Round 5: N. C. State DT Justin Jones – 6-2, 312 – 5.09 – Senior
Previous pick: Jacksonville State SS Siran Neal
The 2018 NFL Draft is a bad one for pass-rushing defensive ends, but the defensive tackle class has talent and depth, so the Bucs add another interior defensive lineman in the fifth round with Jones. Playing one perhaps the most talented defensive line in college football at N.C. State, Jones teamed with defensive tackle B.J. Hill and defensive ends Bradley Chubb and Kentavius Street to shut down running games and chase opposing quarterbacks.
Jones was often overlooked at N.C. State as his role as the nose tackle was to free up Hill, Chubb and Street to make plays. Jones recorded 108 career tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks for the Wolfpack and capped off his final year by winning the Senior Bowl Defensive Line Practice Player of the Week award.
What Jones lacks in pass rush moves and athleticism he makes up for with raw strength and power and a bully mentality. He has a ferocious playing style and doesn’t take plays off. He switched his jersey number from 93 to 27 during his senior season because he wanted a skill position number. NFL scouts and talent evaluators have to appreciate that mindset.
Jones’ North Carolina State Career Defensive Stats
2017: 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 FR
2016: 44 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 1 PBU
2015: 30 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 FF
At 6-foot-2, 312 pounds, Jones has the size the Bucs are looking for up front and the strength to anchor and hold up at the point of attack. While he will likely see some early snaps at nose tackle, which is more of his home base, Jones has the movement ability to play some three-technique position like Clinton McDonald did in Tampa Bay. Jones is a dangerous enough athlete to win one-on-ones against the run or the pass.
Athletically, Jones will never be in Gerald McCoy’s class, but with some technique work with new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, Jones could eventually be a serviceable three-technique and a potential replacement for McCoy down the road. In fact, Jones’ play is reminiscent of Buckner’s play when he was in the league.
Jones has good initial quickness with his hands and feet, and good pop off the ball, too. The Bucs replaced one defensive tackle – Chris Baker – with Beau Allen in free agency, and the versatile Mitch Unrein essentially replaced McDonald. As a rookie, Jones would compete with Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, last year’s seventh-round pick, for the right to replace Sealver Siliga as the team’s fourth defensive tackle on the depth chart.