Something that I might call a phenomenon is happening these last 24 hours or so, and this strange occurrence is the sudden and frequent mocking of Syracuse's Chandler Jones to Seattle with the 12th overall pick. I will reserve judgement on whether or not this would be a good pick and value - on Draft day there are often surprises, and the value that teams put on players is not necessarily in line with where the analysts project them. I have seen a good amount of people mention Jones as a possible round two target for the Seahawks over the last couple of months, and that made a lot of sense as it was in line with his 2nd/3rd round grade by most going into the offseason (Jones only played in seven games this last year after suffering a leg injury).
However, I know that a lot of very respectable analysts are high on Jones and he oozes raw athleticism and potential. Rob Rang recently mocked him to New England at 27, Greg Cosell projected him to the Eagles at 15 in his only mock, and Mike Mayock recently set the Twittersphere afire by announcing that, along with ranking Jones as his top defensive end in this class, "Three years from now, Chandler Jones is the best defensive player that comes out of this draft."
Former 49ers (and Rams, Browns, Eagles, and Raiders) personnel exec Michael Lombari agreed with him, adding, "I think what Mike Mayock said is right. He is the best defensive player in the draft."
That's exciting. It really is. But, I do find it very peculiar that Chandler Jones is a guy I literally can't say I've ever seen mocked to the Seahawks in the first round, before about a day ago, but is now the pick for Mel Kiper (who, apparently at the last second, just changed his pick to Melvin Ingram, but the point stands), Todd McShay, and Danny O'Neil. To say Jones' rise has been meteoric might be an understatement. I'm sure that people that follow the draft very closely will point out it might have been more gradual, but regardless, he's not a guy we've talked about a ton so it does come as a surprise to me.
Now, in principle, I don't like the idea of my team taking a player that until just recently has been mostly mentioned in the 2nd round discussion, but as we saw last year with the selection of James Carpenter in the 1st and even Kris Durham in the 4th, the Seahawks go by their board and they go by their board and they go by their board. So, really, taking Jones at 12 wouldn't really go against the grain for what this front office has done in the past.
So - let's talk Chandler Jones, because he is certainly a scintillating prospect. Jones is the brother of Ravens DE Arthur Jones and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones, so let's just say his family has had some success in athletics.
First thing you'll notice about Jones is his physical potential - he's 6'5, 266, with ridiculously long 35.5" arms. He's fast, athletic, and has room to add some weight to his frame. Without even looking at his tape, you have to note that he has pretty much ideal physical features for an edge rusher, and adding to the intrigue is that he trains with his brother in martial arts and was tutored growing up by his NFL defensive end brother. He had a 35" vertical jump, a 10'0" broadjump, which often translates to lower body explosiveness, and a respectable 7.07 3-cone and 4.38 short shuttle. Pete Carroll and John Schneider constantly talk about finding players with unique traits and rare characteristics, and frankly, it's not easy to find players of Jones' size that can move like him.
Charlie talked about Jones yesterday, going over his NFL Combine broadcast notes, mentioning, "He has tight hips, but in the words of Mike Mayock "for a long levered, guy can bend a bit;" Warren Sapp on field, emphatically in agreement, "yes, he can." He looked better than I expected moving in space and on tape is a factor downfield, which I like. He had a 1.64 10 yard split on his 40 and the explosion is there. There is something intriguing about his size/skill set, and perceived ability to grow both as a player and physically. 35.5 inch arms certainly don't hurt the cause, either. He kind of reminds me of Jason Jones, even though Chandler is an end, in the way he moves in space with his size, but I'm not sure where his upside is. Round one would be surprising, round two or three seems more likely, but I could be off on this one."
Mayock, who is probably a big part of all this recent mock-draft surpriseaish - talked about the Seahawks' need for pass rushers in a recent conference call. He said, "From a league wide perspective, most guys think Quintin Coples is a Top 15; so from Seattle's perspective they have to be looking at him. He had a huge year as a defensive tackle the year before, and he's gifted enough and looks like Julius Peppers, which is ironic given the fact they both go to North Carolina. He's a big, good-looking kid. I didn't like his production as a senior but Pete Carroll is the kind of guy that can get production out of this guy because he does have Pro Bowl potential."
"Now the guy I like is the Syracuse player, Chandler Jones. People think 12 is way too high for that, and it probably is. I think his best football is ahead of him as he grows into his body; 35-and-a-half-inch arms; I think he'll be 280 before it's done. He's only about 265 now."
"So from Seattle's perspective as pure defensive ends, Coples, Chandler Jones and some people would say Courtney Upshaw; I think that's too early for him. And then you can talk about some of those outside linebacker conversion types, like Ingram from South Carolina, who I don't think is quite the fit for them, or Whitney Mercilus, and that's a little high for him."
When you take a guy with your first round pick, it certainly helps if he's mature and respectful, hungry, and competitive, and from what I can tell those traits ring true for Jones. Now, he's the one doing the talking obviously, but I came away impressed with what he said in a recent interview:
"My mom always gets mad at me when I say this, but I'm going into the draft with the impression that I'm going in the third round," Jones said in a recent phone interview. "Whenever I do get picked, it's going to be shocking to me. I just want to play football again and be an impact player, but as far as going in the first round it would be a dream come true."
"I stay humble through it all, but I feel like what raised my stock was the way I interviewed. I met with 14 different teams, talked to the head coach, general managers, talked to coordinators and position coaches. I felt like I carried myself very well. I came to every single interview like it was a job interview. I sat down with a coach, told him what I know, and all the coaches were impressed with how much I know, and were very intrigued with me. We watched film, and I explained what went on. They were impressed with my football knowledge."
On his versatility:
"Teams love that I'm versatile. Throughout my college career, I played nose tackle, I played defensive tackle and I played defensive end. With the body frame I have, 6-5, 265 pounds, I can play the 5 technique or stay where I am and play outside linebacker. I have not played in a 3-4 scheme, but there were different looks at Syracuse University where we would shift into a 3-4, and I felt comfortable. I can come off the edge real fast, so I do not think it would be too foreign. Dropping into coverage is something I will have to get used to, and it's a challenge I'm ready to tackle."
Honesty is apparent there. Talks about his strengths, acknowledges his weaknesses. Now, the player I've seen him frequently compared to just happens to be on the Seahawks roster on a one-year deal (Jason Jones) but I think with the way the Seahawks have drafted and went about their business in free agency, that really doesn't matter. As Pete Carroll said a few days ago in their pre-Draft presser, "You can never have enough pass rushers," adding, "The most difficult talent to find is ‘pass rusher'."
Now, in terms of a scheme fit, Jones' role on the Seahawks defense would probably, at first blush, be more akin to what the 49ers did with Aldon Smith last year, which netting him 14.5 sacks. His role would probably be as a situational pass rusher, but it would be interesting to see where he was worked into the defense. Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley are known for evolving on defense to fit their talent at key spots, so I am not going to stand by on that guess too firmly.
I don't see him being redundant with Jason Jones because my guess is that the Seahawks plan on using the elder Jones on the inside for the most part. Instead, I could see Chandler Jones backing up Chris Clemons as the LEO (and heir apparent) and playing the Raheem Brock role of coming in on passing downs to play LDE. It would be an interesting pick for sure, and I'm just glad I don't have to write many more of these "what-if" articles anymore after this weekend.
Below, check out some scouting videos, brought to you, as always, by DraftBreakdown.com's excellent team.