Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones has dropped one spot in Touchdown Wire’s annual positional rankings for interior defensive linemen.
These particular positional rankings combine film study and advanced analytics. Last season, Jones ranked as the league’s No. 3 defensive tackle, mainly because he was a pain for opposing offensive linemen to block regardless of where he was lined up. This season, Jones ranked as the No. 4 defensive tackle, primarily because of the team’s early-season (failed) experiment of playing him as a full-time edge rusher.
“I learned the D-End position is hard as hell,” Jones told reporters following mandatory minicamp. “It was a learning curve for me, especially mental-wise. Knowing the sets, knowing the drops. I think it improved my overall game as a player, mentally being able to know a lot of the different positions.”
While Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar noted that Jones had some effective snaps on the edge, it was also apparent that the team’s defense started to get back into shape once Jones moved back inside to defensive tackle.
“The Chiefs went from 31st to ninth in overall Defensive DVOA in the second half of the season — from 27th to 11th against the pass, and from 28th to 11th against the run. The combination of Jones and Ingram made all the difference, especially when they worked together.”
The Melvin Ingram trade saw Jones move back to the defensive interior where he thrived. Jones finished the season with 65 total pressures, including 10 sacks, despite playing the first four games of the year at defensive end. Had he played the whole season on the defensive interior, flexing out to the defensive end spot only when required by the scheme, it’s possible he could have seen an even more productive season.
Only Steelers DT Cam Heyward, Titans DT Jeffery Simmons and Rams DT Aaron Donald ranked higher than Jones in this particular list. I’m still not sure I would take anyone other than Donald over Jones. Should the Chiefs’ plan for improved defensive line play succeed this season, expect Jones to gain some ground in this ranking next summer.