From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a little-known defensive lineman that made a name for himself down in Mobile during Senior Bowl practices which could make him the biggest riser of all players in attendance.
#57 Travis Jones, DL, UCONN (Junior) – 6043, 325 lbs.
Senior Bowl/Combine Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Travis Jones||6043/325||10 1/4”||34 1/4||82 3/4”|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has a great frame and size for the position
— Massive size and strength make him nearly immoveable off his spot against the run
— Can hold his own against double teams and overpowers single blocks with ease
— Violent with his hands when striking blockers, shocking them backward as he gets penetration
— Brute strength and power overwhelm the interior as he regularly collapses the pocket
— Has impressive short-area quickness and ability to work around blocks laterally for a man of his size
— Maintains gap integrity as a run stopper, having the strength to hold the point of attack and shed blocks to make a play against the run
— Shows strong effort in pursuit of the football
— Closes ground as a pass rusher in a hurry when rushing up the middle on the passer
— Has some versatility having lined up from 0-tech to 3-technique in the gap between the center and guard
— Has good hand usage to shed blocks, utilizing a powerful swim and push/pull move to toss blockers aside
— Long arm move into blocker’s shoulder will walk offensive linemen back if he connects
— Isn’t the nimblest defender when it calls for maneuvering in open space or shooting gaps
— Scheme fit will be limited due to his size and need to rotate in-and-out as primarily a run defender
— Can rush the passer, but will be more disruptive than productive in this area
— Will need to have more consistent hand usage and a pass rush plan to succeed as a pass rusher at the next level
— Can stand to play with better pad level as he will stand up high, exposing his chest to blockers
— Will lunge forward at times out of his stance, causing him to lose balance and potentially end up on the turf if blockers snatch trap him
— Junior prospect from New Haven, CT
— First Team Walter Camp All-Connecticut and first team All-State as a high school senior playing on the offensive and defensive lines
— Originally was expected to play OT in college, but was quickly moved to the defensive line
— Played in all 12 games, started ten as a true freshman and totaled 55 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks
— Played and started all 12 games as a sophomore and tallied 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one fumble recovery
— Did not play in 2020, due to Connecticut cancelling their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic
— Played and started in 11 games in 2021 and recorded 48 total stops (16 solo), 7.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks
— Majored in general studies at UCONN, was a member of the team’s leadership council in 2021
Before coming down to Mobile, I heard some suggestions that UCONN DL Travis Jones was a name to watch down there as a little-known small-school defender that would have the chance to make a name for himself on the national stage. The second I laid eyes on him in-person, I could understand the hype. Jones is a massive human being, fitting the “first off the bus” depiction given to players with superior physical measurables. He boasts a thick, dense frame with good height and length to match for an interior defensive lineman, having defined arms and legs with little excessive fat mass on his body. Jones weighed in at 326lb prior to the event, but had actually slimmed down from 350lb he started college at.
His physical appearance immediately translated to the field as he was nearly unblockable by single blockers in one-on-one drills, using his strength and power to walk back his competition into the pocket with relative ease. Watch this rep from the Senior Bowl game where Jones walks the center back into the lap of the quarterback and proceeds to knock #17 Bailey Zappe down with his blocker’s backside, not having to disengage from the block.
Jones showed the same skill set when going back to the tape of this season, winning with brute strength and power on inferior blockers. Watch this rep against Purdue where Jones walks back the center to collapse the pocket and force the QB to scramble out. Jones proceeds to give the center a violent shove with his right arm to toss him back and wraps up the QB for the sack.
This display of brute strength was nothing new than what we saw all week long in Mobile as Jones regularly won in the middle on single blocks. Watch this rep where Jones executes a perfect long arm on #71 Andrew Stueber, violently sticking the blocker’s shoulder on the snap of the football, running his feet, and keeping good leverage as he easily displaces the blocker out of the play.
His ability to stack and shed single blockers routinely aids in his ability to clog the middle of the defense and shut down the run. Here is a good example against Clemson this season where UCONN is backed up on their own goal line and Jones is able to shed his block and reach over the pile to make a play on the running back plunging into the end zone, throwing him backward and ends up forcing the ball out that the defense recovers.
