Pittsburgh redshirt senior edge defender Patrick Jones II enters the 2021 NFL Draft process as a productive pass-rusher over the last several seasons as a Panther. While he isn’t a scheme-diverse prospect, Jones will have plenty of suitors interested in his ability to get after the quarterback.
Jones was a three-star prospect (247 sports; he was a two-star on Rivals) who received 11 scholarship offers after a high school career at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Virginia that included 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as a senior. He was rated the No. 1 defensive end prospect in Virginia and a top 25 overall player in the state by ESPN.
Jones’ impact at Pitt began during his redshirt sophomore season when he appeared in all 14 games as a reserve but managed to finish the year with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He earned a starting job in 2019 and finished the season registering 13 starts, 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. In 2020, Jones started all 11 games and recorded career-highs in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (9), bringing his career totals to 112 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, and 21.5 sacks. He earned All-American and All-ACC honors for his efforts in 2020.
Physically, Jones has an intriguing physical makeup at 6-4, 264 pounds. He looked leaner on tape than his 2021 Senior Bowl weigh-in, but his added bulk is a good thing for his 2021 draft stock. He projects as a defensive end in a 4-3 front on the next level, so weighing-in north of 260 pounds is ideal. In fact, if he can push that number even higher, his ceiling will rise with it. Jones has a lean frame and good muscle composition, so adding weight shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.
Athletically, Jones has very good burst and closing speed but he isn’t the most flexible or agile player. He wasn’t asked to drop in coverage at Pitt and his athletic profile isn’t consistent with a guy who will have much success sticking with running backs or tight ends in the NFL. Still, there’s no denying his twitch off the snap. He’s an explosive dude.
As a pass rusher, Jones’ experience is evident in how he attacks opposing linemen. He mixes speed with power well and has enough pass-rush moves in his toolbox to make an immediate impact on passing downs as a rookie. He’ll need to get stronger at the point of attack if he wants to consistently threaten NFL linemen with a bull rush, but even if he’s maxed out from a strength standpoint, he’ll win his fair share of reps with his explosive burst alone.
Jones is strong against the run. He’s quick to diagnose a play’s design and hustles through the whistle to stay involved in every rep. He’s a heavy-hitter who should have little trouble finishing tackles as a pro. His straight-line speed is an asset in pursuit, but his ability to finish in space leaves a bit to be desired. Jones needs to get better at shedding blocks, but he proved he can set the edge and create trash in running lanes.
Overall, Jones is a quality prospect who will begin his career as a rotational pass rusher with the upside to become an every-down starter in a year or two. He has to get better with his hand usage, but his juice and hustle to the quarterback make him a high-ceiling prospect who feels like a player that will end up outproducing his eventual draft slot, which should be somewhere in the early portion of Day 2.
GRADE: 7.5 (second round)