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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Ernest Jones

  • The Draft Network
  • January 30, 2021
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PROSPECT SUMMARY - ERNEST JONES

South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones declared for the 2021 NFL Draft after two seasons as a starter for the Gamecocks’ defense and leading the team in tackles in both 2019 and 2020. He was a team captain and regarded as the vocal leader of the defense. At the next level, Jones projects best as a pursuit-style WILL linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he can take advantage of his ability to take good angles to the football and finish. With that said, he doesn’t have the processing skills or functional strength to be an ideal fit as a MIKE or SAM linebacker. For a defender that is best as a weak-side linebacker, ideally there would be more of an explosive athletic profile and comfort in coverage. Jones has plenty of room to develop and will need to before he can claim a role at the next level. Proving himself on special teams will be critical to buy him time to get stronger and develop as a linebacker. 

Ideal Role: Reserve WILL linebacker, special teams.

Scheme Fit: 4-3.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: Tennessee (2020), Florida (2020), Auburn (2020), LSU (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Ole Miss (2020)

Best Game Studied: Ole Miss (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Texas A&M (2020) 

Tackling: Jones does a good job of getting guys on the ground and he doesn’t often miss or whiff. With that said, he has below-average hitting power and contact balance which leads to him frequently conceding yards after contact, and sometimes, he takes a ride. Those issues often arise due to his slow trigger which leads to him being more reactionary, enabling the ball-carrier to get a full head of steam when he arrives at the point of attack. 

Football IQ: Watching Jones on tape, I don't get a strong feel that he is comfortable. His eyes are everywhere and he commits hard to false keys. He’s antsy and looking all over the place in his zone drops, often covering grass and drifting. Overall, he’s a slow processor with a tardy trigger that plays more of a reactionary game with little anticipation. 

Competitive Toughness: For the most part, Jones plays the game with passion and urgency. With that said, he can be guilty of some passive efforts in pursuit. He doesn’t back down from contact but I wouldn’t call him a super physical football player. 

Pass Coverage Ability: Jones appears to have enough mobility to survive in coverage but he doesn’t look comfortable. He is tall in his pedal and his eyes are all over the place. He is guilty of looking behind him in his drops to make sure he is getting to his landmarks and doesn’t have a natural feel. 

Run Defending: Jones is an inconsistent processor against the run, which leads to him being out of his fits and hung on blocks. I want to see him diagnose quicker and trigger downhill with more conviction and there are a lot of slow plays when he needs to commit and fill. His modest functional strength and ability to clear contact present challenges. 

Block Deconstruction: Jones is more of a slipper and undercutter of blocks than a guy who is going to take them on, stay leveraged, and clear. He lacks the functional strength to consistently hold his ground, stack, and shed. There are some ugly reps where he gets blasted out of his gap. He needs to get stronger and play with better leverage. 

Lateral Mobility: Jones has sufficient movement skills but he plays tall and there is some tightness in his lowers that he works through when changing directions. With that said, he does take good angles when pursuing outside the tackles when he has a clear path. 

Flexibility: Jones isn’t overly loose or flexible and that shows up in his pedal and when changing directions. He does do a good job of slipping/undercutting blocks, which often require him to contort his frame to work around blockers. He isn’t overly springy with his short-area quickness. 

Leadership: All indications are that Jones was a respected teammate and fan favorite at South Carolina. My research found several instances where he was called the vocal leader of the Gamecocks’ defense. In 2019, Jones was named the most improved player in the spring for special teams. Jones was a team captain at South Carolina. 

Versatility: Jones lacks the physicality and processing skills to play MIKE or SAM linebacker, so his best chance is as a pursuit-style WILL linebacker in a 4-3 defense. With that said, he will need to clean up his coverage skills to survive in that type of role. Jones has some experience covering kicks in college and serving on the punt return team, but not much. 

Prospect Comparison: Vosean Joseph (2019 NFL Draft, Buffalo Bills) 

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 72.50/100

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