After Von Miller single-handedly transformed the Denver Broncos defense in 2011, the NFL has been on alert for the next dynamic edge rusher with the versatility to fit in any defensive scheme.
Based on early indications, Georgia's Jarvis Jones might be the next Miller, defying conventional wisdom about how high linebackers should go in the draft to crash the top five, or maybe even be taken first overall.
What is it about Jones' game that makes him more than a one-trick pony?
Jones is 6'2", 232 lbs; too small to put his hand on the ground, but substantial enough to hold his own in run defense, especially because he plays with good functional strength.
He flows laterally with the play well for a straight-line-type edge rusher, and he can explode out of his changes of direction.
In addition to being explosive, Jones is fluid and agile. He'll likely ace the combine tests.
His best tool is his straight-line closing speed on offensive players, whether it's a quarterback dropping back to pass or a running back that Jones is pursuing down the line.
One of the more impressive things about Jones is that in addition to lining up as a 3-4 OLB, he can also line up as an inside linebacker:
Jones is a natural-born pass-rusher. It starts with his get off. He is the first player firing out of his stance.
On this play, he is already a full stride across the line of scrimmage before the quarterback has even gotten the ball:
Jones doesn't have a wide array of pass-rush moves and techniques (yet), but with his first step, speed and ability to get low and turn the corner, I'm not sure he needs it.
The downside of this one-dimensional strategy is that he can run himself upfield out of plays and allow the quarterback to elude him by stepping up into the pocket.
Jones can run stunts well and shows the speed to pull off a spin move. The most lethal part of his pass rush is the instinctive textbook strip/sack finish to his attack:
That functional strength that Jones brings also plays into his pass rush. On this play, the offensive tackle has good position on him:
Jones is able to drive the tackle back and cast him aside:
And force an early throw from the quarterback:
Unlike 2012 No. 15 overall pick Bruce Irvin, Jones is not a liability against the run. First, he is willing to go toe-to-toe with offensive tackles.
The weight he gives up to them means that he does get pushed around at times, but he can also hold his own. On this play, the offensive tackle has Jones engaged:
Jones is able to use his strength and combative nature to get off of the block and make the tackle:
This aspect of Jones' game is a bonus, and it leverages off of his ability to line up at inside linebacker.
The wrinkles he can add to a zone-blitz scheme will be huge because of this skill. Late in the Missouri game, Jones drops into zone coverage:
The quarterback tries to get the ball past him, but Jones makes a wide receiver-like play on the ball, bursting into a full-extension leap and snagging the interception (which he took back to the one-foot line) to ice the game:
Jones is also an instinctive player with great awareness and instant reads that turn into play-changing reactions.
Against the zone-read running game, Jones is responsible for forcing the quarterback's hand:
He correctly follows the ball and makes the tackle on the play:
Jones was not fooled or neutralized by the Tigers running game on this night.
The cherry on top of the Jones sundae is his motor. He never gives up on a play, and that gets his strength, agility, explosion, instincts and overall ferocity in on more plays.
On this 4th-and-3 play, Jones is blocked well and the quarterback is on his way to the first down:
Jones gets off the block and pursues the quarterback 15 yards downfield, eventually cleaning up after a broken tackle, and almost simultaneously wrapping to make the tackle and stripping the ball:
Missouri recovered, but just two plays later, Jones forces a fumble before he even touches the ball-carrier. He stands his ground on the zone-read running play, and the running back is headed in his direction:
The exchange is botched, and Georgia recovered, ending the drive:
Jones is an intimidating, relentless player who will find a way to change games in just about every aspect of his play.
In an NFL that is increasingly slanted toward the pass, the only answer is to generate more pass rush on the defensive side of the ball.
Jones can do that, but he can do so much more. He is scheme diverse and will likely go in the top five of the draft next year.
If you're not convinced, watch the full tape of one of the most dominant performances you'll ever see by a defensive player: