Nothing better demonstrates the inexact nature of scouting than looking back on drafts of the past and seeing how players actually panned out relative to how they were viewed coming out of college. Every single year, you have players either rise significantly above how they were perceived or fall far short of it.
According to NFL personnel around the league, evidently, the Pittsburgh Steelers own one of the biggest draft misses in recent years. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN put together an Insider article looking back at some of the most significant players in recent drafts that have fallen short of their pedigree, with executives and scouting from around the NFL weighing in on them. 2013 17th overall outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was among those players discussed:
Jones came to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a first-round pick with loads of talent. He set the University of Georgia’s single-season record for sacks with 14.5 in his final collegiate year. Four years later, Jones had produced six sacks and was benched in his final campaign in Pittsburgh. Arizona signed him to a one-year deal in 2017, but he got hurt and never played another NFL snap.
“That was one where you had to trust your eyes, because he didn’t test well at all during the pre-draft process, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt because he led the SEC in sacks,” an NFC exec said. “Production is only part of the equation.”
It’s not nearly as in-depth as some of the other players examined, but really, we don’t need that for Jones. That draft pick has become a focal point for the draft process and where it can go wrong, because, especially in hindsight but even at the time, his limitations were visible for people to see who were willing to see it.
Aside from the fact that he tested quite poorly from an athletic standpoint, his actual tape showing the production of his numbers on the back of his football card doesn’t look nearly impressive. While he had a high volume of impact plays, he was the centerpiece of a defense designed around putting him in positions to make plays.
That’s not something that was ever going to translate to the NFL level, at least not without the athletic talent to back it up, and Jones certainly didn’t have that. He was far from a first-round talent, though he was not a bad player overall if you remove his draft status entirely from the equation.
Jones, of course, did not have his fifth-year option picked up. He thus played four seasons in Pittsburgh, making 35 starts in 50 games (intermittently being benched in favor of James Harrison). He finished his career with all of six sacks, with 130 tackles, among them 11 for loss, four forced fumbles, an interception, and nine passes defensed.