Chris Jones (Mississippi St.)

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Jones, Broncos Staff

Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones suffered a torn MCL in last Saturday’s playoff defeat and will be sidelined for eight-to-ten weeks, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Now that Kansas City has been eliminated from the postseason, Jones won’t be forced to miss any game action, and his recovery timeline means he’ll be ready to go well ahead of organized team activities. Jones, the 37th overall selection in the 2016 draft, has been force during his two years with the Chiefs, and last season graded as the NFL’s No. 11 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus. He’s under contract through 2019.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Zach Azzanni has been named the Broncos‘ new wide receivers coach, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). A longtime collegiate wideouts coach, Azzanni began his NFL career with the Titans in 2013 before leading the Bears’ pass-cathcers last season. Chicago’s wide receivers didn’t offer much production in 2017, but the club also boasted one of the league’s worst wide receiving corps, so it’s difficult to assign Azzanni much credit or blame. In Denver, he’ll work with a unit that includes veteran such as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and younger players like 2017 rookie Carlos Henderson.
  • The Broncos have also hired a new defensive backs coach in Greg Williams (not to be confused with the Browns defensive coordinator), as Mike Klis of 9News writes. Williams, who has also coached with the Chargers, spent the past two seasons as the Colts’ defensive backs coach, where, as Klis notes, he helped turned former journeyman Rashean Mathis into something of a shutdown corner. Williams will work alongside Marcus Robertson, who will return as Denver’s primary secondary coach.
  • Fred Pagac won’t return to Denver next season, but the Broncos don’t intend to hire another outside linebackers coach to fill his job, per Klis (Twitter link). Instead, the Broncos intend to bring in a dedicated “pass rush” coach who will operate with Denver’s defensive lineman and linebackers. Incumbent LBs coach Reggie Herring will now lead both inside and outside ‘backers.

Impact Rookies: Kansas City Chiefs

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with his insight on the Kansas City Chiefs’ draft class:

It was far from exciting for Kansas City fans when the Chiefs introduced their cache from the recent NFL Draft. While some fans recognized the need to improve the pass protection up front after KC quarterbacks were sacked 46 times last year (tied for sixth worst in the league), rather than bulking up the offensive line, they first cut guard Ben Grubbs, let right tackle Jeff Allen sign a four-year deal with Houston, and then traded away the No. 28 pick to San Francisco, only to see the 49ers take one of the better guard prospects available – Stanford’s Josh Garnett. While the fans were clamoring for a big body in the first round, Kansas City did manage to secure from the 49ers their second round pick (No. 37 overall), a fourth round choice (No. 105), and a sixth round selection (No. 178 through Dallas) in this year’s draft during the exchange.

So what does KC have in Jones and the rest of its 2016 rookie class? Let’s dive in:

Second Round – Chris Jones, DE/DT (Mississippi State, No. 37 overall)

Several teams had Jones pegged as a late first round prospect, but the Chiefs see him as a capable edge rusher with the ability to slide inside when they go to a four-man front. Still, other teams felt that the junior would have been better served remaining in school and continuing his development for another year. In 2014, he posted 26 tackles, but just 3.5 of those stops came from behind the line of scrimmage. He shifted from the weak-side to strong-side tackle last season, picking up second-team All-American honors after he delivered 44 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 7.5 stops-for-loss. Chris Jones (vertical)

Jones might not have those eye-catching numbers you expect from an elite prospect, but even with 5.5 sacks combined his last two seasons, the Chiefs felt that he was further along than most of the defensive linemen still left in the draft. They realize that he needs refinement and lacks an array of pass rush moves, but he uses his hands exceptionally well to rip and swim. With his balance, he demonstrates the ability to execute an effective spin move, despite the fact that he tends to get high in his stance (he has a good center of gravity, though).

On film, you see that Jones’ high motor allows him to close in on a ball carrier quickly. Has a lot of range, makes a good portion of his tackles outside the box. With his balance, he gets out in space well, looking like an oversized linebacker. He’s quite light on his feet when he has to be, and you can see that he has that wiggle in his hips needed to make the last second moves to avoid the brunt of a blocker’s punch. When he keeps a low pad level, he generates much better explosion off the snap, but when he fails to deliver on his initial move, his feet stop and his arms get a little out of control at the point of attack, which allows blockers to get a piece of his jersey.

