Why Undrafted?: Taiwan Jones

Why Undrafted?: Taiwan Jones, LB, Michigan State
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

One of the players who was really impressive at the East-West Shrine was Michigan State inside linebacker Taiwan Jones. All week, he showed more speed and athleticism than he was generally given credit for, and it looked like he had more than just run-stuffing ability as a middle linebacker. His pass coverage suggested that he could develop into a three-down linebacker capable of contributing in pass defense.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder never had huge production at Michigan State, but he was a contributor to one of the nation’s top defenses over the past few seasons. Jones had 60 tackles with four sacks and an interception as a senior. After his quality week at the East-West Shrine, he ran slow 40 time at the Combine: 4.95 seconds. Still, Jones looked like a player worthy of being selected on the third day of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he went undrafted.

Sources from a few teams said they had a late-round grade on Jones. When they were picking though, there were players with higher grades available and they simply followed their draft boards. For example, one team said that they landed a player in the seventh round who they had given a third-round grade. They liked Jones, but a better value was available. Sources said that Jones was definitely a draftable prospect and feel that he was just one of those players who slipped through the draft.

After going undrafted, Jones signed with the New York Jets. The Jets were a good choice as they could use some youth to develop at inside linebacker and don’t have any young draft picks at the position. Sources say that Jones has made a positive impression in New York and has already made progress with the coaching staff, including head coach Todd Bowles. Nine-year veteran David Harris is set at one spot and Demario Davis is the other starter, but Jones is a viable candidate to win a backup spot behind those two. With a new coaching staff and front office, the Jets hierarchy isn’t married to any holdovers, so if Jones plays well, he could get consideration as a player to develop into a starting role in a few years. Jones will have to impress on special teams to make the final 53 man-roster, but he certainly seems capable of winning a backup job for New York.

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