When Chuck Kyle visits Browns headquarters in his role as the organization's youth football adviser, members of the franchise can't resist telling him they're entertaining thoughts about Dre'Mont Jones.

"A couple guys say, 'Hey, he's a good player. Hey, he'd look good in a Browns uniform,' " Kyle, the longtime St. Ignatius High School football coach, said in a recent phone interview about Jones, his former pupil.

The Browns have stopped short of sitting Kyle down for an extensive discussion about Jones, but there are still enough signs pointing to the organization being legitimately interested in the athletic defensive tackle from Cleveland.

New Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks chatted with Ohio State associate head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson at Buckeyes pro day March 20, and Browns assistant coaches guided Jones through his drills during the workout.

Jones also worked out for the Browns during the team's local pro day April 20 in Berea.

"A great kid," Browns General Manager John Dorsey said Thursday during his pre-draft news conference. "The defensive line coaches put him through about 15-, 20-minute drills, and you saw all of the explosive movement that you had heard about.

"When you combine his ability to play the game of football and the person, you couldn’t be more happy to have a player like that on your team. I thought he did an outstanding job."

Many analysts project Jones to become a second-round pick during the NFL Draft, which will run Thursday through Saturday. After trading their first-round choice last month as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. deal, the Browns aren't scheduled to go on the clock until the middle of the second round (No. 49 overall) on Friday night.

Jones grew up a Browns fan, watching their games with his father, Sanderline Williams, a former professional boxer.

"Playing for Cleveland, that would be crazy," Jones said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "It'd be like a dream come true."

With free-agent acquisition Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi on the roster, the Browns have quality starters at defensive tackle, yet better depth would be welcomed.

Dorsey made it known at the combine the Browns "want to get longer" on the defensive line, and the GM added he "would love to have some more athletic three-technique [pass] rushers."

Jones, 6-foot-2¾ and about 285 pounds with 33¾-inch arms and an 80 5/8-inch wingspan, fits the mold.

"Teams are throwing the ball, throwing it sideways, throwing it downfield, and you've got to have a guy who can change the middle of the field," Johnson, who coached Jones throughout his Ohio State career, said recently by phone.

"Just look how disruptive [Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald is from the inside, and he's an undersized guy with great quickness. Dre'Mont brings the same thing to the table with his great quickness."

At the combine, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa declared Jones the best interior pass rusher in this year's class. Jones didn't shy away from saying he agreed.

"You just don’t see interior guys with the hips and hands that he has," Bosa said. "I’ve been talking him up really good to a bunch of teams because he’s my best friend. People have been asking, 'Who would you bring to war? Who would you bring if you’ve got to pick one person from Ohio State?' And that’s easily him."

 

Path to NFL

Jones, who has forced Johnson over the years to marvel at his lightning-quick first step, arrived at Ohio State dealing with adversity.

As a senior at St. Ignatius, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing in a postseason basketball game. The injury forced him to redshirt as a freshman in Columbus.

"For a young man that age, it's a shock," Kyle said. "You never think that's going to happen. But I think what he did was exactly what he should do. The Ohio State people were very understanding. He had the surgery and started on his rehab and kept his head into his studies and into learning a new defense."

He learned a new position, too. Jones played defensive end and tight end at St. Ignatius and thought defensive end would be his bread and butter with the Buckeyes. Johnson, however, saw a better opportunity for Jones as a three-technique defensive tackle.

"I remember having the conversation," Johnson said. "I said, 'I'm going to move you to three-technique because you have a chance to play more there.' He looked at me. He didn't bat an eye. He said, 'OK, Coach, if you think that's the best.'

"Never once did he say, 'I'm not doing that.' Everything you gave him, he was willing to do. That says a lot about him as a person."

The learning curve was steep, the physical toll significant.

Johnson explained Jones weighed about 265 pounds when an injury to fellow defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle in the 2016 opener forced him into the lineup as a redshirt freshman. He started 12 of 13 games and had 52 tackles, including four for loss, but had no sacks. In 2017, he weighed about 270 pounds when he started 11 of 12 games and finished with 20 tackles, including five for loss, one sack and two passes defensed.

Playing at about 280 pounds last season, Jones started all 14 games. He racked up 43 tackles, including 13.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, three passes defensed and an interception, earning a first-team all-Big Ten selection. He became the first Buckeyes defensive lineman to score two touchdowns in a season, pouncing on a fumble in the end zone and returning an interception 28 yards.

"It shows he can catch the ball and he can do something with it when he has it in his hands," Kyle said. "Our offensive coordinator [at St. Ignatius] always tells him, 'You should tell them you play tight end.' There were a number of colleges that were talking about tight end with him. He was good [as a high school tight end]. He was a weapon."

 

Strengths, weaknesses

Jones laughs off the compliment. He knows exactly how he wants NFL teams to view him.

"They’re looking for a long, elite pass rusher," Jones said, "and I think I’m that guy.

"My unique ability to rush the passer [is my biggest selling point]. When I do it, it’s really uncanny, and I do it at a high level every game.

"My basketball background helped a little bit because I’m able to be agile and escape through the hole or just be quick and elusive with my feet."

On the other hand, it's no secret that Jones needs to gain strength and improve as a run defender to become a better all-around player. Jones admitted he wants to bulk up more. Johnson said he believes Jones could play at about 290 pounds without sacrificing quickness.

"There’s definitely no question that I can play the run," Jones said. "I wouldn’t be playing, I wouldn’t be starting [otherwise]. It’s not like I gave up big plays. My own criticism for myself is sometimes I play too high in the run game and I peek too much [into the backfield]. That’d be my only downfall in the run game. Other than that, I think I’m very stout."

What's certain is he won't neglect any area of his game.

"When you can recognize your weaknesses and know what they are and then go to work at it and try to change it, it makes you a really good player," Johnson said. "Dre'Mont is really so cerebral. He's really smart. He gets it."

Jones was a two-time academic all-Big Ten honoree who spent a week last summer interning with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Manchester, N.H.

Instead of declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, he returned to Ohio State and graduated in December with a degree in sociology. He earned a 3.4 grade-point average, Johnson said.

Jones wanted to finish school, though bolstering his draft stock was certainly a driving force, too.

"One of the deciding factors we talked about was, 'You're going to walk into a league with grown men, and you're not quite there yet,' " Johnson said. "He realized that, and he said, 'Coach, I'm not quite there yet.' I said, 'Let me show you things we can work on to make things better for you.'

"He took off with it. I just go back and say, 'Wow. From where he was to where he's at right now, it's night and day.' And that's the growth process. I can't wait to see the next growth that he has."

Perhaps it'll even happen for Jones in his old stomping grounds.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.