Although it is very early, I am already cruising various draft boards around the interwebs, trying to figure out who might be of interest to the Dallas Cowboys when the draft rolls around. Two of my favorite resources are Drafttek and CBS Sports, sites with a lot of info and features. This year, I am on board with the thinking that the Cowboys are likely to be looking for linemen on both defense and offense. Of course, at this point in the process, things are very tentative, and there are some major differences in how they have players ranked.
But one name caught my eye since the Senior Bowl. UCLA defensive end Datone Jones has shot up both boards. Considered a late second to early third round talent prior to the Senior Bowl week, he impressed scouts enough that they are talking about him being a first round talent.
He hits all the major points for me. He fills a need (DE/DT), he seems to be a likely fit for Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense pending the combine, and he is starting to show on draft boards in the vicinity of Dallas' pick at 18.
Jones was a little under the radar, playing for UCLA and not getting the coverage players for some of the more talked-about schools enjoyed. He also was a bit of a question mark as to what position he would play, having been used as both a DT and DE by the Bruins. At 6'4" and 280, he seems to be a lighter, quicker player that fits the model described by rabble in his look at the kinds of players needed to make the "Dallas 2" work. And his player profile at CBS Sports lists a 40 time of 4.82, which is not too bad for his position. The numbers to watch going forward are his shuffle and cone times. If they fit with his reputation, which is to be explosive and quick off the ball, this may be a player that would fit in. He is a little heavier that Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware and almost exactly Tyrone Crawford's size, so he may be a good candidate to play the closed end or under tackle in Kiffin's scheme.
The best part, for me, is the way he caught the attention of more than one scout in Mobile. That is a chance for players who were perhaps not able to find their best position, or whose team was not getting a lot of coverage and attention, to come in and show how they stack up against other players who are also trying to prove themselves. The practices are as important, perhaps more so, than the game, since the exposure is a lot longer and the scouts can get a good feel for the work ethic along with raw talent.
Here is part of Rob Rang's take on him.
His combination of quickness and strength results in an explosiveness that has been tough for the North defensive linemen to handle. He was able to simply bull-rush offensive linemen, including Fisher and Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner on multiple occasions. In prior years, Jones' 6-4, 280 pound frame may have earned him the dreaded 'tweener label. With so many clubs looking for "hybrid" defensive linemen capable of playing inside or out, however, he's earning high marks from talent evaluators for his versatility.
And here are some comments from Dane Brugler.
He is very strong from head to toe and does a nice job using his powerful arms and hands to rip past blockers. He wasn't overly productive as a pass rusher at UCLA, largely due to the fact that he was moved all over the Bruins' hybrid 3-4 scheme, but he did record 19 tackles for loss as a senior with his impressive blend of burst and power to dispose of blockers at the point of attack.
At the time I write this, he is showing up on the boards in the 20-25 range. That is getting close to that 18 spot, and he also could become an argument for a move down a few slots to gain additional picks in the second or third round. He is a player I will be keeping an eye on the next few weeks. The West Coast regional combine is this Saturday, and if he gets invited to the national combine, it starts the 20th.
For those who want to see a bit of him for yourself, here are some video links.
Datone Jones vs Stanford (PAC 12 CG) (2012) (via Adrian Ahufinger)
Datone Jones vs Nebraska and Rice 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
Datone Jones vs Washington State (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)