I’m not sure you can say enough about the rookie seasons Deion Jones and Keanu Neal enjoyed for the Falcons, and Jones in particular was a speedy, flashy playmaker at a position where team had been weak for years. If he’s still getting outsized praise months after his rookie season, well, good.
No rookie linebacker came close to Deion Jones' production last year pic.twitter.com/1l9ElteNCr— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 6, 2017
Jones was better than he had any right to be in coverage, snapped up big plays left and right, piled up tackles and showed uncommon aptitude for pursuing ball carriers as a rookie. I don’t generally like to overhype rookies, but I’m not sure that’s possible with Jones, who was widely considered a third round pick a year ago but already looks like one of the best values in his draft class.
He’ll enter 2017 as the undisputed starter in the middle of the team’s linebackers corps yet again, with De’Vondre Campbell, rookie Duke Riley, and LaRoy Reynolds getting time around him. With Dontari Poe up front, it’s possible Jones will fare even better this year.
With apologies to Vic Beasley, Neal, and Grady Jarrett, Jones probably has the most upside of anyone on the defense given his elite physical tools and preternatural ability. His second season will hopefully go at least as well as his first, and we’ll be talking about his excellence again all throughout next year’s offseason.