In this edition of “Spotlight Showdown” we are looking at two defensive tackles. This current class is sneaky deep at DT as most top-100 boards have around 10-15 DT`s. While many teams are focusing in on the loaded EDGE and Defensive backs, it could cause some top-end talent to slide. I would not be surprised if we see 5-7 of them taken in the second round. Like a few other positions you could get mid-to-late first round talent in the second round.
This showdown is Jarron Jones from Notre Dame vs Carlos Watkins from Clemson who just won the College Football Championship.
Both of these players are great talents and while won is covered in hype and dripping with a winning background. The other is also a great player who had his stock extremely hurt based on a massively underwhelming year from Notre Dame. There was not a ton of great talent surrounding him either.
Lets take a look at them both:
Jarron Jones Carlos Watkins
Height: 6 feet 5 inches Height: 6 feet 3 inches
Weight: 315 lbs Weight: 305 lbs
Est. 40-yard-dash: 5.14 Est. 40-yard-dash: 5.06
Sacks: 5.5 Sacks: 14
Tackles : 115 Tackles: 110
Tackles for Loss: 25 Tackles for Loss: 24.5
Passes defensed: 4 Passes defensed: 7
Forced Fumbles: 3 Forced Fumbles: None
Best game: 2016- W 7 tackles, 6 tackles for loss 1 sack, 1 PD Best game: 2016- W 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks 2 passes defensed
Games played: 34 Games played: 37
As you can see even with Jarron Jones missing time due to injuries he was not far of pace and out played Carlos Watkins in some cases. THis one was very close as Jones won 5 and Wakins won 4. Jones has the better length and size and is one powerful player. Scheme could have also played some sort of a factor here as Jones was a nose tackle and Watkins was in more of a 4-3 set. These stats do tell one important thing one is more of a pass rushing DT where as the other will be a solid run-stopping nose tackle.
Two things jump out at you when you look into Jarron Jones. The two injuries. In his 4-stay at Notre Dame he had 2 season-ending surgeries. One was due to an MCL the other was a season ending foot surgery. This is a big deal, its one thing to be a bit injury happy around 190-215lbs, its a totally different thing when you are 6`5 315lbs and a nose tackle.
It is very hard to imagine Jones as anything other than a run stuffing nose tackle which not only hurts his stock, but limits the team options he has.
In the modern day NFL many teams have started to value utility and versatility up there with physical traits. While many teams on defense still have a base defense 3-4 or 4-3 its more of a personnel package setting than a true every down base. Many teams spend half or close to it in the Nickle package to combat the new spread-offensive sets and the more athletic tight ends. This can create a use problem for Jones. His size and athletic ability are noted while being a two-sport star in High School. But, if his injuries continue and his inability to get to the QB also continues he may only be used on 1st down, 2nd down, and short-yardage/goal-line scenarios. Which takes out some of the most important downs pass-rushing 3rd downs and most red zone opportunities.
It is also worth pointing out that many 3-4 teams when in Nickle will use 1-2 OLB as DE and 1-2 DE as DT to jump-start a pass rush.
So as we can see just going off of some of the basics for Jones, it could be difficult for him to find a fit or at least a fit in a high-risk pick like 1st round or early 2nd round. On tape though Jones at times is just a big monster, with power and speed like like Leonard Williams or Danny Shelton who were drafted not to long ago. Jones is not only very big and powerful but his athletic ability makes him a dynamic run stopper. He gets into the backfield very quick and out physicals just about every OL he ever goes up against. His leverage ability is great and with his long arms he can attack the QB or RB while still being blocked and can take on two blocks at once, allowing a free runner to get into the back field. While there are concerns about injuries and fit, there is a ton to love on his film. Getting a single DT who can single-handedly take on any offensive linemen and win the battle at the line is something that’s difficult to put a price on.
If he had no injury concerns and was able to have more sacks in his stat line he would be up there with Jon Allen.
Carlos Watkins was a great surprise for the Clemson Tigers and a big reason why they were able to have arguably the best season in Clemson history. Watkins tripled his sack total from 2015 as he got 10.5 sacks in 2016 and almost doubled his tackles for loss going from 7.5 to 12.5 and netted 14 more tackles in just one more game than he had in 2015. Watkins unlike Jones seems like a solid pick in the mid-to-late 1st round. He is also extremely versatile as he was able to also double as OT for a few games at Clemson. While his clear position is DT it does show his athletic ability and how good he can be with his hands and leverage.
