A standout linebacker since his freshman year, Greg Jones set the tone for the Michigan State Spartans’ 2010 defensive efforts. He’s a top prospect at inside linebacker for the 2011 NFL draft.
Here are some of the pros and cons to drafting Greg Jones. All stats are courtesy of CBSSports.com and ESPN.com.
#1. Consistent Production
Greg Jones posted 78 tackles in his freshman season. From his sophomore to senior seasons, he had tackle numbers over 100 each year. Jones is ultra-productive year in and year out as a tackler. He displays solid fundamentals and wraps up.
#2. Speed and Quickness
Jones is capable of running sideline to sideline for an entire game. He is quick enough to handle H-backs, running backs, and tight ends in pass coverage. In zone coverage, coaches can assign Jones a large amount of ground to be responsible for.
Some of his speed can be attributed to instinctively reacting to the ball. Jones can be fooled with play-action and ball fakes, but he has the speed to recover.
#3. Attitude and Character
Jones was named a co-captain with input from both coaches and players on his team. He’s a regular in the weight room throughout the year. Jones was willing to mentor younger linebackers on and off the field. He shows a lot of leadership and will help keep a locker room together during rough times.
#4. Blitzing Ability
Jones has excellent awareness when he’s sent on a blitz. He reacts quickly at the snap and can be in the quarterback’s face fast enough to force an errant throw.
Jones is not a physically imposing prospect. He measures in at 6’1″ and 240 pounds. When covering a tight end running a passing route, Jones is often at a disadvantage because of his lack of height. Although he’s not unusually light, he may need to gain some weight to be able to take on interior offensive linemen on running plays in the NFL.
His lack of size also makes it difficult for him to disengage from a larger blocker. Although Jones can defeat a blocking running back or tight end, he has less success once a offensive lineman engages him fully.
#2. Lack of Turnovers
Jones wasn’t able to force many turnovers during his collegiate career. This can be partially attributed to the defensive scheme, but it remains to be seen whether he can force fumbles or intercept passes on a regular basis.
Although Jones has been productive, I think it will be difficult for him to succeed outside of a base 4-3 defense. He struggles when he has to take on and defeat offensive linemen regularly. Jones’ lack of impact in the Michigan State Spartans’ 2010 Capitol One Bowl is a prime example of why he needs solid defensive linemen in front of him. Although he can play any of the 4-3 linebacker positions, I would guess that most teams will start Jones at weak-side linebacker to take advantage of his speed.
I think Greg Jones’ best draft value will be in the top or middle of the 2nd round. Picking Jones in the 1st round would be a bit of a reach because he wasn’t able to consistently force turnovers. But he was a very productive tackler and should be able to start in the NFL.
CBSSports.com Greg Jones’ Player Profile. January 6th, 2011.
ESPN.com Greg Jones’ Player Page. January 6th, 2011.