While the preseason has lied to us time and time again, one game into the Baltimore Ravens preseason, the early returns on rookie defensive tackle Travis Jones look outstanding. Jones was the No. 40 ranked player on The Athletic’s 2022 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board. The description for the Big Board is as follows:
We’ve compiled a list of the top 300 prospects in the NFL Draft, and we will continue to update it until the day of the draft. Right now, there’s input from 82 different draft analysts.
This method has done a phenomenal job of predicting how the draft will go and where players are generally slotted. The consensus of these experts does a better predictive job than individual experts, and among those 80-plus analysts, the board itself has ranked in the top 10 in predicting draft order in each of the last three years — which is not something any individual expert can claim.
Heading into the draft, the former University of Connecticut standout had a dominant Senior Bowl performance, tested as one of the most athletic defensive lineman to grace the NFL Combine in the last five years and was considered a borderline fir- round pick by pundits and analysts alike.
Travis Jones is a DT prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.4 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 84 out of 1378 DT from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/sQ7NxDgqdl #RAS pic.twitter.com/zp9i3u84Vy— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 25, 2022
As the draft kicked off, day one passed and Jones’ name wasn’t called. The Consensus Board didn’t consider this a surprise. However, the second round was underway and Jones was one of the “best players available” pick after pick as the round concluded. Jones slid all the way to pick No. 76, where the Ravens finally ended his slide. 36 slots over the Consensus Board, Jones was considered one of the steals of the draft by many. The Draft Network’s Joe Marino wrote about Jones following day two of the draft:
3. Baltimore Ravens: Travis Jones – IDL, UConn (Round 3, Pick 76)
I will ask my question again. Is there a team this year having a better draft than the Baltimore Ravens?
In TDN scout Joe Marino’s words: “Travis Jones is a better prospect than Jordan Davis, and [the Ravens] got him two rounds later.”
Joe said it best during TDN’s coverage of the 2022 NFL Draft when he talked about Jones’ ability to attack the quarterback. Not only can Jones dominate in stopping the run but he also makes a real impact pressuring opposing quarterbacks from the A-gap.
Baltimore’s defense just gets scarier with each pick they make and the other 31 teams have got to stop letting them get incredible value with each selection.
Throughout training camp, Jones has made quite a name for himself. Buzz has been consistently strong throughout the offseason, starting with him having three deflections in a single practice during OTA’s, which has followed him into camp. Jones’ mate along the interior, nose tackle Michael Pierce, has had consistently glowing remarks about the rookie.
Michael Pierce on DL Travis Jones, who's been one of the Ravens' better rookies:— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) July 31, 2022
"Did you see him tonight? That's all you need to know. He's special. ... Physically gifted for a big dude. He can really, really move. They don't make too many like him. He's going to be nice." pic.twitter.com/sulXkSADie
While it’s rare for a teammate to speak ill of one another, Pierce’s words aligned with the same message that has tagged along with Jones since well before the NFL Draft; he’s the total package along the defensive line. Jones has prodigious core strength and hand strength, with an array of explosive moves. He finally was able to show them off against an the Titans and made plays as a 1-tech aligned inside to stuff the run multiple times, pushed the pocket as an interior rusher as he walked a guard into Titans quarterback Malik Willis’ lap before finally notching his first sack chasing down the elusive Willis and ripping him to the ground.
Travis Jones just absolutely controlling the center then shedding once the back shows his path. Beast. pic.twitter.com/wfK8GHKl7S— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) August 12, 2022
In each of the three clips in the video above, Jones shows off a different skillset. He was patient when he stacked, peaked then shed his blocker to stuff a run play. The next play, he worked across his blocker’s face laterally to work and force a cutback.
As a pass rusher, Jones stayed low, square and drove his blocker back with control and pace. Most astonishingly, after displaying his prowess in the run game, he looped outside with cat-like agility at over 320 pounds before chasing down Willis who gave Ravens defenders problems in space all night. He even showed the ability to throttle down and use start-stop quickness to stay with Willis’ cutback and wrestle him to the ground for a sack.
Again, it’s the preseason. We try our best not to overreact. However, when a player consistently dominates the NFL Draft circuit, sees a few defensive lineman drafted ahead of him, has a strong start to minicamp, continues it through training camp and finally puts it all together against an opponent? It’s impossible not to be excited about the rare skillset that he’s put on display so far. Jones ultimately could be the biggest steal of this draft class. His unique blend of size, power, technical prowess in terms of hand usage and body control, quickness and movement skills align to a Frankenstein’s monster-like skillset that could show an instant impact as a third-round pick once the regular season rolls around. It would be unsurprising to see Jones emerge as the most valuable rookie in the Ravens’ defensive class, or perhaps across the entire league.
Baltimore has struggled to generate interior pressure for years, with no interior defensive lineman generating seven or more sacks in over a decade, or 40 or more pressures since Trevor Pryce in 2008. While they’ve used players like outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith, Pernell McPhee and others in interior alignments, their true defensive lineman haven’t made anything near elite impacts as pass rushers. The Ravens need Jones to change that, desperately.
We’re only one preseason game in, but Jones looks legit.