After trading back three spots to No. 52 overall, Atlanta bolstered its linebacking corps by selecting LSU's Deion Jones. Here's what you need to know about the newest Falcon:
Jones fills a big need for the Falcons, who entered Friday short on starting-caliber outside linebackers. The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder is the No. 6 OLB in this year's draft class, according to CBS Sports, and should fit into Atlanta's scheme thanks to his speed, athleticism, coverage ability and open-field tackling.
Many believe speed is Jones' biggest strength. At LSU's pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash and clocked in at 4.38 and 4.42 seconds. While his 40 time at the combine (4.59) was disappointing, he knew he could do much better when given the opportunity in Baton Rouge "We went back and trained, and we were like, 'That's not us, bro,'" he told ESPN.
More on his speed: LSU coach Les Miles recently said this about Jones: "Not a lot of linebackers in history will run like that. That guy may be the fastest linebacker that I personally have been around that had any size to him at all. He's absolutely the first. That fits into the NFL game as a guy that can move and make plays and has ball skills. He's going to fit right into the NFL game."
Few players improved their stock more than Jones in 2015. A relatively unknown commodity before his senior campaign, the New Orleans native led LSU in tackles last year (100) and tackles for loss (13.5). He also chipped in six quarterback hurries, five sacks and a forced fumble. Those numbers helped him earn LSU's defensive MVP honors.
Jones ascended so fast in 2015 that he was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the best linebacker in college football.
The Falcons showed a lot of interest in Jones leading up Friday. As we noted in our pre-draft visit tracker, Atlanta met with him during the Senior Bowl and conducted a private workout with the 21-year-old in March.
Like Keanu Neal, Jones plugs a big hole on defense and has the skill set to be a three-down player. Another similarity the two have is leadership. Jones was a permanent defensive last season for the Tigers even though he entered the year with just one start on D.
Some believe Jones deserved to go much higher than No. 52. In ESPN NFL Nation’s mock draft, he was projected to land in Arizona at No. 29 overall. Josh Weinfuss, ESPN's Cardinals reporter, said Jones has "the size and speed to immediately come in and be an impact player," adding that he "also has the ability to cover receivers and tight ends in space."
Before becoming a starter on defense, Jones built a reputation as a special teams ace. His willingness to play on kick and punt coverage, even when he's needed on D, speaks to his mindset on the field. "I'm not a selfish person, so it's more like if they need me to play special teams, then I will play special teams. Simple as that," Jones said in November. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win."
Jones' dad named him after Falcons legend Deion Sanders. His nickname is "Debo"—a combination of Deion and Bo, as in Bo Jackson. Not a bad combination. For information on season, group, or single game tickets visit www.atlantafalcons.com/tickets. Submit a ticket request form today and receive access to an exclusive single game ticket pre-sale on May 5th!