If you watched any of the Kansas City Chiefs this season, you'd be well aware of offensive stars like QB Patrick Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill. But it's been impossible to miss the explosion of DL Chris Jones on the other side of the ball as well.
Jones, a third year player from Mississippi State, was the 37th overall player drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. But in retrospect, there are 31 teams probably asking themselves the question of how they let Jones slip through their fingers that weekend.
You see, Jones has tied an NFL record for the most consecutive games with a sack (10) during his dominant 2018 campaign. With 14.0 sacks credited in his last 10 games, few pass rushers have made a bigger impact on the game this season. I say few because...well...Aaron Donald is very much still a thing. But I digress.
Jones' production is even more impressive when considering his landscape. The Chiefs defense has as much stopping power as a wet paper towel this season, they're grossly undermanned and averaging 27.1 points allowed per game through 14 games.
But Jones' herculean effort has provided the big plays (14.0 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and an additional 26 QB hits) to derail opposing offenses just enough.
How did we get here? How does a defender with prototypical size, length and first step quickness tumble out of the first round? To answer that we need to go back in time and take a look at Jones' 2016 NFL Draft profile.
Chris Jones' 2016 NFL Draft Report
One of my favorite things about being an NFL Draft analyst? Finding the guys you're willing to stick your neck out on and go against the consensus on. Of course, that doesn't always have a happy ending...just ask my 2015 NFL Draft big board. But Jones was a player that I, and many of my colleagues in this space, such as TDN's very own Jon Ledyard and Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner, seemed higher on than the league. So don't blame me.
Jones' film at Mississippi State offered plenty of flashes, but not a lot of finishes. I, for one, find it ironic. The arrogance of NFL coaches/teams has always been on of their most reliable qualities.
"If anyone can coach this kid to his potential, it is us!"
Yet in 2016, when the chips were down, the NFL balked at drafting Jones in the first round. They did so despite his explosive first step and surreal length (34.5" arms). Why? Jones was arrested in March prior to the Draft on account of driving with a suspended license and speeding. Chad Reuter of NFL.com also referenced that teams had a 2nd round grade on Jones "because of his inconsistency".
Yet consistency didn't stop the Arizona Cardinals from drafting Mississippi DL Robert Nkemdiche at 29 overall. Nkemdiche had also had a scrape with the law prior to the 2016 Draft, an arrest for marijuana possession on a December evening after breaking a hotel window and jumping out onto the concrete below.
The Carolina Panthers rolled the dice on Louisiana Tech DL Vernon Butler with the 30th overall pick, too. A small school prospect, Butler was nimble "dancing bear"...but apparently not ready for the NFL stage. Butler's three seasons and 35 games in the NFL have yielded 18 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks in 772 snaps. Chris Jones has logged 14 sacks and 33 solo tackles in 679 snaps...in 14 games this season.
The football gods are a cruel set of mistresses. Jones' play effort has not been an issue once since his arrival in Kansas City. His developed hand usage and length have been potent weapons during his assault on opposing backfields this season. And on an offensive Chiefs defense, Jones has been the budding rose among the thorns.
You have to imagine the Cardinals would like this one back. And the Panthers. And, well...just about every team that doesn't have an Aaron Donald.