If I asked you what the hardest position to discover in the NFL today outside of quarterback, what would you say? I have been asking many football fans this same question over the last few months. I have received many different answers, but the consensus seems to favor pass rushers. And to a certain extent, I agree with this answer. I believe this to be true because of how incredibly tough it is to find a certain type of rusher; pass rushing defensive tackles.
Sept. 22, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers offensive tackle Colin Kelly (64) defends UCLA Bruins defensive end Datone Jones (56) in the fourth quarter at the Rose Bowl. Oregon State won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
I did some research on the risk in drafting defensive tackles in the first round. If you examine the last 10 NFL drafts and look at the defensive tackles selected in the first round, you would see that nearly fifty percent of those players failed in the NFL. At fifty percent, that is the highest bust rate of any position in football.
To combat the incredibly high bust rate of defensive tackles, teams have moved to more 3-4 defenses where there isn’t as much responsibility for the lineman to get pressure on the quarterback. But teams who play 4-3 defenses like the Cowboys do now have found another way to create inside pressure without using high draft picks on defensive tackles. Teams like the New York Giants have used over-sized defensive ends like Justin Tuck, as pass rushing defensive tackles on passing downs.
These hybrid rushers can use their quickness and strength to beat much heavier guards one-on-one and because of this, it allows a team to put their best pass rushers on the field at the same time. Now, not only can teams put pressure on the quarterback from the edges, but also from the inside. The fact that NFL defenses are changing is just one reason the Dallas Cowboys should consider the next hybrid defensive lineman Datone Jones with their first round pick.
In recent years, UCLA’s Datone Jones might have been given the infamous “tweener” label by NFL scouts. At 6’4, 280 lbs, he lacks prototypical size for any position on the front four. But Jones has a knack for getting to the quarterback with his relentless aggression and powerful hands. During the Senior Bowl practice week, he really stood out to me. Jones lined up at every defensive line position and rushed against some of the best offensive lineman in the NFL draft, including a potential number one overall pick in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
After watching Jones dominate some elite left tackles and NFL quality guards, I wanted to see how he compared physically to some of the best combo rushers in the NFL today:
20 Yd. Shuttle
Jones looks like he is cut from a piece of metal and certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman. He carries his 280 pounds better than any defensive lineman I have ever seen. Physically, he compares very well to players like New York Giants’ Justin Tuck and New Orleans Saints’ Cameron Jordan. Of the players I compared Jones to, he has the quickest 20 yard shuttle and is one of the strongest players listed.
It is no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are looking to improve both sides of the trenches in 2013. After the Cowboys lost Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears to free agency, combined with the fact that they are moving to a four man defensive front, the need for players on the defensive line is apparent. The average age of the Dallas Cowboys’ starting defensive line going into the 2013 season will be 31 years old. That would make them one of oldest starting defensive lines in the entire league. The Cowboys are in desperate need of additional pass rushers at both the defensive end and defensive tackle position.
To show why I believe the Dallas Cowboys should consider Datone Jones with their first pick, here is a clip of one of the many times Datone Jones dominated his man at the Senior Bowl practices on the inside.
On this snap, Datone Jones is lined up against Illinois’ guard Hugh Thornton, who is projected to be a mid round selection this upcoming weekend. This play does favor the defense, since it is a one-on-one drill. But that does not take away Datone Jones’ spectacular quickness and strength.
The first thing you might notice about Jones is that he is standing too upright at the snap. He needs to play lower and bend his knees in order to play with better leverage. This is a typical snap where the two players are engaged in “hand fighting.” Jones uses his exceptional hand strength to win at the line of scrimmage against Thornton. He sets up his defender as if he is going to rush inside, but then he strikes with his left hand to gain an edge on the outside.
Datone Jones is always receiving praise for his “explosive hands.” This is a great showcase of what “explosive hands” really means. On this play, Jones uses his hands to rip through the defender as he tries to use a “swim” move. Because he is so strong, he can push the offensive lineman forward and create momentum to get to the quarterback.
Jones uses his right arm to swim around the defender and jolt past the blocker. If this were a play in an actual NFL game, the quarterback would have no choice but to throw the ball away or try to escape from Jones. Either way, Jones disrupted this play and caused the offense to get out of rhythm.
If the Dallas Cowboys’ decide to use their first selection on Datone Jones, they will inherit a player who is extremely versatile and will be productive in the NFL. Jones has the rare ability to win with both his hands and his quickness which is incredibly rare in football today.