Very few defensive linemen in the 2013 NFL draft possess the scheme versatility that former UCLA defensive end Datone Jones should immediately bring to the next level.
A disruptive defender capable of playing defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme and the 5-technique in a 3-4, Jones is the kind of hybrid player that defensive coaches now covet to help combat the always-evolving offensive tendencies in the NFL.
Thanks to both that versatility and a set of impressive combine numbers (4.75-second 40-yard dash, 29 reps at 225 pounds), Jones has cemented his stock in the first-to-early second-round range.
In the following slides, we'll present some of Jones' best video highlights from his collegiate career at UCLA. By the end, you should have a better idea of just how versatile and disruptive he can be.
Regardless of whether he'll be playing in a three- or four-man front in the NFL, Jones will be asked to set the edge against the run. Here we see an example of how well he did this task at the collegiate level.
On 1st-and-10, the Houston offense runs a misdirection run out of the shotgun. Jones is situated as the end on the play side.
Instead of buying the fake and getting trapped inside the right guard, Jones correctly reads the play and whips the guard to the outside. He's then waiting for the running back at the corner and makes the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Jones' awareness and ability to disengage with his hands makes the play. Both attributes will be important for him at the next level, regardless of the defense he's placed in.
The prevalence of the read-option has exploded in the NFL over the last 12 months. Here we see Jones make a game-changing play against Nebraska's version of the look last season.
In the fourth quarter, the Cornhuskers are deep in their own territory on first down, with quarterback Taylor Martinez taking the snap with a running back to each side. Jones lines up in a three-man front.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, Jones comes off the ball unblocked. The tackle kicks out the outside linebacker, and the guard blocks down on the nose tackle.
Jones is into the backfield in a flash and takes down Martinez, who rode the fake and kept the football. The result is a safety after a perfect read on Jones' part.
To be an effective rusher from a three-man front, Jones will occasionally have to be quick enough off the ball to beat offensive tackles inside. The provided play here shows one example of Jones accomplishing such a move.
On first down, Rice runs a play-fake to the running back out of the shotgun. To sell the fake, the offensive guard on Jones' side blocks down, leaving the offensive tackle to also block down and contain the inside rush.
Jones explodes off the football, peels the block from the tackle and sacks the quarterback, despite the tackle jarring his helmet off with an inside hook. Jones was simply too quick for the tackle to get and keep leverage.
To be disruptive against the run—in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense—a defensive lineman needs to be able to shed blocks at the point of attack. Jones might be one of the better prospects in this class at doing so.
Here we see an example from the Pac-12 Championship game. Stanford's offensive line really struggled to block Jones, in large part because he was so good using his hands and quickness to disengage from block attempts.
On second down, Jones slips off the offensive tackle to the inside (much like he did against Rice in the previous slide) and takes down running back Stepfan Taylor in the backfield.
Powerful hands and an ability to slip and shed blocks will make Jones a handful at the next level, especially as a 3-technique in the 4-3 or the 5-technique in the 3-4.
This play against USC is an exciting example of both the versatility and disruptive ability Jones brings to the table.
On 3rd-and-10, an obvious passing down, Jones lines up directly over the center as UCLA's lone down lineman. It's a hybrid look used to confuse the quarterback and offensive linemen about who's coming and who's not, but there's little doubt Jones will be attacking.
Both the center and left guard appear to be assigned to Jones. But once again, he uses his strong hands and pure power to split the double-team and cause a hurried throw from USC quarterback Matt Barkley. The Trojans are forced to punt.
This play demonstrates the ability for NFL defensive coordinators to line up Jones across the defensive line and still get production. Such an attribute might be hard to pass on.
In the provided video, Mike Loyko of NEPD.com and Alex Dunlap of Bleacher Report break down Jones' overall game.
The two discuss how good Jones was with his hands at the Senior Bowl, his sky-high football IQ and the willingness he has shown to play at a higher weight, depending on the NFL scheme he falls into. Also discussed is the scheme fit for Jones in a 3-4 and 4-3 and who he compares with at the NFL level.
As a hybrid player capable of playing all over the defensive line, Jones is going to attract first-round attention. With so many teams needing help at either defensive end or tackle at the end of the first round and beginning of the second, it's difficult to envision Jones getting out of the top 40-50 picks.