sit down in his stance and keep his butt down to get low or anchor against drive blockers. Forward lean can cause him to get off-balance at times, savvy veterans will rip him down to get him to the ground.
STRENGTHS: Well-built athlete with long arms and good strength, throughout. Flashes an explosive initial burst off the snap to penetrate gaps. Uses his hands well at the snap to rip free from blocks, showing a variety of pass rush techniques (swim, rip, club), as well as enough power to simply bull over offensive linemen into the backfield.
WEAKNESSES: A classic 'tweener who until his senior season hadn't ever lived up to expectations. Lacks the sustained speed and flexibility to turn the corner as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. Lacks the bulk to handle full-time duties as a traditional defensive tackle. Has a tendency to stand up as he comes off the ball, losing out on the leverage battle.
COMPARES TO: Robert Ayers, DE, Denver Broncos -- Like Ayers, Jones has flashed talent throughout his collegiate career but has been racked with inconsistency. His versatility and big senior season could push a team to gamble on his upside early.
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