The Cleveland Browns appeared to be at a crossroads with former first-round pick Jedrick Wills. His fifth-year option was due and the norm has been the club has exercised these options before the draft. But that did not happen with Wills. Finally, the club took the option which will keep Wills in-house.
With this in mind, going into the draft, GM Andrew Berry knew he had to come away with a prospect that just may become Wills’ replacement or RT Jack Conklin. Or at the very least, can become this year’s swing tackle the way Chris Hubbard was used.
Berry did find backup OT help when he selected Ohio State University’s Dawand Jones in Round 4 at pick #111. Jones is a mountain of a man. Literally. He stands 6’-8” and tips the scales at 374.
Now, remember that Berry was able to select Jones in the fourth round. He was previously graded out as second-round talent. He completely dominated all the defensive line talent at this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus noted this after seeing Jones at the Senior Bowl:
“So, for me, the biggest riser was Dawand Jones, the Ohio State cat. Because heading into this, I was not high on him. He was in the 70s on the PFF Draft Board. I thought he’s a nice guy towards the back end of Day 2 that you just kind of take a shot on and see if he can, maybe evolve into the position. But I think already, he is a much more NFL ready player than I was giving him credit for.”
This gets us to Jones’ draft position. PFF had him ranked in the 70s as Renner pointed out. Most draft site Big Boards had him in the second-to-third rounds although he did have some predictions for Round 1.
Here is a taste of Jones’s ranking with various draft sites: Draft Countdown #46, The Draft Network #22, Draft Buzz #34, NFL Draft Scout #45, USA Today #50, ESPN #90, CBS Sports #89, Huddle Report #27, Draft Wire #56, Walter Football #36, SB Nation #50, and Sporting News #37.
After the Browns picked him in the fourth round, ESPN analysts Matt Miller and Louis Riddick had great things to say about Jones; with most of that conversation centered around his overall mammoth size which includes a nearly 88-inch wing span.
Miller stated after the pick:
“He started 25 games at Ohio State. You don’t do that if you’re not a talented player, especially in that RPO zone scheme, so we know he has some movement ability. Linemen are going to have a long day, they’re going to need to pack a lunch to run around him because of that wing span. The quickness is not always there, but the power is a lot like Orlando Brown Jr. was coming out of Oklahoma, where you’re going to have to figure out as a pass rusher how to work with him.”
So as soon as the NFL draft began, one has to wonder why the descent for such a big man who is a proven road grader. How did a second-round grade become a fourth-round reality?
Most draft experts feel that Jones fell two rounds because there are concerns about his work ethic, his weight which will fluctuate (more on the incline than descent), and if Jones really has a deep desire to play football.
Then there are the reports that Jones wanted a shot at the NBA instead of pursuing an NFL career.
These things come into play with the first three rounds but are more relaxed with the bottom four rounds. Clubs that miss on Day 3 players consider these losses negligible and part of the costs of doing business.
Therefore, Jones is considered a developmental player. The hopes are that offensive line coach Bill Callahan can mold him into the future replacement for either Jack Conklin or Jedrick Wills. The same is true for James Hudson who is a future starting tackle in waiting. Right now the Browns have three offensive tackles which have two years remaining on their current contracts. Surely Jones will be ready to start by then.
Jones was invited to the Senior Bowl but only participated in one practice. After that one session, all the talk was about him. Not a single defensive lineman could maneuver around him in 1-on-1 drills no matter how many spin or swim moves were attempted. Needless to say, nobody is going to bullrush him.
He is a monster of a man now, but Dawand Jones was just 21 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce the day he was born. Certainly, the weight is slightly above the normal size of a newborn, but it seemed like every visit to her son’s pediatrician, the doctor showed his mother Deanna Jones how much her son was escalating.
Jones grew up in Indianapolis. He was a dominant two-sport athlete in high school, earning him multiple D1 scholarship offers for both football and basketball.
As good as he was in football, he was incredible on the basketball court. His play was reminiscent of Shaquille O’Neal, just inches shorter but with the same girth and dominance in the paint. Growing up, Jones had aspirations of becoming an NBA star. At age 12, he was even six-foot tall. He even slept with a basketball.
While his future would eventually be in football, Jones averaged 17 points with nine rebounds per game and set a record at Ben Davis High School for field goal percentage. After his senior year, Jones made the Indiana All-Star basketball team. In 2017, Ben Davis won the 6A state championship in basketball with Jones as their main player.
The Dawand Jones basketball highlights are crazy pic.twitter.com/ohp6p0pCeL— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) April 29, 2023
Jones played on the freshman team at Ben Davis and at the end of their season was brought up to the varsity. When their season finished, Jones turned in his football equipment and informed the football coach he was not playing the following year. Even though he had the obvious size and athleticism to play football, Jones wanted to focus on being a basketball player.
