No former LSU player made more most strides since the end of the 2015 season.
Fittingly, Deion Jones heard his name get called at the podium quite early on draft weekend.
The former Tigers linebacker did not need to wait all that long, as Jones was selected with the No. 52 pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday.
Jones is coming off his first and only year as a starter on LSU’s defense. After spending his first three seasons as a valiant special teams contributor, the 6-foot-1, 227-pounder earned a starting job at outside linebacker and wound up leading the team with 100 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. In addition, he had five sacks, six quarterback hurries and two interceptions.
In fact, no LSU defender has registered triple-digit tackles in a season since both Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow accomplished that feat during the 2012 season.
Fittingly, Jones, a team captain, shared LSU’s defensive MVP honors with safety Jamal Adams. Jones was also one of five finalists for the Butkus Award.
Even after an impressive senior season campaign in Baton Rouge, La., the New Orleans native began to turn heads at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Jones clocked in a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 33-inch vertical jump and a 120-inch broad jump.
However, the linebacker was unimpressed by that performance, and took it one step further a few later.
At the LSU Pro Day, Jones turned in a 4.38-second 40, which came as no surprise to his teammates and provided uncanny satisfaction for the NFL hopeful.
That same night, Jones met with the New Orleans Saints for dinner. Not surprisingly, numerous NFL teams have displayed a high level of interest in the ex-Tigers back soon after in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Jones’ biggest task will be picking up where he left off after just one year as a starter in the SEC. However, the linebacker was an outstanding performer at the high school level and a steady contributor on special teams before taking over for Kwon Alexander in 2015.
Jones may have been late to earn a starting job, but he made the most of it. With elite physical attributes and a high football IQ, it’s fitting that he got an opportunity to get drafted earlier than originally expected.