Ravens Keep ‘Biggest, Baddest’ Defender From Falling to Steelers

Travis Jones

Michael Hickey/Getty Images Travis Jones speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 4, 2022 in Indianapolis.

On Friday night the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft (No. 84 overall). No doubt Pittsburgh is happy with its acquisition of Leal, who projects as a defensive end in the team’s scheme — a position where the Steelers need an infusion of youth. Yet the Steelers have an even more urgent need at nose tackle, as starter Tyson Alualu — who turns 35 on May 12 — is coming off a fractured ankle that caused him to miss almost all of last season.

That said, the Steelers were targeting a particular defensive tackle prospect on Friday night, only to see their biggest rival snap him up just minutes earlier.

“They were hoping to have a shot at Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones in the third round, but the Baltimore Ravens selected Jones with the 76th overall pick, eight spots ahead of the Steelers,” wrote longtime Steelers insider Gerry Dulac at post-gazette.com on Friday night.

Both the Ravens and Steelers have been regarded by analysts as a good fit for Jones and his skill set. For example, J.B. Butler of The Draft Network opined that Jones “would be a day one starter for Pittsburgh,” as his “toughness and relentlessness (would) fit right into the Steelers’ hard nose(d) culture” — the perfect complement to All-Pro defensive end Cameron Heyward and reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt.

But now he’ll be embarking upon his NFL career with the Ravens, where “his violent hands and cranked motor makes him an ideal fit in Baltimore,” concluded Butler.

Travis Jones Was Viewed as a Possible First-Round Pick

Jones — who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds — wasn’t expected to remain available beyond the second round, not after an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl in February, and not after running a 4.92 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, as per baltimoreravens.com.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently spotlighted Jones as a player who could “sneak into the first round,” noting that he’s “the prototypical immovable object at nose tackle and one of the strongest players in this class. It’s not difficult to find an instance of him discarding an opposing offensive lineman on tape.”

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms: Jones Another ‘Steal’ For Ravens

For his part, NFL analyst Chris Simms is incredulous that Jones was somehow still available at No. 76 overall, noting that Jones was his third-ranked defensive tackle, saying he “moves so well you can’t believe he’s 325 pounds.”

Simms views the selection as a coup for Baltimore.

“Ravens just continue to steal the biggest baddest dudes on the planet,” offered Simms via Tweet on Friday night.

For yet another illustration of Jones’ potential, here he is manhandling New England Patriots first-round pick Cole Strange during a Senior Bowl practice.

He’s one of three defenders that the Ravens selected in the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, following in the wake of safety Kyle Hamilton (No. 14 overall) and outside linebacker David Ojabo (No. 45 overall). The Ravens also selected Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum (No. 25 overall), a player who has been described as “a game-changer in the middle.”

In his last season with the Huskies, Jones recorded 47 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, despite being double-teamed on a regular basis.

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