IT’S DRAFT SEASON, AND WHETHER IT’S THAT EARLY-ROUND STUD OR THAT LATE-ROUND GEM, EVERYONE IS SEARCHING FOR THE NEXT STAR.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2018-2020)
- Games Played 26, Games Started 21, Tackles 199, Solos 111, TFLs 10½, sacks 2, interceptions 2, PBUs 7, forced fumbles 3, fumble recoveries 2
- 2020 Team Captain, 2020 Butkus Award Semifinalist, 2020 All-SEC 4th team, 2019 Most Improved Player, led the team in tackles both in 2019 and 2020
Talked to my God and he said “it’s time!”🖤 pic.twitter.com/cwnFb11Ojd
— Ernest Jones (@ernest_jones5) December 8, 2020
Ernest C Jones was born on November 22nd, 1999 in Waycross, Georgia. He attended Ware County High School where he was a first-team all-state Class 5A selection. In his senior season with the Gators, Jones recorded 112 tackles, 70 solos, six TFLs, five QB hurries, two sacks, and three forced fumbles. He was named to the PrepStar All-Southeast Region team and finished his career as a three-star recruit and graded as the 59th best outside linebacker nationally and the 84th best player in the state of Georgia, by 247 Sports Composite.
Jones was an early enrollee, but the true freshman missed all of the spring practice with a back fracture and only played in five games. He would record sixteen tackles, ten solos, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. As a sophomore, he was named the team’s most improved player of the spring.
He played in and started all twelve games while producing 97 tackles, 59 solos, 5½ TFLs, 1 sack, two interceptions, seven PBUs, and one forced fumble. For his junior season, Jones was on pace to set career highs in a Covid-19 shortened season, as in nine games he registered 86 tackles, 42 solos, five TFLs, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Jones is a two-down, run and chase linebacker who excels at defending the run. He has a good vision for where the ball is going and has good lateral movements when covering the flanks. When playing downhill, he plays with nasty intentions and attacks aggressively to the ball carrier. Jones plays with a blue-collar toughness and plays through knicks and dings with ease. He has plenty of experience as a special teams player, which NFL teams will absolutely love. Jones has a good nose for finding the football, especially between the tackle runners. He is intelligent with a high football IQ and plays with a good and consistent pad level. Jones takes good angles and rarely bites on misdirection plays. He has good form and does a really terrific job of wrapping up, which prevents him from missing very few tackles.
Jones is a bit undersized for the linebacker position. He doesn’t have fluid or smooth movements when dropping into coverage and can be hesitant with processing once the ball is in the air. Jones has below-average speed and athleticism and doesn’t fit today’s modern style of a linebacker. Some of his movements seem stiff or labored. A two-year starter for the Gamecocks, Jones would have benefitted from another year at the college level. You also don’t see the explosion from Jones that you would like to see for a linebacker prospect. Jones doesn’t offer a lot of pass-rushing upside, but wasn’t asked to do much of that at South Carolina.
At the next level, Jones projects best as a WILL in a 4-3 scheme or the on the inside of a 3-4, but he’s going to cut his teeth on special teams, which is something he is familiar with and excelled at in college. Jones will be a bit of a project that will take some time to develop but has the potential to be a capable starter as a two-down thumper. Teams that need that run stopper in the middle of their defense could really take a long close look at him. Jones will likely begin his career as a special teams ace with a backup or situational linebacking role, while he develops. Looking ahead he could develop into a nice low-end starter that can effectively fill the role of a physical early-down run stopper.
Jones’s fantasy impact will be one that requires patience from fantasy managers. The reason being that he will need time to develop and be coached up by some solid NFL coaching. He’ll be a special teamer/backup to begin his career, so fantasy managers will have to stash him on their taxi squads for the time being. With that said, I expect to see him steadily receive an increased rep count and role as he gains experience. For fantasy purposes, it could be late in year two or even year three before we can see just what type of value he will have. Jones as of now, doesn’t provide a lot of impact plays, so you’re basing his value on the tackle totals he can produce, which is what he excels at.
NFL Draft Projection: 3rd to 5th round
Fantasy Draft Projection: 7th round or later
Fantasy Scoring Projection: LB3
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