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Is SU’s Chandler Jones a Product of Hype? Some Draft Experts Skeptical

Could the Syracuse pass rusher end up with a contender on opening night?

After missing much of his junior year because of injuries, and falling well short of his (outlandish) stated goal of 30 sacks, some wondered whether it would be a mistake for Syracuse’s Chandler Jones to leave early for the NFL Draft. Those skeptics were wrong. Jones always had the most pro potential of his teammates, and he has shot up draft boards in recent weeks. He’ll likely end up as a late-first, early-second round pick and potentially land with an immediate contender (many boards have the Patriots selecting him at the end of the first).

Despite pedestrian production at Syracuse, Jones’ measurables, genes, intelligence and physical potential have helped him with talent evaluators. But is all this buzz worthy of a player whose numbers were average in a bad conference? Some draft experts, like SI.com’s Tony Pauline, believe he’s the product of media hype. He has a gregarious personality which lights up a room. He has two brothers who are professional athletes. Is the press focusing too much on that, and not enough on his football skills?

Part of Jones’ numbers are a bi-product of the injury, and much of that is also double-teams. He was always the focal point of any offensive coordinator’s game plan. But it’s still surprising to see how far he’s climbed. Pauline is skeptical Chan’s media hype reflects what NFL execs actually see.

“I don’t think Chandler Jones has shot up NFL draft boards and is going to be a first round pick. If he’s going to be a first-round pick it’s going to be late in the process if somebody maybe trades up for him.”

Many mocks including Mel Kiper’s and Todd McShay’s have Jones slotted as high as 19. However, Pauline doesn’t buy it and says there are better values.

“There are a lot of players in this draft like Chandler Jones, who are better than Chandler Jones. Alan Branch of Clemson, Vinny Curry of Marshall, Tyrone Crawford of Boise State. So I don’t believe the Chandler Jones hype. He’s a third-rounder, maybe a second rounder.”

Jones’ family tree definitely helps in scouts’ eyes. But he’s also benefitted by the ferocious pass rush of the Super Bowl champions. The Giants have stockpiled edge rushers over the last decade, and teams are looking at that as a blueprint for success.

“He’s liked because he can rush the passer. He’s a solid athlete who can rush the passer, and those guys usually go early. But I’ve never had him as a first-round pick. I’ve never considered him a first-round pick, and I don’t know why people are saying he’s a first-round pick.”

No matter where’s he’s drafted, Jones can be a solid NFL player. But a team is clearly taking a risk taking him on opening night. Chan’s attitude and work ethic are great, and he could end up being a quality pass rusher. It’s just that he’s far from a sure thing.

There is a benefit to Jones being overvalued, though: Exposure for his alma mater. SU has rarely had an early pick this decade, so a national TV audience watching a championship team like the Pats select an Orange may make Dr. Gross swoon like a tween at a Bieber concert. Here’s hoping Jones goes higher than Pauline predicts. Never a bad thing for Syracuse football to feel some good vibes.

Posted: Alex Plavin

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