This is the sixth in a 20-part series examining some possibilities for the Browns in the 2013 NFL Draft, including extensive looks at the most likely prospects for the No. 6 overall selection, potential targets later in the draft, trade-down scenarios, what the other teams in the AFC North might do and the top players coming out of Ohio State and the Mid-American Conference.
Each morning will bring a new, daily posting leading up the NFL Scouting Combine on Feb 20.
Today, we continue with perhaps the most talented defensive player on the board but one who carries significant injury concerns.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia, Junior
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 242 pounds.
2012 stats: 78 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for a loss, 7 forced fumbles, 1 interception.
Current overall prospect ranks: NFLDraftScout.com 8th; Scout's Inc: 6th; ESPN's Todd McShay: 4th; ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr: 1st.
Current projected draft position: Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com currently has the Browns taking Jones with the No. 6 pick. NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler, meanwhile, has him falling to the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17 (because of his injury concerns, noted below). Kiper has the Detroit Lions taking Jones with the 5th pick. McShay, who hasn't re-ordered his only mock draft yet, has Jones being selected 13th overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Overview: As a freshman at the University of Southern California, Jones sprained his neck during the season and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal chord. Jones wasn't cleared to return to the field by team doctors and transferred to Georgia. After sitting out the 2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules, he made up for lost time. As a junior, he led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss (19.5) and had 70 tackles, earning first-team SEC honors. This past season, he broke Georgia's all-time sacks record with 14.5, had 24.5 tackles for a loss and forced seven fumbles. All three figures led the country despite missing two games. Jones, a 2012 consensus first-team All-American selection, is only a junior but will be a 24-year-old rookie. He was also a finalist for the Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski, Butkus and Lott awards this past season.
What they're saying: To some, Jones is the best player on film in this draft class. Kiper still has Jones as the No. 1 player on his board, saying, "He combines explosiveness, discipline, relentless pass-rushing ability and great intangibles and effort. He profiles as a 3-4 OLB, but he's also strong against the run and can really cover." Jones has good first-step quickness but not he's not Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. ... Has very good lateral agility, body control and change-of-direction skills. ... Can bend the edge tightly rushing the passer. ... Very effective with double-move (inside to outside or vice versa) that he combines with quick feet and quick hands. ... Has quick feet, fluidity and good closing burst. ... Recognition skills and ball skills need to improve in coverage. ... Closes quickly and is more powerful at point of attack and flashes ability to explode through the ball carrier. ... Against the run, has a tendency to play too high and can get pushed around or rag-dolled by double teams. … Won't back down and is savvy when taking on blockers. ... Quick hands, feet disallow blockers to engage. ... Natural instincts when keeping off blocks and navigating through traffic.
Why he fits the Browns' needs: With Cleveland switching to a 3-4 multi-front defense, the Browns are in need of linebackers. And linebackers with the pass-rushing skills of Jones who can also stop the run and drop into coverage as well as he can are rare (he's not exceptional at either, but is adequate and flies around the field). There are multiple pass rushers in the draft the Browns could take at No. 6, but others have either exclusive or primary experience as a 4-3 defensive end, whereas Jones excelled in a 3-4 defense at Georgia. In Cleveland, he'd be a 3-4 OLB who wouldn't have to come off the field and would still be a terror on third-down passing situations. The concern is in his spinal stenosis, and team doctors will look at him exhaustively to determine the extent of his condition. It's certainly possible many teams simply won't clear him to play and will take him completely off their board. For a while, Jones was thought to be the front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick. Now some (like Brugler) have Jones falling all the way to the Steelers at No. 17 overall. At some point, injury concerns aside, Jones is just too talented to pass up.