Having looked at each of the Jets’ draft picks in detail, we’ve now moved on to discuss each of their undrafted free agent signings. We continue today with a breakdown of Florida State defensive tackle Fred Jones.
The 22-year old, who also goes by Fredrick Jones, is listed at 6’2” and 304 pounds and started 10 games in his four year college career, including eight in his senior season. He posted 67 tackles, including eight for loss, in his career with 2.5 sacks and three passes defensed.
Jones was a low-profile recruit for FSU in 2014, as he was rated as just a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and the only other schools to offer him a scholarship were Western Kentucky and Fordham. He was thought to have been awarded the scholarship as a legacy choice because his father and uncle were both big stars at FSU. His uncle was Marvin Jones, a linebacker who went on to play 10 years with the Jets.
After redshirting his first year, Jones played sparingly in his freshman year, recording just eight tackles, including one for a loss. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, he made the first two starts of his career and improved his production with 15 tackles including one for a loss.
He didn’t make any starts in his redshirt junior season, but again improved on his production with 18 tackles, including two for loss. He also had his first half-sack.
As a redshirt senior, Jones became a full time starter and started eight of the first nine games. However, he was banged up down the stretch, missing a couple of games and moving into a reserve role. Nevertheless, he posted career highs of 26 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. He also recorded the first three passes defensed of his career.
Jones wasn’t invited to the scouting combine, but was invited to play in the Tropical Bowl. He was rated as a possible late round pick, but it wasn’t much of a surprise that he didn’t get drafted.
The Jets signed Jones as an undrafted free agent after he went unselected in the draft last month.
Now let’s take a look at what Jones brings to the table, divided into categories.
Jones is undersized and has a below average length and hand size. However, there has been a recent surge in success from players with the same kind of profile.
While the Jets have listed him at 304, he actually weighed in at 318 at his pro day. His athletic numbers were underwhelming though. He ran a 5.32 in the 40-yard dash and his explosiveness and agility numbers were below average to poor. He posted a solid 26 bench press reps though.
In 2018, FSU mostly played in a 4-3 with Jones starting on the right side. However, he still played plenty of snaps at the nose tackle position and often was at his most impressive when in that role. In his previous three seasons, FSU had a 3-4 base and he played a higher percentage of his snaps as a nose tackle.
In addition to his role on defense, Jones also saw time in short yardage packages on offense, operating as an extra blocker.
Jones barely played as a freshman and averaged about 20 snaps per game over the next two years, but proved capable of handling a bigger workload in 2018 when he averaged 35 snaps per game. He played 40 or more three times, including a high of 53.
In the trenches, he gives a constant effort and will chase plays out to the sideline in pursuit. He does a lot of a dirty work inside, requiring him to battle against double and triple-teams and free up his team’s linebackers to play in space.
Jones has a stout build and a low center of gravity that enables him to hold up at the point of attack and win leverage battles. He also has the quickness to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield and there are plenty of examples of him exploding out of his stance to knock his man back at the point of attack.
In one-on-one match-ups, Jones can be disruptive, as on this play which sees him drive his man back into the pocket and get in on the tackle.
However, he can also hold up against double-teams. On this play, he even manages to split the double and make the play in the hole.
His main issue is one of consistency because he will sometimes come out of his stance too high. When he keeps his pad level low he can be dominant, but on this short yardage play he gets driven out of the middle.
Jones moves well laterally and seems to have good awareness of where the football is at most times to bottle up runs.
Jones doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher but he’s usually been employed in a role whereby he’s just occupying blockers on the interior.
His statistical production, both in terms of sacks and pressures has been consistently low, but he flashes the ability to burst into the backfield at times, as he does on this quick move.
What makes Jones so effective in the trenches is his technique and hand placement. He’s good at throwing off blocks and understands leverage well so he can keep his outside hand free and get in on tackles.
Here’s an example of him winning a leverage battle by keeping his pads low, rocking his man back with a well placed punch to the upper chest and then swatting him aside to get to the ball.
While Jones wasn’t particularly productive as a tackler - averaging less than 1.5 tackles per game for his career, his contributions often resulted in other players making the play after he occupied a blocker or penetrated. He also hardly had any missed tackles.
On this play, he overran the play after having blown up the center, but this still led to the play being stopped for a loss.
When he gets the opportunity to make a tackle, Jones will wrap and and haul his man to the ground aggressively. He had no forced fumbles in his college career though.
Jones was never used in a role where he would drop into coverage, but flashed some ability to bat down passes at the line as he had three in his final season.
Jones was a four-time all-ACC academic honor roll selection and graduated early so he could do a masters degree during his fifth season at FSU.
On the field, he’s regarded as having good football IQ and you can see evidence of this all the time as he’ll read keys to penetrate into the backfield, react to where the football is and keep his head on a swivel while rushing the passer.
Here was a rare play where he lost sight of the ball and went after the running back on a read option keeper.
However, there was another play where he read and blew up a double-reverse in the backfield.
Ordinarily, you wouldn’t expect any significant contributions from a defensive tackle, other than rushing kicks. However, Jones made some excellent contributions.
In the return game, the Seminoles would line Jones up in the middle of the field as a blocker and he would look to light up opposing players.
He was also used in a punt protection role. It’s rare that you’ll see a highlight from someone playing that role, but this was a spectacular play.
Within that role, he showcased surprising athletic ability, hustle and lane integrity on a few returns where the return man broke a few tackles and Jones was able to get in on the stop.
The fact that Jones was contributing as a special teamer tells you all you need to know about his character. Obviously, he’s a team-first player and a locker room leader.
He won multiple team awards at FSU, including the Torch Bearer award in 2017 which goes to the player who has exhibited the most leadership. He’s also done a lot of work in the community.
His on-field discipline was also good, with just two penalties on defense, both in his first two seasons, and none on special teams.
Jones started the first six games last year but then went down with a knee injury. He missed one game, then came back and started the next two, although he struggled in the latter one. After missing the following game, he returned and came off the bench with a reduced workload in the last two games.
Gregg Williams plays multiple fronts, so Jones’ experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense should serve him well. He seemed to play his best football at the nose tackle position and that’s the one that suits his skill-set the best, although he’s undersized for that role even though he weighed in at 318 at his pro day.
Of course, the Jets are already building their defensive interior around an undersized nose tackle in Quinnen Williams, so Jones could potentially be used similarly to him. Obviously his path to becoming an eventual starter is blocked though.
Much as he was when FSU recruited him, Jones is being largely ignored within this year’s rookie class, but actually shows on film that he might have a lot to offer. Some of his flashier plays on film are absolutely spectacular and the fact he contributed on special teams was a pleasant surprise that suggests he may yet have some untapped athletic potential.
His success is founded on his technique, which is absolutely a transferable skill. And while he is probably just a two-down player at the NFL level and ideally needs to bulk up even more, it will be interesting to see what kind of success he can have against NFL talent in preseason.
While he was far less heralded than some of his linemates, including third-round pick Derrick Nnadi, sixth-rounder DeMarcus Christmas and former five-star recruit and possible future day two pick Marvin Wilson but these players were able to have some of their success because of him doing the tough work on the inside.
The Jets are deep on the defensive line and Jones would probably have to beat out some recent draft picks to earn a roster spot. However, he’s worth keeping an eye on because he might open some eyes in training camp and preseason.