As the draft season heats up, the chatter and discussion about certain prospects begins as well. Not as well known early on in the season, DaQuan Jones has emerged as a legitimate DT/NT prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. With his strong anchor and ability to make plays, teams running a 3-4 Defense or a 4-3 Defense will look to add someone with the ability like Jones.
When looking at Jones and how he plays his game, the first thing that stands out is his technique that he plays with. Jones is a violent player; he uses his hands to make plays and rarely just settles for a bull rush. Jones is well versed in pass rushing as well, even though he might not be the most disruptive pass rusher. Jones displays various moves, including a bull rush, swim, and rip move to beat his opponent. The most effective looks to be a tie between his bull rush and rip move. The rip move he displayed was very successful in some critical Big-10 games including the matchup against Penn State. Having a refined technique game will allow for NFL coaches to focus on other parts of his game and allow for more refinement and polishing of his technique now.
By far this is the strength of DaQuan Jones’s game. What makes Jones so successful in the run game is the ability to play low in his stance, and play with a ridiculous anchor. When watching film, it’s hard to find a play where Jones was completely washed off the line of scrimmage (LOS) and taken out of the play. Jones will guess at times on plays in order to try to make the big play, but traditionally is good in holding his gap integrity as well. Jones looks to hold the LOS well and does a great job of occupying blocks to allow other to make the play as well. At the same time, Jones will beat his opponent in a 1v1 matchup and make the same play, but it’s the ability to occupy blocks and hold the LOS that makes him such an intriguing candidate for a 3-4 NT position.
While not as effective as his run defense, Jones is an effective pass rusher that goes beyond the glamour stats. Jones may not register a ton of sacks, but from the interior DL position he’s able to register a consistent pass rush and disrupt the QB. Jones uses the aforementioned pass rush moves here consistently and will tend to have success with them. The concern comes to whether the pass rushing ability will continue into the NFL when there are players as strong as him. At times when Jones uses the swim or rip move it almost looks very deliberate or set up, and teams in the NFL will catch onto it. Jones can benefit from making his moves less deliberate and being able to set up counter moves instead of just relying on his initial move to win his matchup. Overall pass rushing is secondary for someone of Jones’s position, but his ability to move the interior pocket is very good. Jones will need to refine his pass rushing moves, but with most prospects coming out they aren’t well refined because of the natural advantage that they have over their opponent.
With that being said where exactly does Jones fit? After watching film from the 2013 season and a little from the 2012 season and it just seems to me that his most natural fit is as a 3-4 NT. With the strong natural base that Jones plays with and his ability to control the LOS while occupying blockers, the 3-4 NT position would be ideal. Jones isn’t a pass rushing NT, but his ability to move the pocket and force uncomfortable situations for opposing QB’s will be huge for 3-4 Defenses. As far as projecting his stock, I have a 3rd round grade on DaQuan Jones and feel that he can be a day one starter because of his ability to already hold and maintain the LOS. NFL defensive line coaches will be happy to work with him, because they get to work with Jones on the little things instead of having to work on the bigger picture concepts.