Daquan Jones has been arguably the best and was the most talented player on the Penn State defense this season. His combination of athleticism and size made it so he was always a threat to make a big play for the Nittany Lions. As good as he was for Penn State, he still has a significant amount of unlocked potential as he moves onto to the NFL.
Projecting to the NFL, Jones is an extremely impressive athlete, both in terms of his quickness and strength. Questionable snap anticipation and a mediocre first step along with playing too high can mask his tremendous physical gifts. Jones has the ability to contribute both against the run as well as having the ability to get after the quarterback. He displays active hands and good range and closing speed. If he can learn to player and fire off of the ball more effectively, Jones can become an impact player in the NFL. As a result, while he projects as a top 100 pick, he could easily go in the top 75 with the chance to rise even more after what should be an impressive display in workouts.
Vitals & Build
Jones is listed at 6’3” 318lbs with a good build. He has impressive short area quickness and overall speed. Jones has good strength although some technical issues make his functional strength look far less impressive at times. His motor is pretty solid. Jones could probably drop some weight around his midsection to get a little sleeker and more explosive. There still seems to be physical potential with Jones but the best thing he can do for himself is employ better habits to fully take advantage of the ability he already has.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
All of this is an area that is poor for Jones and definitely areas he should work to improve as he could be significantly more productive if he does. Jones’ snap anticipation is mediocre and he tends to be the last or close to it when it comes to reacting to the snap. He seems to be a half beat late consistently and really needs to work to improve.
In terms of his first step, Jones struggles with it because his first step covers little ground and far too often, he is standing straight up as he steps. As a result, he ends up having to work significantly harder than he should to make plays. The fact he is able to really shows how impressive he is as an athlete and player, so he needs to work on it.
First, he needs to fire out as opposed to up and get rid of the want to stand straight up when the ball is snapped. He does when he has to like on short yardage and goal line situations, but the majority of the time, he immediately stands up and tries to attack the opponent. Jones also needs to work to improve his step as he really does not get much ground and therefore has trouble generating momentum. This causes him problems in the running game, but would make him more effective as a pass rusher as well.
Jones has extremely active hands and can work to beat blocks as well as simply slip them to get by and make plays. He does not show a real variety of moves but executes the ones he likes to use well. Jones has a great swim move that he loves to use. The problem is that his great results with his swim move further encourage him to play high and make him want to stand up too much. He has quick, strong hands that can make violent movements, which allows the swim to work, but he might be better served if he can work and develop an effective rip move to get him to play lower while being able to use the swim when it is there for him.
Jones has a great bull rush and keeps working his hands to punch and get effective hand placement that allows him to drive the opponent back into the pocket. He gives himself the ability to adjust and break free to attack the play if the opponent is knocked off balance or he can simply finish them on his way into the backfield.
Jones is an inconsistent run stopper. It starts with the fact he generally does not get a good first step and wants to stand up too much. The result is opponents are able to get into his body, get under his pads and then drive him. The times he fires out lower, he is able to hold up at the point of attack and does a decent job against double teams.
That does not happen enough and it comes down to leverage and when he does not have it, he gets beat. He ends giving up too much ground too often and does not always do a good job of reestablishing his base and working to create a pile.
Jones is quick enough where he can beat opponents with a quick move with his hands as well as agility from the waist down and slip in and make plays. He has also shown the ability to engage and defeat a block to make plays.
Jones does have impressive range and is able to work down the line of scrimmage effectively. He has the burst and overall speed to where he can adjust and chase down the run effectively, whether attacking a different gap or working towards the sideline.
If he can work to improve his get off, play lower and create more momentum, he can be a far more complete and effective player against the run, but would also carry over to the passing game.
Jones shows a ton of potential as a pass rusher. In spite of playing too high and not getting off of the snap well, he has impressive overall quickness and flat out speed. Jones can show off some impressive power and while he does not offer a huge variation in the moves he uses, he is effective with them and the combination mixes up speed and power.
Being that he can use an effective bull rush, it can set up his swim move and allow him to slip by and win with speed. Jones also has the ability to execute stunts and he does a pretty good job of bending around the corner when going outside. His closing speed is pretty good and he is able to get to the passer quickly while laying a good hit.
The times when Jones is not able to get to the quarterback, he attempts to get his arms up to deflect passes and knock down the ball. He can work on his timing but especially when he is playing too high anyway, he might as well try to deflect passes.
If he can do a better job of firing forward with his momentum and getting a more effective first step, his production should increase significantly.
Jones’ best fit is as a 4-3 defensive tackle that can play a 3-technique, but could evolve into a player that can also contribute as a 1-technique nose guard in certain situations. He has great size to be able to help stop the run if he can work to play lower but has shown he can be an asset as a pass rusher as well. There are some technical issues that need to be addressed and improved and if he can do that, the potential is there for him to be an impact player.
There could definitely be teams that look at Jones as a potential 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He has the length, base and athleticism to be a great player in that scheme as well. Jones has experience playing from that spot as well in his time in State College.
Based on his game right now, Jones has a similar game to that of Linval Joseph of the New York Giants. Both are impressive athletes with untapped potential but something that is in the way of getting there. In the case of Jones, it is leverage and his ability to get off of the snap. Both players have the ability to be contributors on a defensive line now, but they each have the potential to be impact players if they can correct their respective issues.
Daquan Jones has a substantial amount of physical ability and talent, but he is an unfinished product. He makes it harder on himself to be productive because of his slow get off and playing too high. If he can correct those issues consistently, he can be a significantly more effective run defender, but can really unlock his ability as a pass rusher. As a result, he offers significant potential in the NFL. Jones projects as a top 100 pick but is more likely to go in the top 75, securing himself a spot in the second round that could go much higher as he should be extremely impressive in workouts.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com