A return of our Summer Scouting Series here at Steelers Depot highlighting as we highlight several 2023 NFL Draft hopefuls that are generating buzz prior to the start of the 2022 CFB season at positions that the Pittsburgh Steelers may have interest in several months from now once the pre-draft process gets underway.
#79 Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State (Senior) – 6’8, 360lb
— Enormous human being with the size, height, and length you want in an NFL tackle
— Has good athleticism and movement skills for a player of his size
— Can displace men against their will as a run blocker once he gets his momentum going
— Has shown the power to run through defenders and put them into the ground as a finisher
— Size and girth make it difficult to get around him as a pass blocker
— Long arms allow him to keep defenders off his frame and make them run the arc on the rush
— Has the size and strength to stall the power rush and neutralize defenders
— Has active hands that can hit and replace in pass protection
— Will occasionally utilize the snatch trap technique to pull defenders down and finish on top of them
— Isn’t incredibly twitchy as an athlete, lacking foot quickness and ability to change directions effectively
— Pass sets are short and feet appear to be heavy when attempting to set the depth of the pocket
— Leans too far forward and will lunge out at times, leading to whiffed blocks
— Has noticeable balance issues and is constantly on the ground
— Possesses poor hip and knee bend, leading to poor anchor and playing over his pads
— Barrel-chested blocker with lack of lower body size and functional strength
— Gets trigger-happy prior to the snap, leading to false start penalties
— Committed three false start penalties and a sack at the end of the Michigan game, struggling to handle the Wolverines pass rush
— Needs to play with more of a consistent mean streak given his size and strength
— Senior prospect from Indianapolis, IN
— A four-star prospect by ESPN at OT
— Two-year starter at OT in high school
— A talented two-sport athlete who also excelled on the basketball court, averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a senior with several D-I basketball offers
— Appeared in nine games as a true freshman in 2019, playing mainly as a reserve
— Appeared in six of eight games during the Covid-shortened 2020 season, including getting his first career start
— Played and started in 13 games as a junior in 2021and gave up seven QB hurries, one QB hit, and 3 sacks while playing at right tackle on 791 snaps
— Communications major
Ohio State OT Dawand Jones may have made his name on the hardwood back in high school, but his future lies on the gridiron. While having several Division-I scholarship offers to play hoops at the next level, the now 6’8, 360lb giant of a man has all the physical tools that project for an NFL-caliber tackle. After seeing sparse playing time as a freshman and sophomore, Jones earned a full-time starting spot as a junior last season, grading out well as a run blocker and showing promise as a pass protector. When you watch Jones play, you see that enticing size and power pop on the screen like on this RPO play against Rutgers where Jones demolishes the DE, pancaking him into the turf.
Jones’s size and strength not only show up in his ability to move people in the run game, but also in his ability to keep the pocket clean as a pass protector. His sheer size and girth make him difficult to get around when in good position, and his long arms can neutralize rushers once he gets a hold of them and latches on. For instance, look at this rep against Oregon where Jones takes the edge rusher and tosses him out of the club, finishing on top of him as the QB releases the football.
Here is another example in the same game where Jones waits for the defender to come to him and extends his arms on his punch, getting his hands inside the defender’s chest and digs his feet in the ground to neutralize the rush. I would like to see Jones play with his hands up to stat the rep, but it’s a win for him, regardless.
Still, while Jones has all the physical tools to become a dominant RT, he has several glaring technical issues he needs to iron out in 2022 to maximize his physical gifts. First, Jones struggles mightily staying on his feet. He routinely loses his balance and ends up on the ground, whether it be due to getting tripped up from behind, poor core strength when engaged with a defender, or overextending on his punch. Here are just a few of the several instances on tape where Jones ends up on the ground, something you don’t want to see out of your gargantuan offensive tackle.
Jones also isn’t the fleetest of foot when it comes to changing directions in open space and climbing to the second level as a run blocker. His size hinders his ability to maneuver in short spaces as we see here on this combo block attempt against Penn State, taking the DE with the RG as Jones tries to pick up the LB coming downhill, but fails to get off the block in time, allowing the defender to trip up the running back right as he crosses the LOS.
Jones also lacks ideal hip and knee bend as a pass protector, often playing with his pads over his feet, leading to lunging out toward his opponent. This causes Jones to drop his head and stall his feet occasionally as the defender runs the arc, leading to poor core strength as well as slower feet in pass protection which allows the rush to win around the corner. That is exactly what happens here as Jones initially is in good position against the edge rusher, but lunges forward and stalls his feet, allowing the defender around the corner for the sack.
Jones can get trigger-happy out of his stance in pass protection, especially when facing speed across the LOS. This causes him to rack up false start penalties in anticipation of getting out of the breaks quickly to defend the corner. Jones had a moment that made him reconsider declaring early against Michigan where he got called for three false start penalties and then surrendered a sack to #97 Aidan Hutchinson where Jones opens up early to the outside, allowing Hutchinson to cross face inside. Jones fails to man hand Hutchinson with his left hand to seal him off, allowing him into the pocket for the sack.
Overall, Dawand Jones is a physically gifted blocker that many with be enamored with come spring thanks to his sheer size and length. He has the background of a basketball player which you love the see for an OT prospect, and his upside as a run blocker as well as his bright spots in pass protection showcase the potential to be a quality RT. Still, there are plenty of issues in his game that need to be ironed out this season to be considered one of the top tackles in this draft class. Jones must keep from ending up on the ground all the time as well as playing with better anchor instead of playing consistently over his pads.
When looking for a fair comparison to Jones, former Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson came to mind as another behemoth at the position with all the tangibles to develop into a plus run blocker and capable pass protector. Both blockers boast impressive size and flash moments of dominance on tape, but Wilson also lacked the consistency and technical refinement you want in a pro-ready tackle prospect. Still, the Tennessee Titans elected to take Wilson in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Wilson would end up struggling with COVID issues along with character concerns, resulting in the team shipping him off to the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick. Miami would end up being released by the Dolphins and Giants and is currently unsigned.
Let’s hope that Jones doesn’t that same timeline as the senior comes off as a Grade-A class citizen and good teammate. Should Pittsburgh not be convinced in either Chuks Okorafor as the long-term answer at RT, Pittsburgh could elect to draft Jones either as direct competition for Okorafor in 2023 or as a developmental piece who can learn behind him as a rookie, depending on how his final collegiate season transpires and how he progresses as a prospect. Ultimately, there is a lot of ability there with Jones, and the prospect of adding him to beef up the offensive line should he keep up his inconsistencies is something Pittsburgh will likely consider come next spring.
Projection: Mid-to-Late Day Two
Games Watched: vs Oregon (2021), vs Penn State (2021), at Michigan (2021)