Christian Jones is an extremely athletic linebacker who has been outstanding during his career at Florida State. He has helped lead the Seminole defense back to the dominating days their fans were accustomed to. He passed up a chance to enter the NFL Draft after last year, but should be one of the top linebacker prospects in 2014.
As a junior in 2012, Jones led the Seminoles with 95 tackles, and recorded double digit tackles in three games. He’s a versatile linebacker who could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme at the next level with a little work.
Here’s a look at his strengths and weaknesses heading into his senior season.
Fantastic athlete, showing tremendous speed, agility and quickness
Reads and reacts well to run plays
Attacks the fullback and plays low against isolation plays
Finishes tackles extremely well, doesn’t give up cheap yardage after contact
Is physical taking on blocks, uses good leverage to set the edge on the outside
In general, uses his hands well to keep offensive lineman off of his body
Shows great change of direction
Doesn’t run around blocks, sifts through the blockers as he pursues
Does a nice job staying on back hip in pursuit, doesn’t overrun plays frequently
Plays downhill once he diagnoses a run play
Sinks his hips well when tackling in the open field, wraps up and finishes as well
Excellent job pursuing the ball on plays away from him
Covers receivers in front of him well, but struggles turning and running
Does an outstanding job in kick coverage
Due to his aggressiveness, he’s susceptible to the play-action pass
Does not look comfortable in pass coverage yet, despite having the athleticism to excel in it
Doesn’t look up receiver in zone coverage, doesn’t appear instinctual
Sometimes struggles to shed blockers, staying blocked longer than he should
Needs to protect his legs better against cut blocks
At times, he plays too tall when taking on blockers
Explosive off the snap when blitzing, but doesn’t have developed pass rush moves at this point
In 2013, Jones will make the move to middle linebacker after starting at outside linebacker for the past two years. He is once again on a talented defense, but faces the challenge of playing for a new defensive coordinator. After playing for Mark Stoops his entire career, Jones will have to learn Jeremy Pruitt‘s new schemes for his senior year.
One interesting wrinkle that Pruitt has shown in practice is using Jones as a pass rushing defensive end in certain situations. He actually rushed the passer a majority of the time in high school, so it shouldn’t be totally foreign to him. Rather than taking Jones off the field in the dime package, Pruitt appears to be trying to keep one of his best defensive players on the field in some capacity.
Jones should have an outstanding season in Tallahassee and could very well end up sneaking into the late first round if he tests well at the combine.
2014 NFL Draft Projection: Late First Round