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Tar Heels NFL Draft Preview: Nazair Jones

The big defensive tackle could be a mid-draft steal

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Nazair Jones, the 6’5”, 295 pound Roanoke Rapids standout, has the chance to be a surprise pick during the middle rounds of the NFL Draft later this month. His size, strength, and willingness to hit can make him a serviceable defensive lineman in the NFL. However, his intangibles can help him elevate his value on a NFL roster.

Take a look at his highlight reel, via UNC Athletics:

During the 2016 season, Jones led the North Carolina Tar Heels in tackles for loss, registering 9.5 for a total of 29 yards. He was third on the team in total tackles with 70. Jones had 2.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. In three seasons with UNC, Jones registered 145 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two interceptions.

Here is Jones reviewing the 2016 season and his career at Carolina, via UNC Athletics:

At the NFL Combine, Jones registered 5.11 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 24.5 inch vertical jump, 101 inches in the broad jump, 7.93 seconds in the three-cone drill, and 4.63 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle. His 5.52 grade placed him 13th among defensive tackles.

His draft profile lists his size and physical strength as his major assets, including that his “initial punch has some shock behind it” and that he is “rarely beaten soundly by a base block.” However, the draft profile states that his “instincts and awareness are below average” and he is “fooled by misdirection, play-action and screen passes.”

Jones’s work ethic and desire may be the difference between a stint on a roster and a career in the NFL. His fight with complex regional pain syndrome as a teenager has been well-documented through his career at Carolina. Jones was confined to a hospital bed at age 16 as doctors struggled to find a cause. Here is more about how Jones battled the disease to be able to walk and return to football:

Via the UNC Football Media Guide, Jones started a non-profit called MADE Men Mentoring that “aims to provide a support system for underprivileged young men in North Carolina by pairing them with college student-athletes who will mentor and support them in the areas of academics, competitive athletics, and manhood.” His drive to make a difference in the lives of others shows a special quality of Jones that goes beyond what he does on the gridiron.

Jones states that his favorite team is the Carolina Panthers and he wore #90 because of Julius Peppers. With Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman’s tendencies to add “hog mollies” in each draft, perhaps Jones will be a good addition to the defensive line in Charlotte.