Jarron Jones went to the NFL Combine with clear goals in mind.
The Notre Dame defensive linemen wanted to prove to teams he’s healthy after two major injuries impacted his Irish career. The Rochester, N.Y., native, also wanted to show his character is not a red flag.
And most importantly that he’s worthy of an early pick in April’s NFL Draft.
“Just to show everyone that I’m a healthy player, that I’m a good guy and that I have good character and that I’m worthy of being a top-two round pick,” Jones said Saturday when asked about his goals for the Combine. “I feel like I deserve to be a top-two round pick.
“I felt like a lot of people are downplaying me because of my injury history and what people say are character flaws. I feel like I’m just as good as any d-tackle in this combine.”
Jones ran the 40-yard dash 5.33 seconds, third-slowest among the defensive linemen who ran Sunday. Jones' 20.5 inches in the vertical jump was last among defensive linemen.
He did 22 reps on the bench press, a low number relative to the top competition. But with a wingspan of 35 1/2” — the longest among defensive linemen — he’s an intriguing physical prospect at 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds.
“Jones' flashes will be tempting, but his lack of production and even snap count should be an immediate red flag along with the ‘proceed with caution’ whispers coming from inside the program,” NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com. “If he can find consistent motivation, Jones could become a very good NFL starter in any defensive scheme. A true boom-or-bust prospect.”
Jones missed the final three games of the 2014 season with a Lisfranc injury in his foot. He then sat out all of 2015 when he tore a ligament in his knee during preseason practice.
Proving he’s healthy is one thing. Showing his character to NFL teams is another.
“It’s just telling them the truth,” Jones said. “Telling them the truth about you, telling the truth about who I am. I have nothing to hide. I’ve made some mistakes in my past and I learned from them. That’s the main thing that I’ve got out of making mistakes is I like to see the lesson in what I’ve learned.”
Jones is currently projected to be selected in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft. He said he’s versatile to play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive scheme, having played in both during his time with the Irish.
“I understand defenses a lot more, I understand both schemes,” said Jones, whose younger brother, Jamir, will be a sophomore linebacker for Notre Dame in 2017. “I’m versatile to play any position on the line.”
Jones flashed his potential during last year’s win over Miami. He had seven tackles, six for loss, a sack and a breakup in the victory over the Hurricanes. In other games, however, Jones played limited snaps and was inconsistent when he did play.
During NFL Network’s broadcast of the Combine, analyst Mike Mayock briefly spoke about Jones’ draft stock.
"If he played every week the way he played against Miami,” Mayock said, “we’d be talking about him in a different location.”
But the former four-star recruit doesn’t want the Miami game to be the pinnacle of his career.
“I don’t that to define who I am,” Jones said. “It was a great game, probably one of the best games of my career, but I don’t want just that game to define me.”