This profile was originally published on April 21, 2013
As someone who, in all likelihood, will be selected somewhere from the middle to late in the first round of the NFL Draft, there’s been a high amount of speculation connecting UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones and the Green Bay Packers.
How exactly Jones would fit into Dom Capers’ 3-4 defensive system is similarly under speculation in the world of social media.
Conjecture ranges from the next coming of J.J. Watt to being woefully underweight at a position where he’ll be asked to hold the point of attack.
Jones weighed in at 283 lbs. at the NFL Combine in February, and it appears as if he’ll hold off on adding any bulk to his body until it becomes official which team selects him and what they expect.
“It depends on where a team needs me to be,” said Jones at the Combine. “I can’t really judge it. My starting point is 284.”
Measuring in at 6-4, Jones possesses a length that’s in short supply on the Green Bay defensive line. No other Packer playing in the trenches is more than 6-3.
Judging from Jones’ frame, he would appear capable of putting on weight, but how much is another matter. And whether he can be an effective player at any weight is similarly up for debate.
One thing is for sure, Jones played well in UCLA’s 3-4 defensive front in 2012, a season in which he made 62 tackles, 19 for a loss and 6.5 sacks. That came just one year after he made 41 tackles, 6.5 for a loss and three sacks.
Among Jones’ best qualities are his flexibility, the type of player that has been used all over over the defensive line.
“I moved around everywhere, from strong-side defensive end to three-tech,” said Jones. “Sometimes you’d see me at nose. I played all across our defensive line.”
Jones credited new UCLA coach Jim Mora for instilling a sense of accountability previously unseen in Westwood for his own personal success as a senior and that of the entire team that won the Pac-12 South title and went 9-5 overall.
Those wanting to see Jones’ ceiling in the NFL can point to Watt who was a similar size to Jones when he weighed in at the Combine in 2011, although slightly bigger at 6-5 and 290 lbs.
Watt has obviously gone onto much success in professional football, being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year last season in the Houston Texans 3-4 scheme. Watt was selected 11th overall in the first round and has since bulked up only five lbs. to 295.
“A guy like J.J. Watt,” said Jones when asked if there’s an NFL player he patterns himself after. “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.”
In terms of pure athletic ability, Watt trumped Jones when it came to the measured drills at the Combine. Jones ran a faster 40-yard dash (4.80 vs. 4.84) but Watt had more bench press reps (34 vs. 29), a higher vertical jump (37 inches vs. 31.5) and horizonal jump (120 inches vs. 112), a faster three-cone drill (6.88 seconds vs. 7.32) and short shuttle (4.21 seconds vs. 4.32).
Another player with similar size to Jones is former Packers and current Chargers defensive lineman Jarius Wynn who’s 6-3 and 285 lbs. For three years in Green Bay, Wynn could never carve out much more than a part-time role as a situational pass rusher. Even then, his contributions were modest at best.
The argument can be made that Jones is better fit as a 4-3 defensive end where he can utilize his quickness off the edge instead of fighting in close quarters. But to Jones’ credit, using his hands to ward off blockers is another strength.
Hand placement is something Jones continues to work on in preparation for the draft, including a move learned from a famous former New York Giant.
“In Michael Strahan’s last game––in the Super Bowl––he did a move,” said Jones. “He called it his ‘Hall of Fame Move.’ It’s where he got his last sack. It was a cross-chop rip.
“You’ve got to get off the ball fast. You’ve got to beat the offensive lineman off the ball, give a nice head fake, get his hands down with the cross chop, then rip and you’re through. I’ve been trying to perfect that. I think that’d be real critical to my game. Hopefully it’ll help me in the future.”
Another positive about Jones is that he has no character or major injury concerns. He suffered a broken foot in 2010 but has since played in 24 games without issue.
In terms of football character, Jones has it in spades.
Asked what a team will be getting if they drafted him, Jones said, “They’re getting a guy who plays with maniacal effort. A guy who wants to be the best, the best guy out there. That’s what they’re getting.
“I don’t care if DeMarcus Ware is on the team or whoever, I want to be the best player. I’m not saying I’m better than those guys, but I want to be the best on the team. A guy who wants to make every play possible. When you talk about NFL football, I want you guys to talk about Datone Jones.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of “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 email@example.com.