Jarron Jones will need to make the most of his upcoming NFL Combine experience if he’s to overcome a perception that he’s “lazy,” a “cancer” and a possible next-level bust.
Jones is projected to be a second or third round pick when the NFL Draft commences April 27 in Philadelphia, but the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive tackle cannot be pleased with what’s been said about him lately.
"He's a character flag for us. He's talented but I just don't think he loves the game enough for me to back him in our room. Who doesn't love those long arms? We all do, but I think he's lazy and will head south as soon as he has more time and money on his hands,” an unnamed NFC director of scouting told NFL.com.
Matt Fortuna, who covered the Irish for ESPN during Jones’ career, said he saw a progression in maturity from the tackle’s freshman campaign to his fifth year.
“But let’s not beat around the bush here,” said Fortuna on his Still Independent podcast. “The Navy game, I think, he barely played because he doesn’t like playing option teams. For me, that’s a red flag. When you have guys like Isaac Rochell and other people on defense busting their butts on a 4-8 team and you have a fifth year senior who doesn’t want to play because he’s afraid to get hurt, that’s the stuff that red flags are made of. That’s going to be a fire alarm for a lot of people looking at the tape and looking at his situation.
“He was, by all accounts - and I was sent a photo from someone who was there that night - he was at The Linebacker the night Devin Butler got arrested and was not exactly acting like an angel himself. He had to have some closed door meetings with Irish coaches about that over that weekend. He was described to me going into this season as a cancer on the team by a teammate of his.”
In the NFL.com scouting report, scouts - again, unnamed - said Jones didn’t “treat offseason as a time to get better. Sources say Irish coaches had to work overtime to keep him interested and working to get better.”
“He’s going to need to change a lot about himself the other six days of the week and really the other nine months of the year based on everything I’ve been told to make this work as a professional football player,” said Fortuna.
There’s also a legitimate concern about his health, given his Lisfranc injury in 2014, his torn MCL in 2015 and his foot injury in the Fiesta Bowl in January 2016.
On the “boom” side, Jones is loved for his long reach, his quickness both to pursue runners and to get around blocks and his ability to collapse pockets with an explosive first step and a good push. Jones is also versatile, having the ability to play nose guard, three- or five-technique (lined up on the outside shoulder of a guard or outside shoulder of a tackle). He’s also great at blocking kicks.
Jones has been compared to Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who was drafted #52 overall in 2015 and called a “poor man’s Chris Jones.” Jones was the 37th overall pick last year, a selection of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL Combine starts Monday in Indianapolis, with workouts commencing next Friday.