The offseason is almost over, but there are still lists coming out and we love lists when there is nothing happening. The most recent came on Thursday from ESPN’s Rivers McCown who ranked the NFL’s top 25 prospects. Wouldn’t you know a Denver Broncos player made the list. In fact, the Broncos player didn’t just make the list, they were damn near the top. McCown named former third round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Dre’Mont Jones, as his #2 young prospect heading into 2020.
2. Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Denver Broncos
Age: 23 | Draft: Pick 71 in 2019 | Career snaps: 284
All Jones did down the stretch was win AFC Defensive Player of the Week with a 2.5-sack, two-tackles-for-loss demolition against the Lions in Week 16. That’s about the gist of what happened when he played at Ohio State, where he picked up 8.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in a dominant junior year that helped him make the easy decision to turn pro.
The Broncos had some turnover inside this offseason, bringing in Jurrell Casey and losing Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis. Jones is ticketed for a bigger role this season in that front, though one that may still see him protected on some run-down snaps as the Broncos have a deep line of solid run-stuffers such as Mike Purcell and DeMarcus Walker. Jones gained the respect of head coach Vic Fangio by playing hurt down the stretch, and Fangio noted in a presser after that Week 16 win over the Lions that “a lot of guys wouldn’t have played yesterday with what he had, but he wanted to play. I think that’s a good indication of who he is as a guy, and he got rewarded with a couple of sacks. Those are the kind of guys you want on your team.”
If Jones grows further into his role and learns to run-stuff as well as he can rush, he’s on the path to being one of the better interior linemen in the game, and he couldn’t pick a better player to learn from in that regard than Casey. If he never learns to do more than that, he’ll probably be a pretty good situational pass-rusher, à la Nick Fairley or Sheldon Richardson.
The Denver Broncos drafted Jones in 2019 looking to beef up their interior pass rush. The second-year pro was relatively quiet throughout his rookie season coming in mostly in passing situations, but he saw his snap count percentage spike above 50% for the first time in Week 16 and then above 60% in Week 17. He took advantage of the opportunity with his 2.5 sack performance in Week 16 and a start in Week 17.
He will likely continue playing mostly in passing situations behind Shelby Harris, but the Broncos have to be pleased with his development as a rookie under Vic Fangio.