Chandler Jones entering NFL draft

Syracuse Orange defensive end Chandler Jones said Friday he has decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

"I just want to thank all the Cuse fans, alum, teammates, & coaches for supporting me those 3yrs," Jones said on Twitter. "I'll always bleed orange & blue no matter what."

Jones missed five games this season with a knee injury but was still a first-team Big East selection with 39 tackles, 4½ sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. Despite the missed playing time, he was still the best player on an inconsistent defense.

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has been impressed with Jones' ability to use his hands to quickly disengage from blockers.

"He located the football quickly and made his presence felt against the run. Jones generated heat on the quarterback and even came up with an interception. With a good senior year, Jones has a chance to secure a first-round grade," Kiper wrote earlier this month.

Jones said earlier this year he would leave school early if the NFL draft advisory board said he had a chance to be drafted in the first three rounds.

With the departure of Jones and others, Syracuse's defense is losing most of its best players. Fellow defensive end Mikhail Marinovich will graduate this spring and starting safety Phillip Thomas has been kicked off the team.

Safety Shamarko Thomas also is considering leaving school early.

Jones' brother, Arthur Jones, plays defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Another brother, Jon, is a UFC fighter.

Andrea Adelson covers the Big East for ESPN.com.