The announcement on whether or not Syracuse University senior defensive end Chandler Jones will return for his fourth year of eligibility is expected to come at 3:30 p.m. Friday, but reports are slowly leaking out that Jones will enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
According to a tweet by SI.com's NFL Draft Analyst, Tony Pauline, Jones received a third-round grade from the draft advisory committee and the 6-foot-5, 265-pound lineman is ready to end is collegiate career.
When Jones was in the starting lineup this season he was a force to be reckoned with, as he tallied 7 1/2 tackles for a loss and 4 1/2 sacks in just seven games. Jones' biggest game came in a blowout victory, 49-23, of No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers when, after missing six games with a lower body injury, he compiled six solo tackles and two sacks.
It was obvious that Syracuse's defensive line was much better when Jones was healthy and playing. However, one must wonder if Jones does enter the 2012 NFL Draft would he have benefited from another season? Could he have vaulted his draft stock into the first round? Did any of this have to do with head coach Doug Marrone losing control of his locker room during the final five games of the season?
My guess, is yes, yes and yes.
There's no doubt that Jones could improve his strength and conditioning during this offseason, which could help him compile better stats in 2012. However, a NFL Draft prospect must strike while the iron is hot and if anything bad were to happen to him next season -- like an injury for the third straight season -- then it would certainly hurt his stock.
Another reason why Jones is probably deciding to bolt early is because he sees no potential for the '12 Syracuse squad. After a 2011 season that ended so badly -- five straight losses and a final 5-7 record -- there's no reason for a player like Jones to return. Jones, unlike USC's quarterback Matt Barkley, has no team goal to play for in '12 and it seemed that a bunch of the Orange players were not all on the same page.
With all those listed factors, there's no surprise that Jones would chose to forgo his finals season and try to earn a real paycheck.
-- For more on Syracuse Orange football NFL Draft prospects, check back to this StoryStream. Need more reaction to Jones' possible departure, visit the SB Nation blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.