NFP Prospect Focus: Taiwan Jones – Michigan State

While Mike linebackers usually don't carry the highest value during the first round of the draft unless they have some special traits, they still are very important to the defense. When you can find a guy who has a combination of size, instincts, speed and toughness he can go really high. An example of that type of player would be Carolina's Luke Kuechly who was a high first round selection and made an impact on the Panthers' defense right away. The problem is that players like Kuechly don't come around too often, and clubs have to wait until the early mid rounds to find competent Mikes. Such a player is Michigan State's Taiwan Jones. While he may not be a special player, he's damn good. Taiwan Jones - ILB - Michigan State Jones is a fourth-year senior and a two-year starter for Michigan State. As a sophomore, he also logged a lot of play time as well, making four starts. Needless to say, he has been a vital part of a strong Michigan State defense. Jones has excellent inside linebacker size. At the East-West game he measured 6024 - 258. He has a good frame, but he may want to lose a few pounds when he gets to the NFL level. While Jones has size, he lacks top end speed. His play speed is in the 4.77 - 4.80 range. While not really fast, he is athletic with good change of direction and body control. Jones has top instincts. He is very quick to react and gets to the ball. He has the strength and power to stack and is able to get off of blocks quickly. He is technically sound and has good hand use. Jones is best at defending the inside run. His instincts, quick hands and lateral agility help him to make a lot of plays. He was second on the team in total tackles with 60 including 12.5 tackles for loss. He is an aggressive, sure tackle who hits and wraps and seldom misses. Jones isn't used much as a pass rusher, but he is effective when used. He knows how to time his blitzes and charges hard. He had 4.0 sacks on the year. Jones can have some trouble in pass coverage. In zone coverage, he is able to get good depth with his drops, but he isn't as nifty as you would like. He is limited to playing zone, as he lacks the speed and suddenness to cover a back or tight end in man coverage. While he shows top awareness, his ability to plant and drive on the ball is average. Overall, I feel the best fit for Jones would be as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. In that scheme, he doesn't need the range that a Mike linebacker needs in a 4-3. His instincts, toughness and physical play will allow him to be productive in a 3-4. He skill set is such that he probably won't be on the field that much on obvious passing downs. Unless he surprises people with an outstanding workout at the Combine, I see him getting drafted in the late third or early fourth round. While he won't be a premium draft choice, he will eventually be a starting inside 'backer  in the league. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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