The 2021 NFL Draft‘s edge rusher class has frequently been lamented for its lack of clarity. But it’s time to give the class some credit. 2021’s group might be one of the most athletic edge classes we’ve seen in recent years. This 2021 NFL Draft class may pan out better than expected, and players like Pittsburgh edge rusher Patrick Jones II could be a big reason why.
Patrick Jones 2021 NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Edge Rusher
- School: Pittsburgh
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’4 1/2″
- Weight: 264 pounds
- Wingspan: 79 5/8″
- Arm: 32″
- Hand: 10″
It was a humble beginning for Pittsburgh edge rusher Patrick Jones. The Chesapeake, Virginia native and Grassfield High School product was a three-star recruit in the 2016 class. Standing at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, with a 5.04 40-yard dash, Jones’ athletic profile wasn’t completely developed yet. Thus, he fell under the radar on the recruiting trail. He was ranked as the 90th-best player at his position and lingered outside the Top 100 in his region.
Despite this, Jones did receive some interest from Power Five schools. He was overlooked by the nation’s most prestigious football factories. However, Jones managed to muster offers from Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, California, Wake Forest, and North Carolina State, among others. Jones was ultimately drawn to the program led by noted defensive coach Pat Narduzzi, and the program responsible for molding NFL talents like Aaron Donald and Jabaal Sheard.
Jones signed with the Pittsburgh Panthers. He enrolled in 2016.
Patrick Jones’ career as a Pittsburgh edge rusher
Coming into college football with a still-developing frame, Jones redshirted his freshman season without seeing any action. By the start of his redshirt freshman season, Jones had packed on over 20 pounds. He began to look the part as a college football edge rusher. However, it would take another year of development for Jones to inherit a larger role.
Jones climbed to the next step on the ladder in 2018. He still wasn’t a full-time starter. However, as a rotational edge rusher, the Pittsburgh edge defender showed off his upside. Jones played in 14 games and produced in the backfield, logging 3.5 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble on the season. Jones’ success paved the way for his continued ascension in 2019. That’s when Jones flashed his full potential.
Patrick Jones’ stellar stint on Pittsburgh’s starting lineup
Jones became a full-time starter in the 2019 season, and he quickly rewarded coaches for giving him the opportunity. The Pittsburgh EDGE started every game on the season, piling up 41 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 11.0 tackles for loss. He also tacked on a pass deflection and four forced fumbles. Jones earned second-team All-ACC honors for his play, and in 2020, he built on his success, even amidst uncertain circumstances.
Jones retained his starting role in 2020, and his peaks were even brighter. In Pitt’s third game against Louisville, Jones had 3.0 sacks, terrorizing Cardinals quarterback Micale Cunningham. Two games later, against Boston College, Jones again tallied 3.0 sacks, showing off his dominant potential. By the end of the season, Jones had 9.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, three pass deflections, and a fumble recovery on the stat sheet.
Jones meshed dominant peaks with impressive consistency
Despite seeing two-thirds of his sacks come in two games, Jones was still a consistent threat off the edge. He logged at least one-half sack in six of the team’s 11 games. He also had at least one-half tackle for loss in eight of 11 possible games. Jones’ consistent impact earned him first-team All-ACC honors along with fellow Pitt defensive end Rashad Weaver. In fact, Jones earned the most All-ACC votes among ACC linemen, surpassing Jaelan Phillips, Carlos Basham, and Quincy Roche.
After amassing 17.5 sacks and 24.0 tackles for loss in his final two seasons, Jones felt it was time to take the next step. On December 11, he bypassed the NCAA’s extra season of eligibility and officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Patrick Jones’ 2021 NFL Draft profile
It didn’t take much film to realize I was going to be a fan of Patrick Jones. As uncertain as this class is, it has a healthy supply of athletes at the edge rusher position. Of all the upper-echelon athletic talents at the position, Patrick Jones might have the most juice off the line.
At this moment, it’s important to note the distinction between explosiveness and juice. Other players like Jayson Oweh might have more natural explosive ability than Jones, but Jones still has great natural burst, and he compounds that burst with relentless energy and twitch — hence, “the juice.”
Jones’ explosiveness and high motor serve as foundational traits for his pass rush arsenal, but Jones has several other valuable qualities as well. Jones has a long, powerful frame, and he adequately displays the ability to convert speed to power with length-derived leverage. The Pittsburgh edge rusher also brings impressive cornering ability. Although he’s not the most bendy player, he has the ability to dip and pinch around the edge once he has a step on his blocker.
How Jones’ traits help in other phases of the game
When defending the run and working against scrambling quarterbacks, Jones’ athletic profile again comes up big. His length allows him to establish a solid anchor in run defense. Although he sometimes favors the outside too much, creating susceptibility to inside runs, he has the strength and lateral explosiveness to hold his ground, disengage, and adjust his angle when necessary.
When responding to broken pass plays, Jones is also outstanding. In fact, most of his sacks that weren’t earned by his explosiveness were earned by his persistence and hustle. Effort isn’t a problem with Jones, and he also has good pursuit speed when tracking scrambling quarterbacks to the sideline.
Where can Jones improve at the next level?
Patrick Jones has relatively few holes as an NFL Draft prospect, which is exciting. He brings a lot of potential energy to each play with his twitch, initial burst, and play pace. That said, Jones can still refine his game, most notably with his hand usage. He made strides in 2020, but he can still add more combos and recovery moves to his toolbox. Stronger, technically refined linemen like Liam Eichenberg neutralized Jones for this reason.
Additionally, Jones does have a minor tendency to anticipate the snap count, which earned him a couple of penalties in his time at Pittsburgh. There are also times when he can over-correct and be a bit late. Maintaining consistency will help Jones maximize his traits because when he times his initial explosion right, it can be a sight to behold.
Patrick Jones’ best fits in the NFL Draft
I’m not going to give a positional ranking designation just yet, but I’ll say this — I would much sooner list Patrick Jones as EDGE1 than Gregory Rousseau. Jones’ pallet of traits is enticing, and his issues are mild and mostly correctable. Jones molds his game around borderline elite explosiveness and juice off the line, and he supplements that burst with excellent length, play strength, and urgency. On top of all that, he also brings enough functional bend and cornering ability to infiltrate around the edge.
Given his size and length, Jones best fits as a 4-3 defensive end at the next level. That was what he played in college, and he frequently rushed from three-point and four-point stances. Jones loves putting his hands in the dirt and exploding off the line, and in a 4-3 scheme, he’ll be able to do what he does best on every down.
Teams that best fit Patrick Jones’ skill set
Jones can provide an infusion of pass rushing production right away for teams with his amalgamation of traits, and he also has excellent developmental potential. He can be more proactive against the run, but he provides enough utility to stomach taking him early, and his pass rushing upside is simply too great to ignore. In Round 1, teams like the Colts, Browns, Jets, and Bills project as the best fits. In Round 2, the Bengals, Giants, and Lions are also exciting options.
For teams in search of a jolt of life from their pass rushing unit, Jones provides that jolt, both literally and figuratively. He’ll need to keep developing his hand usage to reach his peak potential, but his physical and mental makeup coalesce to form a low-risk, high-reward investment.