The football journey can often be defined by transition and transformation. University of Connecticut DT Travis Jones has transitioned to the position and transformed his body on his path to the 2022 NFL Draft. The result? A promising and powerful defensive lineman who has received first-round attention in mock drafts late in the process. As his scouting report reveals, there’s more than just power and promise behind Jones’ bid to hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Travis Jones NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: UConn
- Current Year: Fourth-Year Junior
- Height: 6’4 3/8″
- Weight: 326 pounds
- Wingspan: 82 3/4″
- Arm: 34
- Hand: 10 1/4″
Travis Jones Scouting Report
Although UConn doesn’t have a long and plentiful history of providing top talent to the NFL, they have had two first-round picks since 2009. Furthermore, since 2005, they’ve had 12 selections within the opening two days of the NFL’s annual selection event. Can defensive tackle Jones follow in the footsteps of UConn draftees within the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft?
Simple answer? Yes, yes he can. Jones’ scouting report reveals a player that can be a top-50 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The UConn defensive tackle is a dangerous monster at the heart of the line who should bring disruptive ability to the NFL level. While he may not be an immediate starter, he has starter-level potential.
Starting Jones’ scouting report anywhere other than his size would be tantamount to negligence. At 6’4 3/8″ and 326 pounds, he is a big man. Unsurprisingly, he uses this size to plug gaps in the ground game exceptionally well. In addition to his obvious size, Jones possesses excellent length for the position.
Being huge without strength is pointless when it comes to dominating from your position. Here, Jones showcases excellent ability in his scouting report. The UConn defensive tackle has incredible lower body strength, enabling him to anchor and root to the spot. It is rare to see him moved backward upon contact, and he is routinely using leg drive to push the pocket back towards the quarterback.
A strong, technical player who showcases intelligence and leadership
Jones’ strength is also apparent in his technical approach to the game. He has an incredibly powerful punch that allows him to shock offensive linemen at the point of attack. There are multiple examples on film of him snapping back an offensive lineman with a well-timed and powerful blow. He can punch, extend, and manipulate his opponent impressively and with unerring regularity.
The UConn defensive tackle doesn’t just win with power alone, however. He has showcased impressively fast hand speed to disengage from blockers easily. He can use that speed and length to knife through double-teams and make a play on the ball carrier.
Furthermore, he showcases intelligence and awareness to locate running backs amidst traffic. He does his best work against the ground game, routinely finding a way to bring the ball carrier down at or behind the line of scrimmage. As a tackler, he utilizes his upper body strength to halt forward progression and can be seen hauling his man to the ground.
Jones also creates opportunities for his teammates by regularly attracting double-teams (and sometimes triple-teams). Yet, he’s capable of defeating them to wreak havoc himself. He’s a physical menace who brings an element of versatility with the ability to play anywhere from the nose tackle to 3-tech at the next level. In addition to his on-field profile, the UConn defensive tackle also possesses high character as a member of the program’s leadership council.
Areas for improvement
While Jones has the opportunity to cement himself as a Day 2 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, there are some areas for improvement on his scouting report. Indeed, some limiting factors could impact his ceiling at the NFL level.
At this moment in time, Jones is a far better run defender than he is a pass rusher. Although he registered 4.5 sacks this season, he didn’t get to the quarterback with regularity for UConn. However, Jones showcased at the Senior Bowl that he can be a threat in this regard.
His pass-rush threat will be greatly enhanced if he can develop a pass-rush plan. Jones has a potent bull rush in his armory, and he showcases the ability to win with a speed rush against less athletic tackles. However, to be considered a three-down threat at the NFL level, he needs to develop more pass-rush moves (and the ability to combine them as counters).
Although he showcases the ability to play with low pad level, Jones needs to ensure this is more consistent. In several instances during the games studied, playing too high meant that he couldn’t win the battle at the point of attack. The low man wins in the trenches, and the UConn defensive tackle needs to ensure he maintains that approach.
Jones’ Player Profile
The coaching staff at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, UConn, knew they were in the presence of someone special. A soft-spoken young man, Jones’ gargantuan exterior belied the character within. Yet, out on the field, the 6’4″, 350-pound two-way player allowed his football to do the talking.
A unique athlete, Jones could power that bulky mass across 40 yards of field in a ridiculous 5.0 seconds. He could play the game with incredible foot quickness and strong hands, maintaining an advantage over opponents with a size that many projected to offensive tackle at the next level.
He played guard and on the defensive line for Wilbur Cross. As a junior, he anchored an offensive line that tallied just shy of 3,000 yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, he tallied 45 tackles and 1 sack. Between his blocking, protection, and game-wrecking ability, he earned All-Area and All-State honors.
