Jones, a two-year starter for the Rebels after transferring from East Mississippi Community College, hasn’t gotten swept up in the non-stop interviews or the closely-watched workouts, be it at the NFL Combine or Ole Miss Pro Day.
Because the 6-foot-1, 319-pound Jones feels blessed. He’s worked his entire life to get to this point, a professional football career well within sight. The three-day NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 in Philadelphia, Pa.
“It’s surpassed my expectations,” Jones said of the process. “I’m just blessed to be in the position that I’m in. I’m taking every day as it is. Any phone call I get from anybody, I’m listening. I pick brains of guys who’ve already been drafted. It’s just a process that you have to take in. You can’t force anything. You can’t think you’re going here and if it not happen be disappointed. Day by day I continue to work out and think about what’s to come.”
Jones flew to New York April 17 for a dinner with the coaching staff of the Giants — the latest of many get-to-know-you opportunities with myriad NFL franchises that have shown interest in him as the draft draws ever closer.
Jones is currently projected by CBSSports.com as a seventh-round-to-undrafted selection. But he isn’t sweating his draft position or where he’ll ultimately end up. At least not much.
“Not too many people show their hand, as I can see,” he said. “I’ve gotten grades from third, fourth to sixth to seventh. I haven’t gotten any undrafted reports. I’m praying to God we don’t get any. I’ve gotten a lot of grades. But to tell you the truth, you can’t look at those. What I’ve heard from a lot of people is you can’t look at those. You’ve just got to go off of when your name is called.”
Jones was a Top 5 junior college recruit nationally after starring and winning two national championships at EMCC, where he had 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks over two seasons. He moved on to Ole Miss and played in every game in 2015, with three starts, registering 40 tackles, 5.5 for loss and four sacks. He started all 12 games as a senior. He finished with 30 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Jones said the feedback he’s received has generally been positive. He profiles as a one-gap nose with three-down ability in the mold of Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
“Teams are telling me they like my lower center of gravity,” he said. “My ability to take on two blockers, even dominate one. Just be able to make plays by not even making a play; by taking up a double team and allowing my linebacker to make a play. Just the way that I can run and my size.”
Jones shined in front of 48 scouts from 31 NFL teams at Ole Miss Pro Day April 3. He improved his bench press from the 25 reps he totaled at the NFL Combine to 28, and his field drills showed quickness and burst.
Jones was pleased with his performance. Good thing, too. The march to the NFL Draft is nothing if not a never-ending job interview.
“Going from 25 to 28 is a plus for me,” he said. “It shows that I’ve been working on that bench press. I was hoping for more, but it’s not a bad number. Twenty-eight isn’t a bad number. My field drills, I was just trying to show my explosion, show that I can do the same things a linebacker can do with his feet. I can make the same plays. I felt like I had a good day.”
More than anything, though, he was able to end his Ole Miss career on a good note. Other draft-hopeful Rebels — from Evan Engram and Chad Kelly, to Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo — participated as well. But before the day began, the one-time teammates gathered together to share in the experience and reflect.
One final day, officially, as Ole Miss Rebels.
“Just being able to get all of us together one more time, we were all in the room together for about an hour before it all started,” Jones said. “I was there for two years, but I’ve still got the memories with the guys. Everybody was talking about what was going on, what they did over the last four years, the last two years. It was a great time, a great day, to have everybody back together.”