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Chandler Jones Leaves Syracuse, Decides to Enter NFL Draft. Smart Decision?

(Update: 3:32p. Everyone’s favorite light-hearted defensive end has chosen the pros. Via Twitter, Jones posted: “I have decided to forego my final football season at Syracuse University and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.” #99 would add, “I just want to thank all the Cuse fans, alum, teammates & coaches for supporting me these three years.” 

This is obviously a tough blow to Doug Marrone’s attempt in getting SU back into a bowl game. Chan was not only the emotional leader of the unit, he was also the best player on it. While injuries and a lack of talent surrounding him led to a down season, Jones’ impact will be extraordinarily hard to replicate. Losing Marinovich on the other side means SU has to find bookend replacements on the line, all while filling the void left by Phillip Thomas.

Was it the smart move for Jones? Depends. It’s not like he is going in without strong consultation. His brother Art has gone through the process before. Chan also tweeted he’s set to graduate in May. He’ll likely earn a hefty paycheck in the fall. Hard to argue right? He must have a good sense of being drafted in the first five rounds, because anything outside of that would be a crapshoot and no guarantee to make the team out of camp. 

But by playing on a non-bowl team and missing significant time due to injury, there’s no way his stock is as high as it could be had he returned for a monster senior season. Orange fans have to wish Jones the best of luck. He’s been a great ambassador for the program, and was as charismatic as any SU player in years. He’s magnetic, people are drawn to him, and no box score can reflect what that means to a team which has fought to bring fans back. 

It makes you wonder if the torturous nature of the collapse helped push Jones away. This could not have been a fun season for him, and Chan is – if nothing else – enjoys his fun. Maybe he was gone either way. A great season ending with another postseason may have driven his stock high enough to where it would have been silly to come back. Chan has always been incredibly gracious to The Fizz. We’re rooting for him the entire way. But from a football standpoint, this is a huge loss for SU. Marrone now has to rectify a defense without its two best players. 

-D.A.

* * * 

Chandler Jones has told us all via Twitter he will announce his decision about the NFL Draft today at 3:30. Make no mistake, this marks an enormous offseason moment for Doug Marrone and Orange football.

The Syracuse defense was one of the major reasons for the 5-game collapse, especially when Jones was not on the field. The lack of playmakers on that side of the ball was evident, and it was exploited in the month Chan lost due to injury. He’s clearly the best player on the SU defense, the most important pass rusher on the team.

The year-long suspension of Phillip Thomas takes another bite out of the defense, and starting defensive end Mikhail Marinovich will graduate as well. Losing Chandler would be a devastating blow to an already mediocre pass rush, putting even more pressure on a shaky secondary.

This is a pivotal moment in the Marrone Era. Another sub .500 season and no bowl would make Doug’s seat fairly warm. SU has been unable to land the big fish in recruiting who could easily step in and become a force on defense (Ishaq Williams, Jarron Jones). The best talent in the ’12 class looks to be on the offensive side of the ball (Sugar Bear Thompson, George Morris). The top recruiter on staff is a former running back (Tyrone Wheatley), and Marrone’s background is on offense.

Chan has been a lynchpin on D, and provides a rare SU matchup problem on every play for opponents. It doesn’t feel like the best time for Jones to go pro just yet. His stock may have dropped after missing several games and playing on a bad Orange defense. He fell well short of his stated goal of (an absurd) 30 sacks. His numbers fell because he faced a ton of double teams. Many have pegged him as a 4th or 5th-round pick, which would mean he has plenty of room next season to lift his draft slot.

Chandler is a smart, friendly, down to Earth kid who “gets it” much like his brothers. With a stable family, and Art already going through the draft process, he should see the potential for a breakout senior year. He will be the defensive centerpiece, have a chance to play a full season and showcase his talent. The Fizz guess: Chandler decides this afternoon to return to the Orange for 2012.

Posted: Alex Plavin

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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