In the 2014 NFL Draft, then-rookie Christian Jones was predicted to get drafted in the middle rounds. Then he failed a drug test at the combine which (by no surprise) hurt his draft stock. He was one of the linebackers I liked entering the draft as he had versatility and his size (6’3, 240) was deemed NFL-ready. Unfortunately for him, he went undrafted. The Bears came calling and signed him as an UDFA and many questioned if he where to even make the 53-man roster. The rest is history and in 2015 this Bear is ready to roar and put fear in opposing teams’ ball carriers.
Let’s take a quick look at how Jones fared in 2014 as he used going undrafted as motivation: he was out to prove doubters wrong. All throughout the off-season, he took snaps at weak side, middle and strong side (his comfort spot). He impressed the coaches, who saw his physicality, explosiveness and athleticism (by far the most athletic LB in Chicago). As the Bears kept losing linebackers to injuries, Jones got his first career start in week six at SLB (strong side) and racked up 4 tackles in 21 snaps. He then made his second start in week eight at WLB (weak side) and racked up 7 tackles in 75 snaps. He then shuffled in and out of the line-up until the last 3 games of the season, where he remained the starter at WLB. As the season went on, Jones gained confidence and started to look comfortable even though he graded poorly at PFF (Pro Football Focus). Take that with a grain of salt because the Bears defense as a whole was ugly last year. Jones ended the season with 69 total tackles and 2 sacks, definitely something to build on.
Now we take a look in 2015, and not only do the Bears have a new defensive coordinator (Fangio, formerly of the 49ers) but Jones will also have to learn a new position (ILB) as Fangio brings a 3-4 defensive scheme to Soldier Field. Jones will be battling Jon Bostic, Mason Foster and Shea McClellan for the two starting ILB spots and through OTA’s it’s been Foster and Jones the starting two and rightfully so — that should be the two who start in week one. Jones’ skill-set allows him to be the starting “Jack” or weak-side inside linebacker as he has better coverage skills than Foster and Bostic. Being a “Jack” means more coverage responsibility but at the same time has more freedom as a free lance pass rusher. In Fangio’s scheme, he likes to create mismatches (like Rex Ryan, sorta) and Jones could be moved around to put in places to succeed like rushing the passer from the outside (think Ahmad Brooks in San Francisco) and Jones can also attack from a variety of ways. What helps Jones is that Fangio already views him as a building block on a team that has a legacy at the linebacker position so pretty much he’s asking Jones to fill in their (Urlacher, Briggs, Butkus and Singletary) shoes – right? The sky is the limit for Jones as he’s already been attacking this off-season with the same chip on his shoulder and embracing his new role.
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IDP IMPACT: Unless you’ve owned Jones last year down the stretch, his name isn’t really “out there” yet but as the season creeps up on us – his name will continue to see a boost in IDP. Right now he’s a solid buy; could even be a cheap buy (do it now before your league members read this!). He’s currently being the 45th LB taken in drafts (absurd value) as I currently have him as my LB28. By season’s end we could see his name in the top 20 finishers and his ceiling screams Top 15! (Yes, you read that right.) He’s a good bet and you should feel comfortable rolling him out as your LB3 if you already have depth or strong suitors at LB1 and LB2. Guys like Clowney, Lofton and McKinney are being drafted over him and I wouldn’t touch either of them over Jones, so keep this in mind on draft day.
IDP FORECAST: 115+ tackles, 4-5 sacks, 2-Int’s, 5-6 PD’s, #BEARS #IDP