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Player Spotlight: Deion Jones

A detailed look at Deion Jones' fantasy prospects for 2016.

LOW ON WORRILOW

The Dan Quinn regime gave Paul Worrilow a chance, but a change appears imminent. Though Worrilow has been a solid producer on the stat sheet, it has not been a true indicator of how poorly he has actually played. An undrafted free agent in 2013, Worrilow quickly moved into the starting role. He led the team in tackles for the past three seasons and served as a Team Captain in 2015. Despite this, Worrilow has missed tackles, taken poor angles to the ball carrier, allowed runners to gain many extra yards after contact, and failed miserably to cover tight ends and running backs.

The change in defensive philosophy has made Worrilow’s deficits even more prominent. The middle linebacker in Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith’s defense needs to be able to defend against the run and the pass. Though serviceable against the run, Worrilow often got burned when dropping into coverage. Understanding this liability, Atlanta selected LSU linebacker Deion Jones in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

DEION THE ONE

Jones had to be patient in college before getting his shot. Though a special teams ace during his entire college tenure, he sat behind Kwon Alexander for three years before getting his chance to start. Jones did not disappoint, leading the Tigers in tackles in his senior year. He logged 54 solo tackles, 34 assists, and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also had five sacks, two interceptions, and three passes defended.

Unlike Worrilow, Jones has the requisite speed and athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends. He is extremely active and constantly in motion. He is also reflexive and changes directions seamlessly. He moves fluidly from side to side, showing the ability to flow and chase. Additionally, Jones displays good form when making a tackle, driving into his target using the power from his lower body. In coverage, he defends passes well, even coming up with the occasional interception. At present, the team is allowing him to get work with the first team during the Falcons' mandatory minicamp.

JONES JUXTAPOSED

Jones is being considered as undersized for the position by some. However, with the increased need to cover the pass, middle linebackers are becoming lighter so as to be able to drop into coverage. Jones’ lack of size should not hurt him in what he will be asked to do. Lack of starting experience at LSU does sometimes show up in his decision making on the field. Though unlikely, there is a greater than zero chance that the coaching staff decides to let him play special teams and develop on the bench. Jones also struggles to use his hands to disengage from blockers, choosing instead to rely on his speed to avoid them.

POSITIVES

  • Worrilow has not been effective and Jones threatens to take his job immediately.

  • Jones’ coverage ability will allow him to be a three-down linebacker.

  • Atlanta is a productive situation where even middling talent can produce big IDP numbers.

NEGATIVES

  • He comes into the NFL with only one year of starting experience.

  • Jones needs to become better at using his hands so as not to get neutralized by blockers.

  • There is a slight chance Jones does not start immediately because the team does not view Jones as being NFL-ready due to lack of playing experience at LSU.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though in a “competition,” bet on Jones to beat out Worrilow for the middle linebacker job. Worrilow has had no less than 95 solo tackles in the past three years. Expect Jones to be able to do just as well when given the starting nod. Jones is currently very affordable in mixed rookie drafts, usually going off the board in the fourth round or later. A late third- or early fourth-round pick is a more-than-fair price to pay for a player with 100+ solo tackle per season upside.

2016 PROJECTIONS

JOHN NORTON'S PROJECTIONS

G

TKL

AST

SCK

FF

FR

PD

INT

TD

FPT

16

78

40

3

1

1

5

1

0

177.50

AARON RUDNICKI'S PROJECTIONS

G

TKL

AST

SCK

FF

FR

PD

INT

TD

FPT

16

74

38

2

1

1

5

1

0

166.00

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Dane Brugler liked Jones’ potential when evaluating him before the Draft in his CBS Scouting Report:

Jones continued turning heads at the Senior Bowl. Limited starting experience can be overlooked as he appeared in 51 games. His biggest issue will be a lack of bulk but many teams will value Jones' athleticism, reliable open-field tackling ability project well to NFL defenses relying on speed. Caoach Les Miles considered Jones one of the smartest players on the team. His NFL arrow is pointing north, projecting best as a weak-side linebacker in a traditional 4-3 alignment.

USAToday DraftWire writer Jon Ledyard questioned Jones’ abilities in his NFL Draft Scouting Report:

Of course, as energetic as Jones is, he can also be caught completely out of position by attacking without processing. He’ll take false steps on misdirections and get caught up at the line rather than staying at the second level and flowing to the football. Once engaged with blockers, Jones struggles to break free due to his lighter-than-average frame and lack of ideal power. At times he can be straight-up overwhelmed and driven well off the ball by opponents. I’m typically understanding of a linebacker’s failure to disengage from the blocks of offensive linemen due to the size/strength difference, but because Jones’ playing style is so incumbent upon being physical against blockers, it could be a concern moving forward.