Scouting the LB’s: Jarvis Jones, OLB, UGA

Jarvis Jones is unanimously considered a top-5 talent for the 2013 NFL Draft, and arguably the best defensive player likely to come out. Jones is in the mix with players like Barkevious Mingo (DE/OLB, LSU) and Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah) as the premier player available regardless of position. I decided to take a look at Jones’s game versus Missouri to get an early look at what this elite prospect’s strengths and weaknesses (if any) are as we progress through the 2012 college football season.

The first thing that jumps right out at you when scouting Jones is his physical makeup. He’s every bit of 6’2-6’3 and 242lbs. He has thick, muscular legs that denotes good lower-body strength and the ability to anchor down against bigger, stronger NFL linemen. He possesses adequate length, unlike the knock on a guy like Melvin Ingram (OLB, SD Chargers) from last year’s draft class. Jones looks like he puts in the necessary time in the weight room to succeed on the next level.

Athletically, Jones may have few peers. Time and time again, he displayed elite athleticism and quickness against Missouri. He was consistently the first defensive player to react off the snap, and was too fast for Missouri’s offensive linemen to keep up with. In addition, Jones showed elite control over his body. He was very rarely on the ground, and even when Missouri attempted to go low on him, he maintained his feet and stayed involved in the play. When you look at Jones’s physical makeup, you’d project him as a physical, run-stopping player. And while that is true, what makes Jones truly special is his ability to play as fast as a player much smaller than him.

On passing plays, Jones was virtually unstoppable. There were several plays in which the refs could have called holding against Missouri in their attempt to block him. On most plays, Jones simply showed elite speed to the edge and turned the corner with ease. He consistently dipped his shoulder and disabled the Missouri linemen from getting a clean block on him. Jones also showed an arsenal of moves in his pass-rushing repertoire. He used his hands extremely well to keep the linemen off him, and kept them guessing with counter moves (swim, bull rush) all game long.

On running plays, Jones displayed the necessary patience to read the direction of the play design and, for the most part, was rarely out of position. On one play in particular, he disrupted a delayed handoff in the backfield that, if not for his patience and understanding of the game, could have turned into a big play for Missouri. Jones showed plus ability to stack and shed, and was able to anchor down when run at. Now, it wasn’t a “perfect” day for Jones; on one particular running play, he was flat out pancaked by the opposing lineman.

Jones also displayed the ability to make a play in pass coverage. He’s a smart, smooth athlete and it showed on his game-changing interception (when he dropped into coverage) that almost resulted in a pick-6. Jones isn’t asked to drop back in coverage much, however, since his best attribute is getting after the passer.

As a tackler, Jones is a force. He creates a jolt on contact, and is always looking to create a turnover. It seemed like every time he got to the Missouri ball carrier, he was knocking the ball loose.   At one point, the announcer calling the game referred to him as an old-school, 80’s “Lawrence Taylor”-type player. I’m not ready to call anyone LT, but you can’t help but be impressed after watching this tape.

Jones’s stock is not based on only one game. His body of work has been phenomenal, and his production speaks for itself. So far in 2012, Jones is 10th in the Nation with 7.5 tackles for loss, and is 13th in the Country with 4.5 sacks. Jones has 18 career sacks and counting.

Projecting forward, Jones is the ideal OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He will be an absolute terror in the backfield, and in the pass-happy NFL, his pass-rushing skills will be at an absolute premium. There is no doubt that Jones is a top 5 prospect with a chance to jump even higher as his season totals continue to add up. I don’t think he will test out as fast as Mingo (LSU), but he is destroying Barkevious in the early-season production numbers. And as any scout knows, the film doesn’t lie. If Jones continues to lap Mingo in the stat sheet, he will do the same on the draft board.

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