What makes Jones a tantalizing prospect is his ability to not only hold his own against double teams in the middle, but to also shed those relatively often as well. Check out this play in the same game where Jones splits the double team in the left side B-gap and is there to say hello to the runner attempting to run up the middle, teaming up with the linebacker coming free from behind for the TFL.
Not only did Jones do this often during the college season for Connecticut, but he showed consistency doing it against fellow future NFL talent in the Senior Bowl practices. Watch this rep where Jones blows LG #77 Zion Johnson back into the backfield while LT #76 Bernard Raimann attempts to aid Johnson. Johnson is unable to push Jones down the line thanks to the amount of penetration Jones generates on the snap, working off the Johnson block and wraps up the back to blow the play dead.
While Jones has the ability to shed blocks routinely against the run, he is also sound in completing his assignment of keeping gap integrity and occupying blocks to allow linebackers and safeties to run to the ball unblocked. Check out this play where Jones intentionally attacks the center’s left shoulder while working laterally down the LOS, allowing the linebacker (#27) to flow to the football and make the play. The RG aids in trying to push Jones backward but is unable to once Jones gets his momentum going down the LOS.
Travis Jones fits the mold of what the Pittsburgh Steelers used to have their defensive linemen do back in the Dick LeBeau era of occupying blocks to allow second-level defenders to run free and make plays. While Jones has this skill set, don’t consider him a one-trick pony. Jones has shown deceptive quickness and short-area acceleration to make him a viable interior pass rusher. His hand usage is impressive for a prototypical 0-technique which can be seen on this rep where Jones uses the club/swim move on the LG to send him stumbling forward as he pressures the QB to force a throw into the dirt over the middle.
Here’s another example against the Tigers where Jones lines up inside shade of the RG but attacks the left side A-gap of the center, using the same club/swim move to toss him to the floor as he gets right into the QB’s face to force the arid pass.
Just because Jones lines up head-up on the center doesn’t mean he has to stay there. He has been effective as a 0-tech all the way to playing 3-tech and can move around the LOS pre-snap and post snap like we see on this pressure where Jones slants into the RG from being head-up on the center, tossing him to the side as he forces the early pass that goes out of bounds in the end zone.
While Jones has an impressive blend of size, strength, and quickness, he will have to play with more consistent leverage and technique to continue being a disruptive force at the next level. He has a tendency to lunge into his blocks at times and play with high pad level, leading to him getting neutralized or put on the ground occasionally by blockers. Here’s an example from Mobile where Stueber executes the snatch trap move on Jones who plays low to the ground but doesn’t get his hands into Stueber’s pads and has his shoulders too far over his base, making him susceptible to being driven into the turf against an opponent he thoroughly dominated most of the week.
When watching Jones this past week in Mobile and going back through the tape, longtime Viking and current Chargers DL Linval Joseph comes to mind as an accurate pro comparison for Jones. Joseph also came from a smaller AAC school in East Carolina and had modest production in the sack department in college but proved to be a stout run defender. He ended up getting drafted in the third round in the 2010 NFL Draft and has since become one of the more dominant interior run defenders of the last decade while accumulating 25 sacks in his NFL career.
Currently, I expect Jones to go in a similar range that Joseph did, having a similar skill set along with nearly identical measurables (Joseph measured 6’4 1/2”, 328lb, 34 1/4-inch arms, and 10-inch hands). While both players may have been billed as two-down run stuffers, Joseph had the skill set to become a viable interior pass rusher, and Jones shares those similar traits coming out this year. He needs to continue to develop his hand usage and play with more consistent pad level, but his play stood out on film when surrounded by inferior talent around him at UCONN and being surrounded by NFL-caliber talent and experience may help the young man flourish at the next level.
At worst, Jones will likely become a starting nose tackle in a base 3-4 scheme within his first couple seasons in the league, having the skill set to kick to 3-tech occasionally on passing downs if necessary. However, 4-3 teams may be intrigued with his run stopping prowess and upside as a pass rusher to make him a full-time 3-technique in their front. Jones’ talent and current skill set provide a solid floor as an anchor in the middle of the defense for whatever team selects him, but his potential and raw traits suggest he has a far greater ceiling and is just scratching the surface.
Projection: Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.3 – Future Quality Starter (Round 2)
Games Watched: at Clemson (2021), vs Purdue (2021), Senior Bowl (2021)