In the NFL there really isn’t all that much difference between the best players and the undrafted guys, the ones who kick around on practice squads and never really make it. There are exceptions, of course, a few clear “best of the best” types. For the most part, though, the differences between the guys who make it and they guys who don’t are subtle.
Maybe those differences slight athletic advantages. In many cases, though, they come down to work ethic, the ability to put your best foot forward every day on every play, the willingness to learn and whether or not a player truly has the desire to be great. Some, honestly, only think they do. Some, despite not having proven it, think they already are.
No one thought enough of New York Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison to draft him coming out of William Penn, but the New York Jets gave him a chance and he has made himself into an All-Pro.
Which brings us to former Notre Dame defensive tackle Jarron Jones, one of the players signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent. Read his scouting reports and you see things like “potential first-round pick.” On the other hand, you read things like “has a reputation for being lazy” and “enters the NFL with a buyer beware tag due to his streaky production and reputation for rubbing coaches the wrong way due to his inconsistency.”
In our UDFA tracker, Chris wrote:
At 6’6”, 316 pounds with 35 1⁄2 inch arms, Jones looks like a prototypical defensive tackle. At his best he is possibly the most dominant and disruptive interior defender in this draft. Jones has uncommon length for a 3-technique to go along with natural power, quickness, and agility.
The problem is that THAT player doesn’t always show up.
More scouting reports
Tony Pauline says:
Entering the season Jones was stamped as a potential first-round pick but showed a lot of inconsistency on the field. He possesses the size to develop into a starter at the next level but needs to improve every aspect of his game and stop relying on natural ability.
In his 2017 NFL Draft Guide Dane Brugler (CBS Sports) says:
A two-year starter at Notre Dame, Jones lined up primarily at nose tackle in the Irish’s even and odd fronts and played well as a senior, despite not being a full-time starter – made an impact on special teams in his career with six career blocked kicks. He is an impressive specimen and looks like an early round pick on paper due to his measurables, movements and potential, making plays that very few at his size are able to make (see 2016 Miami game). However, Jones enters the NFL with a buyer beware tag due to his streaky production and reputation for rubbing coaches the wrong way due to his inconsistency. His unique skill-set is enticing, but he requires a strong positional coach to keep him grounded – true wildcard prospect due to his high risk/reward projection.
In the 2017 Optimum Scouting Draft Guide Eric Galko had Jones graded as a Day 3 propsect. He wrote:
Jarron Jones is a very intriguing prospect. He has incredible size for the position, coming in at 6'6, 316 pounds and 35" arms. He came to Notre Dame as 4-star recruit and broke into the starting lineup in his sophomore year. Jones has flashed all star talent on the field. He uses his great size to over power offensive linemen. He has a good burst off the line and punches hard. He is good at clogging up holes and positioning himself to make a tackle. He reaches out well with his long arms to keep offensive lineman from locking him down. He has adequate speed for someone his size, allowing him to be disruptive behind the line. He is a solid tackler with a nasty streak to him. He has a variety of pass rush moves that he uses fairly effectively to get quick penetration but often just relies on his sheer power and quickness to beat his man. However, he comes with plenty of red flags. According to multiple sources, his football character has been called into question. He has a reputation for being lazy and needs a lot of coaching to get motivated. This is evident on the field in his inconsistent play. He can absolutely take over in the middle and destroy an offensive game plan like few others but lacks the motor and motivation to do this continually. He will give up on plays if he gets shut down early and shows a lack of hustle at times getting to the line. He has also had some issues with injuries in the past. His 2015 campaign was wiped out except for Notre Dame's bowl game due to a torn MCL. He also missed timed on two separate occasions in 2014 due to a foot injury. As a rusher, he tends to play too high. His strength comes from his upper body and lacks a strong lower body. These two issues combine to create a concerning issue of someone his size being moved more easily than he should. Jones has all the makings of a top-flight defensive tackle but his biggest enemy will be himself. He must prove to an NFL team that he can handle himself and doesn't need a coach baby sitting him. He must motivate himself in the film room and in the weight room to fully reach his potential. It is fair to wonder if any motivation he has will go out the window once he gets his first paycheck. If he can get motivated and work on these issues, he can be a solid starter in the NFL before his first contract comes up. If not, he will be lucky to make final cuts.
Pro Football Focus says:
Jones is tough to project because of an injury-marred college career. He missed all but one game his junior year recovering from an MCL tear, as well as suffering a Lisfranc injury in his time at Notre Dame. His senior tape is underwhelming, particularly his performances against the run, but the flashes of brilliance toward the end of the year suggest he was steadily recovering from the injuries.
Jones’ spider chart shows a player with a lot of God-given physical gifts.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock watched the Notre Dame Pro Day and thought Jones would be drafted, but admitted there were league-wide reservations about him:
“Mixed opinions around the league on Jarron. I mean, you look at him and he’s 6-foot-5 1/2, 310 pounds. He’s got really long arms, which is important in a defensive line. And he flashes on tape. And if he could have replicated the way he played against Miami every week, we’d be talking about him a different way today. But he didn’t.
“He’s a highly inconsistent player that flashes on tape. He flashes in his workout.”
Jones is a little different than undrafted free agent signees Chad Wheeler and Jessamen Dunker, who both did not hear their names called during the draft largely because of off-the-field character concerns. With Jones, the red flag seems to be just how much effort he gives when he is actually ON the field. By all accounts, he is one of those players who has all the talent, all the physical traits, to be a terrific NFL player. The question is whether or not he truly wants to be one.
It certainly doesn’t hurt the Giants to find out. As a UDFA, it wouldn’t be hard — or expensive — for the Giants to part with him if they don’t like what they see beginning Friday when rookie mini-camp opens.