Regardless of what scheme or mixed front the Falcons defense trots out in 2013, Mike Nolan and Atlanta are still in desperate need of an impact defensive lineman.
Margus Hunt, while intriguing, also wins the "most likely to bust" award out of this year's top-tier defensive end prospects. Sam Montgomery is a real possibility, but I grow less and less enthralled with his play by the week.
And there remains the primary question of "will this guy fit in Atlanta's defense." There's a lot that we don't know in that regard.
Two things we do know, however, are that the Falcons love versatile players and that Nolan likes running defenses with multiplicity. Why not go someone who can do it all in Datone Jones, a guy who - unlike Margus Hunt - really stood out at the Senior Bowl?
Stats (2012): 62 total tackles (45 solo), 19.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 2 blocked kicks
Why He'll Work:
Jones likely projects as a 3-4 DE or possibly even a 4-3 DT at the next level, and his broad skill set would allow him to transition well into either role.
Athletically, he would be more than ready to start as a rookie in the NFL, and his technique and pad level when defending the run is more refined than some of his peers.
His get-off at the snap is great, he's a real high-effort player and he has great agility that allows him to track down opposing ball-carriers as they attempt to turn the corner. Perhaps most impressive is the strength Jones has displayed against some of the better offensive tackles in the game, most notably against Alabama lineman D.J. Fluker in the Senior Bowl.
This is also the type of player with an impressive intelligence about him. In interviews, he has shown that he has a thorough grasp of the game and really understands what he and his defense needs to do in order to get better. His on-field instincts are excellent, as well.
Most importantly, in this blogger's humble opinion, is Jones' ability as a lineman to remain productive for all three downs. He is a guy defenses can absolutely rely on to keep the pressure on opposing offenses. The Falcons could use that after some second-half defensive collapses in 2012.
And of course, the street cred he brings from playing at Compton High School is surely off the charts.
Why He Won't Work:
He played college football under this guy. We can only hope and pray that Datone still enjoys football after that experience.
Jones is talented, but he'll never be confused for a speedy edge-rusher. He most likely slots in as a power lineman, someone who can be used to push the pocket in multiple places along the line of scrimmage. He is much more productive rushing the interior, probably not a player whose going to beat guys around the corner a la John Abraham.
His play can be inconsistent at times. Has the tendency to over-pursue players in the backfield. Needs some work on disengaging his blocks once its clear that he's been beat on a play.
We can't forget that the position that requires the most talent in a 3-4 defense is defensive end.
While having a nose tackle that can draw double teams is important, he does not need to be fantastic. And you look at teams that have excelled at implementing the 3-4 defense like the 49ers and Ravens, you see they have dominant defensive ends in Justin Smith and Haloti Ngata.
And as far as Jones goes, I haven't seen many players in this year's class whose positives so clearly outweigh the question marks, at least as far as the Falcons should be concerned.
The real issue is not whether Jones is the worth the pick, but if he'll still be around. Defensive ends go off the board quickly nowadays, and I would be incredibly surprised if he's still sitting around at No. 30 overall. But if he is, there is no question that Dimitroff needs to pull the trigger.