You could take him playing OT has an amazing learning opportunity not often do you get a chance to start at the position you fight with during the game. He learned how to defend and attack on both sides of the line, which could have helped his ability for this break-out season.
There however is one very interesting note and has started to really make me question how good he can be, Watkins is always the last one off the ball and to engage his offensive lineman on both pass and run plays. Along with that he had several instances during the Ohio State game where he pushed the OG/OT and backed off he did not drive them back to cut off lanes in the pocket. The times when he does use his violent hands and athleticism to swim or swat an offensive lineman’s hands and gets around or starts to gain momentum with the leverage he gets his motor is very hard to stop, that is if he is not standing straight up when he gets back there which has happens more than once.
I am not sure if that is an issue of his motor, if it is an issue of him knowing how athletic he is so being patient which I think is less likely, I think it might have something more to do with he is afraid to be overly-aggressive in engagement and wants to get off the block or move instead.
If you put this in running back terms it would be him avoiding contact and trying to use pure athleticism to create yards. If he cant correct that at the next level and become quicker and more aggressive off the ball he may not last very long as a starter.
What he does have though along with aggressive hands and natural athletic ability for his size is a great tackling ability. When Watkins gets off his block he takes some of the best lines of any DT in this draft to the ball carrier. Watkins is almost always in a correct leverage position, which when you think about it is kind of unusual based on his slow reaction off the ball. When he is aggressive and drives he can get anywhere he wants in the backfield. Also, he has the best second effort of any DT in this class in the VT game he missed the sack got off another block and ran 7-yards down field to tackle VT`s QB who was on a scramble, he did this also by shifting not only his hips to push his OL across the line but was able to correct position and head back down the field.
One of the more notable things about him might be his eyes. His eyes are always in the backfield like as if he were a corner or a safety which is very advanced for a college DT, he never stays focused on his block and his block only. On every snap I have watched him take he always knows where the ball carrier is and which way the play is going. That right there might be part of why he is slow off the ball using patience and athleticism over power and leverage to sniff out the play, just like an RB waiting for the hole to open and seeing the entire field.
In both the Ohio Sate and VT games this year when he went head-to-head with the center he never got off the block to the correct position if he got off the block at all.
So simply put;
Watkins Cons– lack of first step speed and aggression, lack of tackling power vs size, to patient on some plays, and to quick to disengage
Pros– pure athleticism, recovery speed, great leverage and hip speed, constantly moving his feet and great eyes
Lack of aggression to and off blocks might take him out of 1st-round-to-early-2nd round contention on many boards, aggression is not something you can always teach and for a DT not having it is a big issue. Clearly I have an issue with players not being aggressive in the trenches, but its up to the team that drafts him on what they will use him as, he could end up a better 3-4 DE than a nose tackle or 4-3 DT. IF it is true though that his lack of aggressiveness of the ball is due to patience like a RB he would need to sell teams on it. He clearly has the speed to be the first off and into a block, so its still a major question as to why he is so slow.
There are clear positives and negatives on both players. While Watkins is a bit more overall athletic and is more polished right now, Jones could be at the same level had he of stayed healthy and been able to have other players around him. Watkins sill grades out to me as a late-1st-round type talent, but that is off his great progression through college and how high his potential is due to his athleticism, but in over technique I think Jones will maintain a better ability as a true 3-4 nose tackle. After going over Watkins film his ability might end up putting him at a DE slot. I think he can be a good 3-4 DE or if he gets lighter I think he would be better used as an 4-3 DE, unless he can get quicker off the ball and more aggressive in his engagements if he does he will make an amazing 4-3 DT. Where as Jones should easily be an instant starter as an nose tackle, or an Sheldon Richardson type DE in a 3-4 system where they almost have 3 DT on the line at one time.
Jarron Jones Prediction:
Comparison- Lenoard Williams
Current projected draft slot- 51st to Denver Broncos
Highest draft pick- 39th to New York Jets
Lowest draft pick- 110th to Indianapolis Colts
Top-5 team fits- Colts, Broncos, Jets, Raiders and 49ers
Carlos Watkins Prediction:
Comparison- Terdell Sands
Current projected draft slot-Highest draft pick- 42nd to New Orleans Saints
Highest draft pick- 42ns to New Orleans Saints
Lowest draft pick- 93rd to Green Bay Packers
Top-5 team fits- Saints, Packers, Buccaneers, Falcons, and Eagles