With roughly two months to go before the NFL Draft, the top of the draft board looks to be in total flux.
Nobody is quite sure what the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars will do with the top two selections, which leaves the Raiders at No. 3 in limbo, too.
Though the popular opinion seems to be that Oakland will use its top choice to select a defensive lineman, the Raiders could also take a chance on one of college football’s best defensive playmakers, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones.
The Raiders need to put more pressure on the quarterback – the team totaled just 25 sacks in 2012 – and Jones led the nation in sacks with 14½ this past season.
Jones met with NFL officials and scouts Saturday at the Combine in Indianapolis and tried to put to rest concerns about his long-term health that have been raised in the past.
Several years ago Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine (in his neck) The diagnosis was made at USC, which didn’t clear him to play. So, Jones transferred to Georgia, where he went through additional tests and was cleared.
Over the past two years he played in 26 of 28 games – missing just two with minor injuries – and was a difference-maker on D for the Bulldogs.
Jones has been discussed as a top-five pick, with the Detroit Lions linked by some to taking him if he’s still available at No. 5.
But AFC West blogger Bill Williamson of ESPN.com said Jones is “a definite possibility for Oakland.”
NFL teams will be eager to go over the detailed medical reports on Jones that will be released after the Combine.
“Jones is a fine player with a medical issue,” wrote Williamson. “He isn’t the first NFL prospect to fit that description. So unless there is evidence he is regressing, I’d still consider him a top prospect for the Raiders.”
Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew told the Detroit Free-Press: “In Jarvis Jones’ case, he was playing some pretty good ball out there and the neck looked fine to me. But I don’t know. It varies. Every situation is different.”
Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who’s been at the Combine, wrote Monday that Jones is one of five players likely to be the top five picks – but in what order is right now a mystery. The five: Jones, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd of Florida, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, defensive end Dion Joran of Oregon and cornerback Dee Milliner of Alabama.
Certainly, all five players would fill a need the Raiders have. But Jones might be a player who could come in and make the biggest visible impact. The 6-foot-2, 241-pound outside linebacker had 85 tackles in 12 games for the Bulldogs this past season, including 24 tackles for loss. In addition to his sacks, he forced seven fumbles and had an interception. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-America selection.
In 2011, he had 13½ sacks, including four in one game against Florida.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says Jones is a terrific player and fits Oakland’s 4-3 scheme.
“He’s explosive,” Mayock told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He’s a playmaker. He fits in a 4-3, which is what he already played. But some teams that are in the 3-4 will like him.”
Said Jones: “Our main focus was to come here and visit with all the (NFL) doctors so all the doctors can see me. Take all the tests I can that they needed me to take so that they can see that I’m healthy.”