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Patrick Jones II declares for 2021 NFL draft

The Pitt defender ranks second in the nation in sacks, with nine in 11 games

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt defensive end Patrick Jones II announced on Friday afternoon that he would forgo the postseason, should Pitt earn an invitation to a bowl game, and focus on preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. The announcement follows similar statements from Rashad Weaver and Paris Ford, who joined Jaylen Twyman in ending their collegiate careers early.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of playing in the NFL, and God has blessed me with the opportunity to do that,” Jones wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “So, after many hours of prayer and conversations with my parents and coaches, I’ve decided to forgo the bowl game and declare for the 2021 NFL draft. Panther Nation, you will forever be in my heart and never be forgotten. 91 ... out.”

Jones is considered one of the most promising NFL prospects available in the upcoming draft, let alone one of the top defensive linemen. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 26 overall college prospect and the No. 2 edge rusher in the draft. Jones ranks second only to Miami defensive end and 15th-ranked prospect Gregory Rousseau, and he has surpassed Pitt teammates Twyman and Ford, who rank 56th and 71st overall, in the CBS ranking.

ESPN has a less optimistic view of Jones but still considers him to be among the top 50 players in the upcoming draft, ranking him No. 46 overall. The Worldwide Leader in Sports ranks the Pitt edge rusher as the No. 5 prospect at his position, with Rousseau again at No. 1 and Pitt teammate Weaver at No. 8.

Jones emerged as a standout defender at Pitt in 2019, when he formed a potent one-two punch with Twyman on the defensive line. That year, he ranked second only to Twyman in sacks, with 8.5 to his 10.5, and tied him for the team lead in tackles for losses, with 12. In 2020, with Twyman gone, he formed another powerful combo with Weaver. This time around, he claimed the team lead in sacks, with nine in 11 games and ranked second to Weaver in tackles for losses, with 13 on the year. His sack total also ranks second in the nation.

At this point, it is unclear if Jones plans to take part in any postseason all-star events, such as the Senior Bowl. If not, his next stop will likely be Indianapolis, where the NFL combine will be held in early 2021, and then the NFL draft, which will get underway on April 29.