Pick #103- Rams select LB Ernest Jones, S. Carolina

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Mojo Ram

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6'2"
230lbs

Jones is a former first-team all-state pick at Ware County High School who enrolled early at South Carolina but missed 2018 spring practices with a fracture in his back. He managed to play in five games in the fall, making 16 tackles. Jones left Columbia for the NFL draft after the 2020 season, which marked the second straight year he led the Gamecocks in tackles. He made 86 stops, including five for loss, in nine starts in 2020, one year after posting 97 tackles (5.5 for loss), two interceptions and five pass breakups in 12 starts. -- by Chad Reuter






Overview
Two-down linebackers with limited speed and below-average athleticism aren't exactly in vogue these days, but Jones has the field IQ and interior toughness to warrant consideration. He's a blue-collar linebacker capable of handling the physical duties required of his position, but he will always have limitations in pursuit speed and coverage talent. He has a good feel for diagnosing blocking schemes and finding runners between the tackles, so a role as a backup inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense might be his best fit early on in his career.

Strengths
  • Brings a banger's mentality to the field.
  • Good football IQ.
  • Stacks up tackles and is always near the football.
  • Plays with consistent pad level throughout the rep.
  • Reads keys and feels the blocking scheme to find the runner.
  • Takes diagonal steps downhill to squeeze B-gaps on combo blocks.
  • Fits up into his run gaps and will take on lead blocks with pop.
  • Meets angle blocks with stiff hands to stay clean.
  • Rarely overly eager in biting on misdirection.
  • Consistent body striker with wrap-up finish as tackler.

Weaknesses

  • Below-average athlete by NFL standards.
  • Operates with some stiffness in lateral scrapes.
  • No burst gear to run down backs headed for the edge.
  • Needs consistent positioning to leverage gap against guards.
  • Doesn't play with gap-shooting burst for big plays.
  • Average balance and agility fighting through blocks.
  • Gets too far downhill and can't chase bounce-outs.
  • Labored change of direction will take him off the field on passing downs.


 
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OldSchool

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Quote from Brugler's profile who had him as a 5th-6th rounder. Interesting since I'm reading that in a lot of places.

SUMMARY: A two-year starter at South Carolina, Jones was the middle linebacker in former head coach Will Muschamp’s 4-2-5 base scheme. The Gamecocks’ leading tackler the last two seasons, he averaged 8.7 tackles per game as a starter and established himself as one of the best run defenders in the SEC. Jones is quick to diagnose run fits and does a great job using his length to stack and shed blocks and stay on the right track. While he is quick to react, he is an upright, straight-line-ish athlete, which shows when dropping in space or scraping laterally. Overall, Jones has some athletic limitations, especially in coverage, but he consistently finds the football with his instincts and toughness, which will help him earn a spot on a depth chart.
 

HE WITH HORNS

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If this guy doesn't start right away, its not a great pick. But, we do need LBs, our biggest weakness from last year, and it seems he's a good run stopper.
 
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Merlin

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I doubt he'll start right away. Reeder knows the defense and Jones won't blow him out year one. But he might develop nicely for us. You gotta take some shots on these guys to find them. The guys who fill well and are good or even just have athletic potential to excel vs the pass go early.
 

Mackeyser

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I think he's gonna be a backup to start... with Kenny Young, Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder and Travin Howard being in front of him, but the good news is we should see little drop off if there's an injury unlike last year... which is a good thing.

and I can't imagine Raheem Morris getting a guy he couldn't use.

It's a solid pick for end of 3rd round.

What's so confusing is how the fans and the Rams are so far apart in our evals of the OL...
 

PARAM

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Quote from Brugler's profile who had him as a 5th-6th rounder. Interesting since I'm reading that in a lot of places.
They say he's good dropping into zone but he needs work in man.


We have to do better than the other teams in our division.
SF has 4 picks left (3 in the 5th and a 6th)
Seattle has a 4th and a 7th left
Arizona has a 5th, 6th and two 7th's
The Rams have three 4ths, a 6th and a 7th

SF has had a good draft picking 4
Seattle has made 1 selection
Arizona has made 2 selections
The Rams have made 2 selections

In McSnead I trust.
 

Corbin

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Ernest Jones NFL Draft Profile​

  • Position: Linebacker
  • School: South Carolina
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 230 pounds


Tony Pauline’s Ernest Jones Scouting Report​

Positives: Slightly undersized run-and-chase linebacker who stands out defending the run. Displays a terrific head for the ball and flows well laterally pursuing to the flanks. Feisty, plays with a nasty attitude, and attacks ball handlers. Breaks down well, uses his hands to protect himself, and nicely redirects to the action. Stays with assignments and displays a terrific head in run defense.

Negatives: Not smooth or quick in his hips dropping into coverage. Hesitant with assignments when the ball is in the air. Not forceful on the blitz and is easily slowed by blocks.

Analysis: Jones is a tough defender who displays a lot of suddenness in his game and plays well injured. He’s a bit one-dimensional as a run defender, yet would be very good on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.

Ernest Jones Player Profile​

A highly productive linebacker at Ware County High School, Ernest Jones drew comparisons to 2017 NFL Draft first-rounder Jarrad Davis coming out of high school. Despite a lack of team success, he earned First Team All-State honors as a senior. Those honors followed a season where he racked up 112 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.

A tough-tackling, physical presence, he attracted national attention. Offers came in from Tenessee, Auburn, Ole Miss, Oregon, and LSU, amongst others. A three-star recruit, he was the 62nd ranked outside linebacker in the class. As the 85th ranked player in the state of Georgia, there was also pressure on him to commit to Georgia Tech after an offer from the Yellow Jackets.

Featured | NFL Draft Prospects 2021: Pauline’s updated big board, player rankings

Although Georgia Tech made up one of his final four, Jones had other plans than following the crowd. He narrowed down his options to GT, Florida, South Carolina, and Duke.

Despite Duke recruiting him hard during the process, he committed to play linebacker at South Carolina. It made him the first player from Ware County to play for the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, it allowed him to create his own legacy instead of following others to Georgia Tech.

Ernest Jones’ college football career at South Carolina​

The South Carolina linebacker gave Gamecocks fans a little taste of his physical brand of football as a freshman. During his debut against Coastal Carolina, Ernest Jones made his first career tackle. Then he followed that up with his first forced fumble against Chattanooga. Not content with displaying his skills against “Group of 5” opposition, he logged a season-high in tackles against Clemson.

Over the next two years, he would become the leader of the defense. A vocal as well as a physical one, he led the team in tackles as a sophomore and a junior.

Featured | Hodgkinson’s 4-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

During his sophomore season, he started 12 games and tallied 97 tackles. Furthermore, he demonstrated his ability to disrupt the opposition with 5.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and a forced fumble. Jones also demonstrated decent coverage ability. In the season opener against North Carolina, he broke up two passes. Additionally, he secured interceptions against Kentucky and Appalachian State.

As a junior in 2020, Jones came within 11 tackles of his sophomore performance in three fewer games. He had four games with double-digit tackle figures. Included in those games was a career-high 19 tackles against LSU. Furthermore, an exceptional performance against Vanderbilt saw him rack up 3 tackles for loss.

Following the 2020 college football season, South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ernest Jones’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft​

South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones offers value to a team in the 2021 NFL Draft. After earning Most Improved Player honors as a special teams contributor, his experience in that area gives him excellent versatility. Even if he can’t carve out a full-time role as a starter at linebacker, there’s every reason to believe he can be a full-time special teams contributor.

As far as his positional projection, however, he would best fit as a weakside LB in a 4-3 system. As a result, some team and need fits include the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Detroit Lions.
 
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