When former Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones sat down to weigh his NFL options, two factors helped him make his decision.
The first was his brother, Arthur. Back when Arthur was playing defensive line for the Orange, he had a similar opportunity to leave school early for the NFL draft. After putting together a season that led him to first-team Big East honors, Arthur Jones decided to stay in school. It was a decision that ended up costing him in the NFL draft, because Jones hurt his pectoral muscle, and then his knee and slid all the way to the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round.
The second was information he got from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Chandler Jones knew if he was told he would go anywhere in the first three rounds, he would most likely leave. He was given a second- or third-round grade.
So, with all that information in front of him, Jones decided it would be best for him to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. It was not an easy decision, even though he had those two critical pieces of information. Jones recalled his heart was pounding when he had to deliver the news to coach Doug Marrone. It was that phone call that put the reality of the situation in front of Jones.
He would never suit up for the Orange again.
"Being a 21-year-old making a decision to change my whole life was huge for me," Jones said in a phone interview. "I had a lot of different yeses and nos from a lot of different people. I love Syracuse University, and I can tell you this was definitely not an easy decision."
He said there was a feeling that he was letting the team down because the Orange were not as successful as he wanted them to be this past season. But he also felt it was important to embark on a new chapter in his career, and to take full advantage of a season that also saw him get first-team Big East honors despite missing five games with a knee injury.
So Jones is now set up in Pensacola, Fla., working with Athletes Performance Inc. to help him prepare for the draft. He is expecting an invitation to the NFL combine in February, but will not get official word until after the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft passes this Sunday.
Jones is working to get in the best shape possible to wow scouts and improve his draft stock. He also is set to participate in the Syracuse Pro Day in March.
"My biggest strength is speed, but I'm still working on my 40 time, my bench press. I'm decent there, but I can be better. Basically, everything I can work on, I am going to work on," he said.
Because of his size (6-foot-5, 265 pounds), he could conceivably be moved to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Jones said there were a few packages the Syracuse defense ran that had him standing up, and he is perfectly fine with either position.
""I feel like whatever the head coach tells me to play I'm going to play," Jones said. "I feel like I'm athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Coach (Scott) Shafer had a few schemes where I stood up and played outside linebacker. I felt pretty good and pretty fluent at it. I feel like I have good enough hips to play the 3-4, but now have to prove myself at combine day and show I can play either the 3-4 or the 4-3."