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Jarvis Jones vs. Dion Jordan: Best pass rusher in NFL Draft?

  • By NFL.com
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Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks debate the tough draft-related issues.

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In today's pass-happy NFL, there's always a premium placed on guys who can get to the quarterback. The 2013 NFL Draft is littered with intriguing pass rushers of different shapes, sizes and playing styles, but there isn't much consensus on a prospect pecking order.

Some people love the raw athleticism of Dion Jordan, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah or Barkevious Mingo, while others appreciate the elite production of Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore. (Take a quick glance at the various first-round projections at our Mock Draft Central to get a taste of the differing opinions on this front.) Most -- if not all -- of these guys will come off the board in the first round of next month's event, but who is the cream of the crop?

Former NFL scouts (and NFL draft veterans) Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks take on this all-important question: Who is the best pure pass rusher in the 2013 draft class?

Jeremiah: Jordan built for NFL

Dion Jordan is the best pass-rushing prospect in this draft. He has every tool you look for when projecting a successful NFL edge rusher: ideal height/length, an explosive first step and the ability to bend around the edge. Jordan also flashes the ability to turn speed into power, though that part of his game is still a work in progress as he continues to get stronger.

The only knock on Jordan is that he lacks "elite" sack production (posting just five in 2012). But Jordan was a hybrid defender in Oregon's scheme, forced to drop into coverage on a considerable number of plays. I researched all of the top pass rushers in the NFL, and it was interesting to check out each player's sack total from his final college season. Jordan stacks up favorably with several of them: Aldon Smith (5.5), Cameron Wake (1), Clay Matthews (4.5), Geno Atkins (3) and Chris Clemons (1). All of those players lacked top-shelf production but possessed pass-rushing traits that translated at the next level.

I like Jarvis Jones as a prospect, but his poor pro-day workout has NFL brass concerned. Those who defend Jones' lackluster showing point to his statistical success in the SEC, where he set the pace in sacks in each of the past two seasons. That motivated me to do some research and figure out how previous sack artists from this conference have fared in the NFL. Check out the SEC sack leaders before Jones, along with their highest single-season sack totals in the NFL (listed in parentheses):

2005: Willie Evans, Mississippi State (0).
2006: Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas (3), tied with Derrick Harvey, Florida (3.5).
2007: Marcus Howard, Georgia (1.5), tied with Greg Hardy, Mississippi (11) and Wallace Gilberry, Alabama (7).
2008: Carlos Dunlap, Florida (9.5), tied with Eric Norwood, South Carolina (1).
2009: Antonio Coleman, Auburn (0).
2010: Nick Fairley, Auburn (5.5).

It's pretty obvious that college sack production -- even in the nation's premier conference -- doesn't necessarily translate to NFL success.

Jordan's skill set makes him a much better fit for the NFL game.

Brooks: Jones dominated SEC

Jarvis Jones is the best pass rusher in the 2013 draft class. He totaled 28 sacks and 44 tackles for loss over the past two seasons in the SEC, which is considered the best college football conference by coaches and scouts around the NFL. Jones' dominance in this league is not only indicative of his remarkable skills as a pass rusher, but it also suggests that he will have a similar impact as a pro, due to the fact that he produced at an All-American level against top-notch competition. Back in my scouting days, I always looked at how elite prospects fared against the toughest competition they faced. Jones tallied 11 of his 14.5 sacks in 2012 against SEC competition: Missouri (2), Vanderbilt (1), South Carolina (1), Florida (3), Auburn (2) and Alabama (2). Additionally, he performed very well in the Bulldogs' biggest conference showdowns (against Alabama, Florida and South Carolina), which tells me he has the moxie to handle the pressure of playing on the big stage. Not to mention, two of his sacks came against Nebraska as part of a brilliant effort in the Capital One Bowl, his final college game.

From a talent perspective, Jones displays exceptional first-step quickness and snap-count anticipation. This allows him to routinely blow past blockers on the edge with dip-and-rip maneuvers. Furthermore, Jones plays with a relentlessness that allows him to pile up sacks through effort and hustle.

Now, I know Jones' underwhelming physical dimensions (6-foot-2, 245 pounds), speed (4.92 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and overall athleticism lead to questions about his potential impact at the next level. And despite a positive report earlier this month, there are still lingering concerns about his health, going back to a spinal stenosis diagnosis in his freshman season at USC. (Jones transferred to Georgia when USC doctors would not clear him to continue playing.) However, I place a greater emphasis on his performance and production over the past two seasons. Jones was clearly the best defensive player in college football's toughest conference in 2012, and I believe that experience will translate into outstanding production at the pro level.


Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah will regularly debate hot-button issues related to the draft as we move through the preparation process. Follow them on Twitter @BuckyBrooks and @MoveTheSticks.

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