Still, for a player his size, he does a nice job of fitting into tight spaces. I doubt if he will ever be regarded as a pass rusher, as he is more suited in being a one-gap type of penetrator that can alter the lane of a running back. He must be conscious of low blocks though and has to do a better job of recognizing double teams, as failure to do so will result in Jones being driven back by that strong double team duo. In one-on-one battles, it is a completely different story, as the Bulldog uses his long arms and powerful hands to make it very difficult for a blocker to lock on to him, especially when he shows confidence in the power he delivers out his hands and arms.

Continue reading about the Chiefs’ rookie class..

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Chiefs Sign Six Draft Picks, Seven UDFAs

The Chiefs have officially locked up the majority of their nine-player draft class, having signed six selections to contracts, the team announced. Along with the previously reported Chris Jones (second-round pick), the Chiefs inked the followers players to deals:

The Chiefs traded out of the first round this year, making third-round defensive back Keivarae Russell their most significant unsigned draft pick as of now. The team also officially signed seven undrafted free agents, including three cornerbacks:

Additionally, Kansas City waived Lithuanian-born linebacker Tautvydas Kieras, per a team announcement (Twitter link).

AFC Draft Signings: Chiefs, Texans, Jaguars

The Chiefs have signed second-round pick Chris Jones, a source tells PFT (Twitter link). The defensive lineman out of Mississippi State becomes KC’s first rookie to sign. Jones’ stock rose in the weeks leading up to the draft as more and more teams zeroed in on interior pass rushers.

Here are the rest of today’s draft signings from the AFC:

  • The Texans signed fifth-round nose tackle D.J. Reader, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter).
  • The Jaguars sign sixth-round quarterback Brandon Allen, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets.
  • The Jaguars signed sixth-round linebacker/defensive end Tyrone Holmes, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • Linebacker Jatavis Brown inked his rookie contract with the Chargers, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. The Akron product was taken in the fifth-round.
  • The Jets signed seventh-round punter Lachlan Edwards, according to his agency on Twitter.
  • The Patriots signed sixth-round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill to a $2.44MM deal, including a $100K signing bonus, as his slot dictates, Wilson tweets.
  • The Steelers announced the signing of seventh round draft picks Demarcus Ayers and Tyler Matakevich. Ayers, a wide receiver/returner from the University of Houston, and Matakevich, a linebacker from Temple, are now the first two Pittsburgh rookies to sign from this year’s class.
  • The Ravens signed fifth-round defensive end Matt Judon, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Texans signed fifth-round safety K.J. Dillon, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets.

Draft Rumors: Spence, J. Smith, Rankins, Vikes

Eastern Kentucky edge defender Noah Spence, who had multiple positive drug tests during his time at Ohio State, sent each of the NFL’s 32 teams the results of the 20 drug tests he has taken since last May, league sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. According to Schefter, Spence had Eastern Kentucky conduct five drug tests from May through December, then submitted to 15 more – one per week – since January.

In terms of pure on-field talent, Spence is viewed as one of the top pass rushers in this year’s draft class, but his off-field question marks may cause him to slip a little further than he’d like. Still, he continues to be viewed as a first-round pick, and receiving evidence that he has been clean for the last year may make some teams a little more inclined to roll the dice on him.

Here are a few more of today’s pre-draft rumors and updates:

  • Despite his significant knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for the entire 2016 season, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith is still viewed as a potential day-one or day-two pick, according to Adam Schefter (Twitter links). Schefter hears that Smith is likely to be selected before the end of round three, and one NFL head coach even believes the linebacker could come off the board late in the first round.
  • The buzz surrounding Louisville defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins has intensified today. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter links) both have heard that Rankins will be considered as early as No. 4 by the Cowboys, with La Canfora predicting that he’ll end up as a top-10 pick. Tony Pauline at WalterFootball.com has heard that the draft stocks for both Rankins and Mississippi State DT Chris Jones have risen, with teams seeking interior pass rushers.
  • Several NFL teams think Ohio State wideout Michael Thomas is being undervalued, and will transition well to the NFL, according to Tony Pauline, who says the Chargers and Bengals are among the teams with interest in Thomas. Pauline adds within the same article that the Vikings aren’t a lock to draft a receiver in round one, and will consider Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche if he’s available.
  • With Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley being mentioned in the same conversations as Laremy Tunsil recently, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk looks into whether or not the Tunsil/Stanley debate is real.
  • The NFL is considering Philadelphia and Los Angeles to host the 2017 NFL draft, with Philly emerging as the favorite, tweets Adam Schefter. As Schefter points out, neither of those cities’ teams has a first-round pick in 2017.
  • Purdue defensive tackle Ryan Watson has visited, worked out for, or received inquiries from eight teams since his pro day, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Draft Updates: Dahl, Ogbah, C. Jones, DeBord

