Georgia Bulldogs outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is slated to be selected in Thursday evening's first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Speculation as to where he'll land is still abound, but the playmaking, pass-rushing specialist should get plenty of looks from teams inside the top 20.
Jones had a lackluster pro day in Athens, and it remains to be seen how much that will hurt his draft stock.
Several teams near the top sport aggressive 3-4 schemes, which is a wonderful fit for what Jones is used to. Thus, that should cut down on the adjustment period and help him overcome the relatively poor effort in drills.
Let's take a look at the three most likely destinations for Jones, based on interest, schematic fit and his current stock.
New York Jets (Nos. 9 and 13)
The possibilities have opened up for the Jets. Now that superstar CB Darrelle Revis has been shipped out of town, new GM John Idzik has two first-round picks at his disposal at Nos. 9 and 13 overall.
One of those choices should be spent on an edge rusher, and there's a strong possibility that Jones will be the best option on the board when the ninth pick rolls around. If not then, Jones definitely should be the premier prospect when the Jets next choose.
Head coach Rex Ryan personally worked out Jones at his aforementioned pro day, opting to not focus as much on the poor 40-yard dash time but to rather run him through specific, coverage-based drills.
There's no doubting the knack Jones has for getting to the quarterback. However, he could definitely use some work against the pass even though he's already farther ahead of the curve in that dimension than many of his peers.
Conor Orr, of the Star-Ledger, documented Jones' comments, which reflected an encouraging experience and bond between him and Ryan:
Coach Rex was out there, he worked me out on the change of direction drills. Cool guy, man. He loves football, knows a lot of football. I asked him about the game and he loves defensive players who make plays.
All Jones does is make plays, as he racked up 85 tackles (24.5 for loss), 14.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his final year at Georgia (h/t Sports-Reference.com). If Jones produces double-digit sack totals, this would be a good value pick by the Jets regardless of which first-round choice is used on him.
New Orleans Saints (No. 15)
Mike Triplett, of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, went through 50 mock drafts from renowned experts across the country, and Jones was the overwhelming favorite to go to the Saints at No. 15 overall with 16 votes.
This makes a lot of sense as Rex Ryan's brother, Rob, is the new defensive coordinator and will deploy a similar 3-4 outfit. The Saints need a viable pass-rusher on the edge, and Jones provides just that.
Even with the league's worst all-around defense in 2012, the playoffs were still a possibility relatively late in the season despite an 0-4 start. Prolific quarterback Drew Brees could possibly use another offensive weapon, but that can be addressed later.
Considering his fondness of the Jets, New Orleans may wind up being a better destination for Jones after all. If he can make a big impact, the Saints should improve immensely on that side of the ball.
Brees' fantastic play and Sean Payton's return should keep the Saints offense running as a well-oiled machine. That should help keep the defense off the field for long stretches, and if Jones is the upgrade he's perceived to be, he has all the makings of contributing heavily to a bounce-back 2013 for New Orleans.
Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 17)
It may be too late by this point for the Steelers to take a shot at Jones, but if he's still available, it's hard to imagine a better landing spot for the linebacker.
Pittsburgh has a definite need on the outside to start opposite LaMarr Woodley, who would serve as a wonderful mentor to Jones as he adjusts to the next level.
Jones expressed his understanding of Dick LeBeau's complex schemes and indicated he would welcome the opportunity to be a Steeler, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:
If the Steelers took me, it’d be a great place to play. I love playing in the 3-4 system. I definitely understand a lot concepts and the things that they do up there, being that I played in the 3-4 system. I mean, it wouldn’t be much of a transition from the scheme part, but I think the Steelers are a great place to play especially on defense.
Youth should be a priority if Pittsburgh wants to maintain its consistently stout defense, but there is a plethora of veterans that know where to be, are familiar with LeBeau's system and would take pressure off Jones in his first season.
At the very least, Jones would be a third-down pass-rushing specialist, but he could start from Week 1 if he can beat out 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds.