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NFL Draft: UConn DT Travis Jones likely to be an early pick

The New Haven native has been flying up mock drafts as the NFL Draft approaches.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

One week from tonight, UConn football could see its top pro prospect this year picked in the first round. Defensive lineman Travis Jones is rated by most as the third-best player in the NFL Draft at his position, and if he doesn’t hear his name called in the first round on Thursday, he’ll most likely get the call in the second round on Friday.

If chosen in the first round, the New Haven, Connecticut product would become the first Husky first-round pick in seven years, since Byron Jones was taken by the Dallas Cowboys with the 27th overall pick in 2015.

The 6’4, 333 lb. interior lineman — who projects as a nose tackle at the next level — was a star at the Senior Bowl and NFL Draft Combine back in February. Those performances, coupled with his steady improvement from year one to year four, have led to increased interest and mock draft status for Jones.

Dane Brugler’s ‘The Beast’ is the most comprehensive mock out there. It’s become so infamous that The Athletic has it password protected now. They rank Jones as the third-best DL in the draft, with early-starter potential in the two-gap technique. The Beast also notes that the two defensive linemen ranked ahead of Jones — Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis — are set to go a little earlier in the night.

The two Bulldogs are ahead of Jones in most projections, so where they go could dictate Jones’ spot. If teams reach for them early, Jones’ stock could rise. If they slip, Jones could slide into the second round. Brugler’s latest mock draft has Jones going at #28 to the Green Bay Packers.

Sports Illustrated’s latest mock draft has Jones heading to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 32nd overall pick in some funky trade. That’s noteworthy because new Bucs head coach Todd Bowles loves interior linemen that have pocket pushing abilities.

CBS Sports’ mock has Jones falling into the second round at pick #71. Peter Schrager of NFL.com does not have Jones in his first-round mock.

It’s not on any mocks, but Jones did visit the New York Giants last week. The Giants pick at five and seven though, so while that’s a dream scenario for many Husky fans, it would also perhaps get GM Joe Schoen fired unless he trades down with those picks or back into the first round somehow.

Regardless of when he is selected, Jones’ life will change that weekend. He’ll realize the dream of every young athlete who makes it to the college level and be the first player from Wilbur Cross High School drafted in the NFL. The fact that Jones was able to overcome constant double teams and a persistent losing environment at UConn is a testament to his drive and talent.

UConn’s NFL draft history has been modest as of late. After Byron Jones, WR Geremy Davis was selected in the 6th round that year but after 2015 UConn has only had three draftees: DB Obi Melifonwu - 2018, Raiders, 2nd round; DT Foley Fatukasi - 2019, Jets, 6th round; OT Matthew Peart - 2020, 3rd round (former Husky Tyler Davis was a 6th round pick in 2020).

Other Huskies this year who are receiving interest and might hear their names called later in the draft, or sign as undrafted free agents, are OT Ryan Vandemark and LB Omar Fortt. Both received attention at UConn’s Pro Day and have been attending workouts with teams. RB Kevin Mensah, TE Jay Rose, LS Brian Keating, and former Husky WR Keyion Dixon were also among the Pro Day participants.