One of the hardest types of players to evaluate and predict where they will land are those "'tweener" defensive players. Generally, these are college defensive ends who are deemed too small to play that position every down in the NFL and/or are usually best suited for 3-4 defenses and/or situational players in passing downs. They have become kind of an en vogue position in the NFL, particularly with the Bengals' AFC North foes and other teams like the Patriots and the Chargers.
If you were to ask scouts who one of those better "'tweener" players in the 2013 Draft is, you'd likely hear about the University of Georgia's Jarvis Jones. The former Bulldog was incredibly productive in 2012, posting 14.5 sacks and was one of the most dominant defensive players in the country. However, at 6'2" and 242 pounds, Jones is more of a linebacker's size in the NFL and teams would have to commit a lot of time and resources to plug him into a specific role in the league.
Unfortunately for Jones, he has had a rough start to the Combine weekend because of a myriad of injuries. He chose not to work out and has decided to put all of his eggs in the Pro Day basket, making sure that he's as healthy as possible when running and doing drills for scouts. However, it's a long-term injury that has teams starting to shy away from Jones--particularly in the first round where he has projected to go.
Apparently, Jones has a condition called "spinal stenosis", which can be a lingering and degenerative issue. Per ProFootballTalk, this isn't the first time that this issue has reared its ugly head. Jones was initially recruited by USC and their medical team recommended that he quit football because of the condition. The Georgia medical staff had a differing opinion.
Per a league source, Jones’ neck has prompted multiple teams to shy away from considering him, especially in round one. He left USC due to concerns over his spinal stenosis. The fact that Georgia welcomed him with open arms shows that reasonable medical minds will differ on whether to take the risk associated with a narrowed spinal canal.
While some teams surely will be willing to roll the dice on one of the top defensive players in the draft pool, multiple teams already have decided to avoid him.
While this is seemingly harsh news for Jones, it could be great news for a team interested in the youngster, as they could grab a good defensive player outside of the first round. While we feel bad for Jones, this also is the time of year that smokescreens are put out by clubs to throw other potential suitors off of their scent.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has shown a penchant for taking these project "'tweener" players in the draft and they have come with mixed results. For every Peter Boulware, there is a Dontay Moch and David Pollack.