Reaction To New England Patriots Selecting Syracuse Defensive End Chandler Jones With The 21st Overall Pick In the 2012 NFL Draft

By Chris Ransom

On Thursday, the New England Patriots traded up with the Cincinnati Bengals to select Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones with the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Chandler Jones has incredible versatility.  Jones has lined up at 4-3 right defensive end and 4-3 left defensive end when you watch him play.

Jones is 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 265 pounds.  With this size, Jones would likely project as a hybrid pass rusher playing in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme.  Chandler Jones is the little brother of Baltimore Ravens 3-4 right end Arthur Jones.

One area where Jones excelled in during his career at Syracuse was executing tackles.  Chandler Jones ranked 11th on Syracuse’s all time roster in total tackles.  Jones would register 143 tackles over 3 seasons as a starter with Syracuse.

Jones had a promising 10 tackles for a loss as a freshman redshirt in 2009.   Jones only recorded 1.5 sacks during the 2009 campaign.  Jones would go on to record 10 sacks during his 3 year career starting at Syracuse.  After the 2011 FBS season, Jones opted to forgo his senior season to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Jones’ lack of pass rushing resulted in Syracuse having an FBS pass defense that ranked 99th out of 120 teams in 2011.  Jones displays the proper technique and raw pass rushing ability to hurry the quarterback if he gets by an opposing offensive tackle.  Jones will need to work on getting to the quarterback quicker if he expects to succeed for New England as a first round pick in the NFL.

Thanks to Jones’ instinctive tackling, Syracuse ranked 33rd out of 120 FBS teams in run defense.  Every Patriots fan seems to be extremely optimistic about this pick.  Maybe I am in the minority here, I just got the impression that New England could have made a better selection.

Pass rushers like Andre Branch and Nick Perry would have been better fits for New England because of their track record for getting to the quarterback.  Branch recorded 10.5 sacks in 2011.  Perry registered 8.5 sacks.  The Green Bay Packers would select Perry with their 2012 first round pick.  Branch would fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2nd round.

New England needed a pass rushing defensive end.  There is no guarantee that you are getting that pass rushing defensive end with Chandler Jones.  Jones is more of a run stuffing defensive end with the versatility that Belichick covets.  I see a 4-3 left end at best.  I could turn out to be wrong, after all I did say the same thing about Jason Pierre Paul two years ago when JPP came out of South Florida.

Pierre Paul really came into his own as a pass rusher in 2011.  That year, Pierre Paul would record 16.5 sacks after recording 4.5 sacks as a rotational rusher as a rookie.  With the struggles of Derrick Morgan and Brandon Graham it’s safe to say Pierre Paul was the best defensive end from the 2010 draft class.  Pierre Paul ranked 4th overall in sacks last season.  Pierre Paul anchored a New York Giants pass rushing unit that defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 46.

Jones may be a project.  There are some who feel Jones could be the best defensive end in this draft class two to three years down the road.  One person who feels strongly about Jones is NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock.

Mayock had Jones as his top ranked defensive end.  One other NFL Network analyst who agreed with Mayock on New England’s selection was Michael Lombardi.

I see a 4-3 left end with Jones’ skill set at defensive end because left ends are better at run stuffing than they are at pass rushing.  New England has other defensive ends that can run stuff like Brandon Deadrick and Jonathan Fanene.  This selection sort of confuses me because adding a pass rusher is at defensive end is clearly the greater priority here.

The reason I  disapprove this selection is because New England’s need for obtaining a pass rushing defensive end with versatility trumped the need to acquire a run stuffing defensive end.  Obtaining Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry in round 2 would have been a better option than trading up for Chandler Jones in round 1.  Curry was a run stuffer during his first two seasons at Marshall.

In 2010, Curry evolved into a pass rusher.  Curry had 12 sacks as a junior for the Marshall Thundering Herd.  Curry would nearly match that total in 2011 when he registered 11 sacks as a senior.

I give the Jones pick a B grade.  It addresses a dire need that New England needed to shore up at defensive end.   New England gets an A grade for addressing their biggest need and a C grade for trading up for a defensive end with the skill set of Jones as a pure run stuffer.  That averages out to a B grade.

The main problem that I have with this selection, is that New England chose to trade up for a defensive end that is better at run stuffing than pass rushing.  The other main problem I have with the draft choice was that there were other defensive ends available.  The bottom line is New England could have waited until 27 to get their pass rusher.

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