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2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Datone Jones

Datone Jones

Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Datone Jones
Defensive End
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight 280 pounds

What I like — Jones is a powerful and violent football player. He explodes out of his stance, extends those massive arms and takes the fight right to the offensive line. He’s smart and decisive and uses his strength along with a very quick first step to find his way to the backfield on a regular basis using quickness to gaps. His ability to pursue the play, work parallel, down the line of scrimmage and then explode up field is as good as any in this draft.

Jones is a relentless defender with experience at literally every defensive line position. In run support, Jones does a nice job with play recognition and pursuit but his strength is as a finisher. Once he draws a bead on the ball carrier, it’s over. One of the best tacklers in the entire draft at any position.

As a pass rusher, Jones’ strength is using that quick first step, shooting the gap, and using that strong upper body to shield the defender, keep his shoulders square to the quarterback and be in position to make the play. He does a nice job on inside moves, again using his strength to engage and break off from interior offensive linemen.

In run support, it’s more good news for Jones as he’s powerful at the point of attack, sets the edge well, and doesn’t allow linemen to hold him up and keep him out of the play.

What I don’t like — Lots of pundits project Jones as a defensive end in a 4-3 base set, but I’m not sure Jones can come off the edge, dip his shoulder and turn the corner well enough to do it. That is simply not his game. Some of this comes from the fact that he gets moved all over the place and was never able to settle into a spot. If he’s viewed strictly as a five-technique end, it will likely push him down in the round some.

Jones is a physical football player in a draft full of smooth boundary-type athletes and flashy triangle numbers, Jones gets a little lost. This is a problem, but it’s all about the right fit for a player like Jones. Another thing that shows up on film is that at times Jones missing on plays. As a player who attacks gaps, there will always be times when he misses, shoots the wrong gap and the play goes the other side.

This is something that it will continue to happen if he’s not going to lock up the lineman and re-direct him, so picking his shots will help him.

What does it all mean — In case you can’t tell, I’m a Jones fan. He’s the kind of player every defensive front needs. His effort is tremendous, his first step is as good as any, and his ability to penetrate at the snap makes him a first round talent.

As far as his NFL position, I think at three-technique tackle or five-technique end would make perfect sense, with the interior spot probably where he’d be the most productive. The more I watched Jones, the more of a fan I became. His ceiling may not be as high as some of the other boom/bust types in this draft, but what you see is what you get with Jones, and what you see is a very hard-working and productive football player.

As far as slotting goes, Jones should come off the board somewhere between the 20th pick in the first round and the 10th pick in the second round. There are enough teams who run either a pure 3-4 defense or some hybrid of it that can use a player like Jones.

Teams want smart, articulate and intelligent athletes who also happen to be exceptional, productive leaders on the field, and Jones fits on all fronts.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.