With the 38th pick of the third round, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Tar Heels defensive tackle Nazair Jones. Following his junior season at North Carolina, the six-foot-five, 295-pound force of nature decided to take his talent to the NFL this year. His teammate Mitch Trubisky was already drafted second overall by the Chicago Bears, and many other members of the 2016 North Carolina football team are due to be selected this year as well.
Jones was taken by the Seahawks with a compensatory pick and was the third of four picks the team had in the third round. He was the team’s second defensive player after they selected Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell in the first round. Seattle then went on to use four of their first five draft picks on defensive players as they look to build up the defensive side of the ball.
North Carolina’s starting nose tackle is remembered as the football player who couldn’t even walk just a few years ago. As documented by ESPN earlier in the football season, Jones almost didn’t make it to Chapel Hill at all. Diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, which is a chronic disease of the nervous system, Jones was fragile and constantly in pain. In high school, he could barely stand, let alone make a key block in a game. His career looked to be in doubt until he found a way to manage and overcome the pain.
Three years later, Nazair Jones walks away after his best season as a Tar Heel. He finished the 2016 season with a career-high 32 solo tackles and 70 total tackles in 13 games. He also made 9.5 tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks. After three years spent with the Tar Heels, Jones leaves with 146 total tackles and 22 tackles for loss.
Jones has the size, strength, and willingness to hit that will make him a serviceable defensive lineman in the NFL. Seattle might have also been impressed enough by his work ethic and perseverance over his affliction to take him when they did. NFL.com gave him a 5.52 draft grade, which equate to a backup or eventual starter.