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2013 Steelers Draft Prospects: Jarvis Jones high risk, high reward

Georgia's dominant outside linebacker Jarvis Jones brings with him mammoth college numbers despite a narrow spinal column. His injury could be enough to send him far enough down for the Steelers to take a chance on him.

Ed Zurga

Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones plays with a sense of precognition. He sees opportunities more than just plays; as if he's fully aware of what an offense is running, and he attacks it with a sense of where his teammates will be.

He's like a rush outside linebacker with the play instincts of a middle linebacker.

One play he wished he had back, probably, is one against Oregon in 2009, when he was playing as a true freshman at USC. The result of a hit led him to be diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal column.

The trainers at USC would not clear him to play, but after some time out of the game, he ended up at Georgia, where he turned himself into a playmaking machine - apparently unnerved by the fact his spine has been narrowed.

How much that narrow spine will affect his draft stock remains to be seen, but one thing is evident; it didn't affect his production. And if it did, we're looking at one of the most awesome talents available in this year's draft.

Jones led the nation with 14.5 sacks and a shocking 19.5 tackles for loss. But the main thing that has pushed him into top 5 conversation is his coverage ability. He can turn and run with receivers much faster than him due to his athleticism, making him an outstanding three-down talent.

A blunt scouting evaluation of Jones is simply that he looks better than everyone else. It's almost like he's pacing himself for the moment at which he'll make a play, and he knows ahead of time when that will be. When he sees it, he explodes. Ball carriers go backward when he hits them. He leaves no doubt.

So why even bother mentioning him as a candidate for the Steelers at the No. 17 pick? The injury is something that may affect the duration of his career. Teams looking to invest top five value in a player will think three times about taking a guy with a degenerative condition, particularly since he's already 24 years old. Teams will also look at his performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, when he was handled quite well by tight end Michael Williams (an outstanding blocking TE prospect) and even fullback Kelly Johnson.

If you watch the Alabama game, though, you have to watch the Florida game as well. Jones showed an excellent spin move rushing off both the left and right edge, and he made Florida pay for trying to block him with a tight end. He wasn't shutout against Alabama, but they were able to run at and over him, particularly in the second half.

But they were national champions for a reason. Jones wasn't the only player they laid out in 2012.

Football is a game of plays, though, and few, if any, made more than Jones did against outstanding competition throughout the season. He'll still be able to add bulk to his 242 pound frame, and the Steelers have found success at the outside linebacker position with guys his size.

It's as difficult seeing him fall to 17 as it is seeing the Steelers pass on him if he's available. He has the widest projected range of selection due to the injury, and could end up being the first linebacker from Georgia the Steelers select since Kendrell Bell in 2001, and first Bulldogs player since Fred Gibson in 2005.