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.
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..