Syracuse has not been on the NCAA radar since Donovan McNabb left. If they land more prospects like Mikel Jones, people may be taking more notice.
Mikel Jones was a four star prospect out of Miami, Florida who was highly recruited throughout the nation. He played for IMG high school. The school was ranked 3rd in the nation at 7-1 and Jones was one of the best defensive players on the squad. Jones received 15 scholarship offers from the likes of Temple, Iowa St., Clemson, West Virginia, Ohio St., Utah, Georgia, LSU, Louisville, South Carolina, Auburn, Kentucky, NC State, Ole Miss and Syracuse. Needless to say, he was highly touted coming out of high school. Give credit to Syracuse’s defensive backs coach Nick Monroe for his recruitment of Jones, beating out all of those powerhouse schools. Let’s take a look at what makes Mikel Jones a sought after prospect.
Mikel Jones’ Strengths
Mikel Jones is a tremendous tackler. He’s aggressive and delivers violent hits that leave opposing ball carriers thinking twice before challenging him. He does a great job wrapping up in the traditional tackle sense as well and misses very few tackles. In his run defense, he shows great patience and lets the play develop, and fills gaps. Jones also does a great job shedding blocks at the second level and rarely gets moved off of his spot. He stands at 6’1″ and 230 Lbs. and has excellent chase down speed. Jones uses this speed to go with great timing and does a great job in blitz duty.
Most importantly in today’s football, Jones is very good in coverage. He shows athletic ability to flip his hips and cover tight ends, something he is asked to do often in the Syracuse Tampa 2 defensive scheme. Jones understands zone and shows an ability for proper depth in his drops. He has very good anticipation and makes great breaks on the football. Watch here as he breaks on the football and comes up with the interception:
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Jones also spends time on the edge. At IMG, he spent a lot of time rushing off of the edge. His first step is explosive and shows a solid swim move to get around the offensive lineman in his blitz duty.
Mikel Jones’ Weaknesses
As I mentioned above Jones is incredibly aggressive. Sometimes this can get him into trouble though. There are plays where he is overly aggressive and it forces him to over-pursue the ball carrier. Though he usually takes great angles, there are plays where he is eliminated from the play. Outside of that, Jones is pretty complete and has two more years of eligibility after 2020 to master his craft and vault his draft stock.
College Career To Date
Stats: 38 tackles (19 solos), 2 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sack, and 1 defended pass.
As a freshman, Mikel Jones played in all 12 games for the Orangemen making four starts. Three of those starts were at strongside linebacker and one at weakside. His 38 tackles led all Syracuse freshman and he started to emerge as a leader of this defense. Jones made his college debut in the team’s first game of the season and came up with three tackles with one for a loss. He made his first start of the season against Western Michigan at strongside linebacker and accumulated six tackles. Then during his second start against Holy Cross, he came up big – recording four tackles and a half-sack.
Jones played well in the primetime games as well coming up with six tackles against Florida St. and four tackles against Boston College. Then Jones made his first start at weakside linebacker and his true potential shined through. He replaced an injured Andrew Armstrong on his way to 10 tackles and a defended pass against Wake Forest. Due to this excellent play as a freshman, Jones earned a spot on the Pro Football Focus Third Team All-Freshman team.
Stats: 56 tackles (39 solos), 1 tackle for a loss, 1 defended pass, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 interceptions.
Mikel Jones started his sophomore season on fire. He faced two top 25 teams in the first two weeks and totaled 11 tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Two games later he came up with his third interception of the season against the Duke Blue Devils where he also added 13 tackles and a defended pass. His ability to show up against upper-level competition was on display again when he faced the nation’s top-ranked Clemson Tigers. Jones totaled seven tackles and a forced fumble.
We are now eight games into the 2020 season and Mikel Jones has shown the ability that made him so sought after. During his sophomore season, he has shown an uncanny ability at making tackles – averaging seven tackles per game. The thing that he has vastly improved on this year though is his ability to force turnovers. Through eight games he has three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He has shown a nose for the football and already as a sophomore, the game seems to be slowing down for him.
Mikel Jones fits the mold of the type of linebackers that NFL teams are looking for. He added close to 20 pounds from his freshman year now checking in at around 230 lbs. His size is right on point and his athleticism has not taken a hit at all. He is an excellent downhill run defender and does a solid job blitzing and in the pass rush. The thing that will get him a job in the NFL though is his ability to cover. His three interceptions this year show that he understands coverage and has above average anticipation. His speed also allows him to make excellent breaks on the football. Jones has an excellent understanding of the defense and can be a leader moving forward. With two and a half more seasons of NCAA eligibility he could easily be a day two linebacker.
Draft Grade: 3rd Round