This year saw the most dominant defensive line in the history of the Shepherd Rams’ football program.
Mike Franklin routinely dominated the opposition from the interior while Xavier Tyler did the same. Robert Hayes caused confusion from the end spot and often scared people in the process. Last but definitely not least was Howard Jones who was known for his freak speed and length off the end.
Jones competed in the National Football League Players Association Bowl, a game geared toward players who were projected to be drafted but most likely not in the first two rounds. There were players from Oklahoma, Hawaii and Stanford among others. A Shepherd player was among them, and he did not disappoint.
While total statistics were not available, Jones recovered a fumble and often harassed the opposition, leading to six-time NFL Executive of the Year Bill Polian saying that Howard reminded him of NFL sack leader Robert Mathis. That’s high praise coming from someone as well-regarded as the former Indianapolis Colts general manager.
In February, Howard will arrive in Indianapolis to compete in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Chances are the Freedom High graduate will post very quick numbers in the 40-yard dash and impressive numbers in the 225-pound bench press as well. His lateral quickness probably won’t be the best, but chances are teams will be fascinated by his combination of strength and straight-line speed.
The earliest he will go in the draft is probably the third round. Very rarely do small-school prospects go earlier, but Howard has the statistics as well as the measurables to possibly go earlier should a team fall in love with him. Potential landing spots could be the Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those are just potential landing spots, but he would make sense for the Steelers.