Jones attracts multiple Power Five offers
Although UConn isn’t a hotbed of football recruiting, Jones attracted college attention from Power Five programs. Boston College, Syracuse, and Rutgers all extended offers to the three-star, 92nd-ranked guard. The powerful playmaker committed to Rutgers in June of 2017 but rescinded his pledge within the space of a day.
“I decided too quickly,” Jones told 247 Sports. “I want to take a step back and make sure I explore all of my options and make the right decision.” However, one month later, he was committed to UConn.
During his senior season, Jones further demonstrated his potency on the defensive line. He added 61 tackles and 7 sacks to his high school résumé, earning All-State honors once more. In his final season with Wilbur Cross, he was also a first-team Walter Camp All-UConn honoree.
Jones’ career at UConn
Although he had been projected to play at offensive tackle, Jones arrived at UConn and immediately impacted the defensive tackle position. He’d play 12 games, making 10 starts as a true freshman. His size made him the perfect fit at nose tackle, a burly roadblock at the heart of the defensive line.
On his debut against UCF, Jones logged 7 tackles. The UConn defensive tackle would add the first tackle for loss of his career against Syracuse, one of the teams that had pursued him out of Wilbur Cross. He’d end the season with an outstanding performance against East Carolina, tallying a career-best 10 tackles that included 2 tackles for loss.
Jones tallied 55 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and a half-sack in his freshman season. Despite losing some of his bulk for his sophomore season, the UConn defensive tackle continued to be disruptive. With impressive performances against USF, UMass, and Cincinnati, he ended the season with 6 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
For as disruptive as Jones was in 2019, the following college football season proved even more disrupted. While the global pandemic caused chaos and confusion for conferences all over the country, UConn opted not to play the season at all. Away from the football field for a year, Jones worked hard on his fitness and physique. The UConn DT returned ready to work in a more muscular version of himself, and he took a studious approach to the game.
Jones’ NFL Draft ascension
“He loves playing the game of football,” coach Randy Edsall told the CT Post before the 2021 season. “He loves the work that goes with that. All this time we’ve had, he’s become even more a student of the game. Here’s a guy that was just big, a raw guy that was see ball, get ball. Now, you see him really understand how it all works as a defensive lineman.”
The result was a career year with the eyes of NFL scouts upon him. He racked up 9 tackles, including 2 for loss and a sack, against Holy Cross. Against an impressive Purdue program, he registered a sack and a tackle for loss. In seven games, he tallied at least half a tackle for loss, and in five games, he had at least half a sack. The performances kick-started a rapid ascent of his NFL Draft stock.
Jones has been steadily climbing draft boards with every step along the pre-draft process. Earning a Senior Bowl invite, he was dominant in Mobile. He earned praise from PFN’s team on the ground, who commented on how the UConn DT “was a menace in 1-on-1 drills with his burst and straight-line power.” Meanwhile, he flashed the pass-rush presence that will make him an alluring prospect for nose-tackle-needy teams.
Jones further enhanced his reputation as an athletic freak at the heart of the defensive line at the NFL Combine. Earning a 9.4 Relative Athletic Score, Jones posted impressive 40-yard dash (4.92 seconds), three-cone (7.33 seconds), and broad jump (9’2″) measurements. With his stock soaring, a selection in the early part of the 2022 NFL Draft feels assured. It might not be Day 1, but it would be a surprise to see him escape Day 2 at this moment.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Travis Jones
Positives: Large, athletic defensive tackle who has made a late charge up draft boards. Strong, possesses outstanding mass, and tosses aside blockers to get to the action. Powerful in his lower body, bull rushes opponents off the line, and collapses the pocket. Plays with proper pad level, gets leverage on opponents, and is impossible to move off the point. Consistently commands double-team blocks, yet works his hands and holds his ground. Rarely off his feet and creates opportunities for teammates.
Negatives: Not a lineman you’re going to run a lot of stunts and twists with up front. Average pass rusher. Lacks any semblance of quickness or speed trying to get outside the box. Late finding the ball.
Analysis: Jones had great expectations at UConn that were rarely met on the field. After the 2021 season, he went on to have three dominant days of practice at the Senior Bowl and had a terrific Combine workout. Jones has scheme versatility and can be used as everything from a defensive tackle in a four-man front to a traditional nose tackle. He has tremendous upside — the only thing standing in his way is himself. If he’s focused and makes football a priority, Jones will be a productive NFL defender. Otherwise, he will disappoint a lot of people.