As Greg Gabriel of 670 The Score tweets, Wednesday is the last day NFL teams can bring prospects in for official visits. Beginning on Thursday, clubs can still meet or work out players, but it has to happen at the player’s school or home, rather than the team’s facility.

Still, there’s no shortage of updates today on workouts and/or visits conducted recently by prospects and teams. Here are several of those updates:

  • Rand Getlin of the NFL Network (Twitter link) adds the Falcons, Lions, and Titans to the long list of teams that either worked out Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl or hosted him for a visit. Earlier this month, a report indicated that 10 other teams had interest in Dahl, with many of those clubs planning visits or workouts.
  • Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post writes that the Titans and Bengals were among the teams that hosted Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah for pre-draft visits.
  • The Bengals, Ravens, and Seahawks are among the clubs that have hosted Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones for pre-draft visits, tweets Rand Getlin.
  • The list of clubs that Eastern Washington offensive lineman Clay DeBord has worked out for or visited includes the 49ers, Lions, Jets, Falcons, Buccaneers, Titans, and Cardinals, tweets Rand Getlin.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press provides a couple updates on local prospects, tweeting that Michigan State defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas has worked out for the Lions, Patriots, Falcons, and Titans, and adding (via Twitter) that Central Michigan tight end Ben McCord has previously visited the Dolphins. McCord is participating in the Lions’ local workout day, while Thomas isn’t.
  • North Carolina Central defensive back Ryan Smith is making his last pre-draft visit today to Los Angeles to meet with the Rams, a source tells Aaron Wilson.
  • Florida wide receiver Demarcus Robinson visited the Jets today, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), who suggests keeping an eye on Robinson late in the draft.

AFC South Notes: Watt, Jaguars, Titans, Draft

Will Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt retire sooner rather than later? It’s probably too early to make any assumptions about how many years the perennial All-Pro has left, but as James Palmer of the NFL Network tweets, Watt did tell SportsRadio 610 in Houston that he won’t be one of those players who attempts to extend his career as long as possible.

Here are several more items from out of the AFC South…

Draft Updates: Ramsey, Goff, Underclassmen

With five weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, not many teams are looking ahead to the draft yet, but the NCAA year is winding down and many underclassmen are determining whether or not to declare their intent to enter this year’s draft class. Here’s the latest on a few prospects:

  • Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey and his family have spent “meaningful time” vetting potential agents as he considers entering the draft, tweets Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports. That’s no surprise, considering Ramsey is a potential top-10 pick.
  • A pair of receivers, Florida’s Demarcus Robinson and Pitt’s Tyler Boyd, are strongly considering entering the draft, according to Getlin (Twitter links). Getlin adds that one of Boyd’s family members has been looking into possible representation.
  • Sources close to Cal quarterback Jared Goff indicate that there’s a 99% chance he’ll enter the draft, and wide receiver Kenny Lawler is expected to declare as well, writes Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net. Bengals receiver Marvin Jones has been a common point of comparison for Lawler, per Pauline.
  • Boise State edge defender Kamalei Correa, who has received second-day grades, has been interviewing agents and is very likely to enter the draft, says Pauline. Maryland defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson and San Diego State cornerback Damontae Kazee are also likely to enter the draft, according to Pauline.
  • Indiana guard Dan Feeney, Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones, and Mississippi defensive back Tony Conner are waiting to hear back from the advisory committee before making a decision on the draft, per Pauline.
  • Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, and receiver Laquon Treadwell are all expected to enter the draft, says Pauline.
  • Other underclassmen considering making the jump to the NFL, according to Pauline:
    • Texas A&M defensive end Daeshon Hall
    • Alabama cornerback Eddie Jackson
    • Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons
    • Mississippi tight end Evan Engram