All things being equal, Christian Jones would rather play outside linebacker in the NFL, but he's not fussy. It really, really doesn't matter to him where he plays.
Inside. Outside. Special teams. Whatever it takes.
“I consider myself to be a versatile guy," said Jones at the NFL Combine. "I’m not too sure where teams want me—inside or outside. A lot of teams have different schemes. Whoever takes me is getting somebody unselfish who will play whatever they need me to play to help out the team.”
With an attitude like that, it's no wonder Florida State was able to win college football's national championship this past season behind the strength of the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation, led in part by Jones.
Jones was a key part of a group of talented Seminole defensive players taking their skills to the NFL, including Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks and Telvin Smith.
In 2013, Jones lined up most frequently as an outside linebacker along the line of scrimmage, a quasi-defensive end, just as liable to line up in a three-point stance as a two-point stance.
The role seemed to fit Jones perfectly as he made 56 tackles, eight for a loss and two sacks. His individual statistics may not have been overwhelming, but at Florida State, it was a total team effort.
"As far as (Jones), stuck his hand in the dirt this year, I do believe it helped him," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "Today's NFL, anytime you can show some edge-rush ability, it's going to push you up a little higher in the draft. And I think his versatility will be a plus."
Jones could both rush the passer as well drop into coverage. As such, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the Seminoles also led the nation in pass defense, allowing an average of just 156.6 yards through the air per game.
In previous years, Jones played more frequently off the line of scrimmage.
"My junior year I played inside a little bit," said Jones. "I played some 'Will' and my senior year I played 'Mike' a little bit until they moved me outside. I played a lot of inside ‘backer at the high school level. It’s not like a new thing for me. I’ve seen it before, and I’m used to doing it. It won’t be an adjustment.”
Measuring in at 6' 3" and 240 lbs. at the NFL Combine, Jones has the size to hold up in the trenches but also possesses the read-and-react athleticism to get the job done at the second level if need be.
Jones speaks with what appears to be a perma-grin, seemingly happy just to converse about football—the type that lives, eats and breathes the sport. Even talk of playing special teams brings a smile to his face, and that is perhaps where Jones will have to earn his stripes early in his career seeing as he's projected as a mid-round draft choice by NFLDraftScout.com.
But Jones' sheer athleticism give him the chance to succeed, even thrive in professional football.
“My length and size," said Jones about what will make him great pass rusher in the NFL. "I have a lot of athletic ability. I felt as the season went on, I was improving every week. I feel it’s something I can do for the team that takes me. I’ll be able to come off the edge or be the 'Sam' 'backer. I think that’s something I’m confident I can go out and do it.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Florida State linebacker Christian Jones by Brian Carriveau.
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