Former Pitt defensive end Patrick Jones II was the first Panther to come off the board in the 2021 NFL draft, as the Minnesota Vikings selected him with the 90th overall pick in the third round of the draft. In Minneapolis, Jones will join former Pitt offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, who was taken by the same team in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft.
During his time at Pitt, Jones became a first-team All-ACC defensive end as well as a consensus All-America selection after starting his career as a two-star recruit out of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. Jones helped transform Pitt into a defensive powerhouse, pairing with Jaylen Twyman and Rashad Weaver to make the Panthers pass rush one of the best in the nation.
Last season, Jones set new career highs, with nine sacks and 13 tackles for losses in 11 games. And in addition to leading the team in sacks, Jones ranked fifth in the nation in total sacks and second among Power Five players. During his college career, he was sometimes overshadowed by Twyman and Weaver, but in the end, he emerged as the most NFL-ready prospect from an elite Pitt defense.
In 2019, Jones teamed up with Twyman and helped Pitt earn a reputation for its fierce defense, as the two combined for 19 sacks and 23.5 tackles for losses in 13 games. Then, in 2020, Jones and Weaver paired up to accrue 16.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for losses in just 11 games, with Weaver sitting out two.
Jones was viewed as a secondary option behind Twyman and Weaver in All-America voting over the last two seasons, but Jones always appeared to have the brighter draft outlook, given Weaver’s injury issues in 2019 and Twyman’s costly opt-out in 2020. And as a result, he was selected ahead of both of his former Panthers defensive linemates.
Shortly after he declared for the draft last December, the 6’5”, 260-pound edge rusher was ranked by ESPN as the No. 47 overall prospect and the No. 6 player at his position, and CBS even placed him at No. 31 overall and No. 2 among defensive ends. Pro Football Focus had a dissenting opinion, placing him at No. 121 overall and No. 22 at his position.
With Jones off the board, Pitt products Weaver and Twyman remain available, as do defensive backs Paris Ford, Damar Hamlin and Jason Pinnock. And even Pitt center Jimmy Morrissey and kicker Alex Kessman could command late-round picks depending on the needs of teams picking late in the draft this weekend.