BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
Florida State linebacker Christian Jones is one of the most athletic players in all of college football. This athleticism allowed him to get on the field as a true freshman, contributing on special teams and even getting some looks as a linebacker. Since then, he started every game as a sophomore and junior for the Seminole defense and should have over 40 starts for his career after this season.
Jones is coming off his best season in 2012, when he was the team’s leading tackler with 95 stops. He played mostly weakside linebacker last season.
Jones has good size for his position, coming in at 6’4’’ and 235 pounds according to the Seminoles’ official website. He projects as a 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. He is mentioned as a breakout candidate by many for his senior year. He has shown some good things on the field, but he has several areas of concern to clear up before I will be convinced he is worthy of an early draft pick.
Why You Should Watch Christian Jones in 2013
Simply put, Jones is one of the most athletic players in all of college football. He flies around the field from sideline to sideline and has terrific range. There is no questioning his ability from an athletic standpoint and I fully expect him to test well at the combine.
Jones is tremendous is pass coverage. He has extremely fluid hips, can run with backs and receivers and is long enough to cover tight ends. He has excellent awareness in zone and can blanket players in man. He has great ability to track the ball in the air and make plays on it. He is close to former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly in terms of being the best cover linebacker I have watched on film.
Jones has above-average instincts and is always around the ball. He isn’t often fooled and has good awareness.
What Jones Needs to Prove in 2013
Jones does not take on blockers well. He doesn’t get enough separation from them and can easily be blocked out of the play. He is not physical when taking on blockers. When he is able to run freely, he is great. When there is traffic in his way, he struggles.
He regularly takes poor angles to the ball carrier and rarely takes the best course to get them down. Not even his tremendous athleticism masks that his pursuit angles are bad.
Jones is not a great tackler nor a very physical player in general. He doesn’t drive his hips to bring down ball carriers, but is more of a grab and attempt to drag down type tackler. This gets him in trouble in college and will keep him off the field in the pros.
Jones offers very little as a blitzing linebacker. He can apply pressure with his speed and quickness but displays no pass-rush moves or ability to get to the quarterback.
Projecting Jones’ Draft Stock
There is no doubt the Jones will be counted on heavily by the Seminole defense in 2013. He is the major piece in a defense that returns only four starters from last season. He will have the opportunity to prove himself as a leader and player in 2013.
Somebody will fall in love with his athletic ability and he may get overdrafted. Right now, Jones’ athletic ability does not make up for his glaring weaknesses and doesn’t justify a high draft selection.
Like all of the players who are draft eligible in 2014, the opportunity to prove himself is right in front of him. In many ways, you can see the upside that Jones has, but I have a fourth-round grade on him based on the film I have studied.
Perhaps that grade is a little high based on the weaknesses I have outlined, but at a minimum, you get an amazingly athletic player who can cover tremendously well from the linebacker position. He projects as a core special teams player, and that will keep him on an NFL roster until he develops the ability to be an every-down player.