Remembering back, this is what Jones told the Indianapolis Star recently:
“I was all in on basketball. So it kind of set me back (with football). If I would have played all the time, I probably would have developed into a better offensive lineman with that extra year. But me being competitive, I wanted it now. I wanted to be the best I could in one sport. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have played two sports and been open-minded.”
Jones did return to the gridiron in his junior year but shared snaps at offensive tackle because he was behind in his development. That season Ben Davis won the state championship.
There were some offers in basketball, but not near the letters, calls, and scouts that wanted him for his football skills.
During this time, Jones stated in the Indianapolis Star:
“I just had to take my business from basketball and push it to football and make that dream the same dream. I used to say I wanted the NBA. So I just switched that to the NFL. All that’s changed. I just let it go out the window.”
As a football player, he was rated a four-star recruit but was a consensus Top-15 player in the State of Indiana. Jones is also an avid bowler. He passed up Mid-American Conference basketball offers to pursue football.
Jones had football offers from Auburn, Ball State, Boston College, Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan, Bowling Green, Mississippi State, Florida, Louisville, Florida State, Cincinnati, USC, Toledo, Texas, Penn State, Eastern Kentucky, TCU, Eastern Illinois, Oregon, Texas, and Tennessee-Martin. His official visits were with Ohio State, Penn State, Mississippi State, and USC.
With basketball scholarship offers from Ball State and Kent State in hand, on National Signing Day in 2019 he came close to choosing USC with the great weather, the beach, and the laid-back California lifestyle. But he committed to play football at Ohio State. Jones did inquire with his Ohio State coaches if he would be able to join the Buckeyes basketball team at some point, but with his time commitment to football, the college basketball dreams quietly dissipated.
A two-year starter for the Buckeyes at right tackle, Jones had rare size and length.
It was at Ohio State that Jones got his nickname “Big Thanos” after the Marvel character who is also massive in size.
In all, Jones played all four years at Ohio State with 41 games with 27 starts. As a freshman, he appeared in nine games. He played 13 games at right guard and 14 at right tackle. In 2022, Ohio State’s offense averaged 490.7 yards per game and was the Number 2 scoring team with 44.2 points per game. The year before the Buckeyes were the best offense in the nation in total offense (561.5) and scoring offense (45.7).
Jones allowed zero sacks his senior year at Ohio State within 419 offensive snaps.
Honors & Awards
2022: First-team All-American (CBS Sports), Second-team all-Big Ten (coaches)
2021: Second-team all-Big Ten Conference (media) and third-team by the coaches
The NFL calls his name
Jones is an absolute mauler in the run game. Expected to be a Day 2 draft pick, Berry found the massive tackle still undrafted in the fourth round at pick #111. Talk about value.
The knock on him is that the elite speed rushers can fly by without much effort. The trick is not to allow Jones to get both hands on the defender. If he does, the offensive tackle will win. If not, whoever is under center for the Browns will have an expensive laundry bill trying to remove all those grass stains.
Jones has a lot of power with run-blocking expertise as he can plow open running lanes. He is very aggressive and persistent. With being so large, he has great length and a long reach. His grip strength is outstanding.
His footwork needs work as he does not possess the most nimble feet with quite a bit of heaviness in this department. But he is quite good in pass blocking as long as he remains square.
It should become a certainty that Coach Callahan will require Jones to lose some weight. If he lost 30 pounds, he still would be a 344-pound dude and possess 30-40 pounds over any defender but now with a lighter frame. He will need to be able to protect the edge better. Jones cannot allow his feet to lag attempting to get to his outside.
So what can the Browns expect from Jones?
His ideal role would become the starting right tackle eventually. Jones’ scheme fit is a gap run scheme. He is a massive tackle who figures to have issues against speed rushers but can be coached on how to cover that outside with a better first step.
Jones has better feet than the normal with a very wide body that will agitate defenders who are hell-bent to get around. With that being said, there is the reality of what exactly is the ceiling for the talented former Buckeye.
Once Jones arrives in Coach Callahan’s nurturing arms, his footwork will improve with a much better quickness and urgency installed. He is already a smart offensive lineman who has the opportunity of a lifetime with coming to Cleveland in Callahan’s care.
Riddick also assessed:
“What will determine his ultimate success is his commitment to the game. He is a guy, right now, who can be an All-Pro or he can be out of the league in a couple of years.”
We all know speed rushers at the college level are but a microcosm of what the defensive line offers in the NFL.
Jones’ Twitter handle is @dvj79 while his Instagram is @dawandj.
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