By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
It is certainly no secret with David Harris (32) and the possible return of Erin Henderson (30) as the likely starting ILB tandem for the Jets in 2016, that the team will need to infuse some youth into the mix. Still in the process of developing Taiwan Jones at the position, the Jets would surely benefit from bringing another youngster in to compete and learn from the veterans.
As always, there are only a small number of inside linebacker prospects in the draft that are projected to fit into the 3-4 alignment. The two highest rated 3-4 ILB’s, Reggie Ragland and Kentrell Brothers are expected to be gone before the Jets pick in the second round. Unless the team is going to take one of those two they are most likely looking at Day 3 of the draft to find their man for the middle of the defense.
Projected to be chosen anywhere between the 4th and 6th round of the draft, Utah’s Jared Norris is an incredibly passionate, physical and instinctive player who displays great leadership qualities. A fearless individual, Norris gives it everything he has when he steps onto the football field.
Although he was unable to duplicate his gaudy numbers as a junior in 2014 due to nagging injuries that limited him to 10 starts in his senior year, Jared still performed well in 2015. He totaled 87 tackles, 6.5 for loss, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a sack in his final year with the Utes.
In his outstanding junior season, Norris compiled 116 tackles, 13 for loss, four sacks and a batted pass. As a sophomore in 2013, a season in which he started seven games, he accumulated 64 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two forced fumbles, two sacks and two passes defensed.
Over the course of his college career, Jared was a three-year starter and four-year letterman who played in 42 games, with 32 starts. He was responsible for double-digit tackle totals in 11 of those games, including four times in his senior year. Norris also served as a team captain in 2015.
As a result of his exceptional play on the college level, Norris was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree. He also received an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he played in 36 snaps and recorded three tackles, two of which stuffed Alabama HB Kenyon Drake short of the goal line. In addition, Jared was a remarkable student, who twice received Academic All-Pac-12 Conference honorable mention.
Norris is a true team leader who plays faster than the 4.80 40-time and stronger than the 19 bench reps he posted at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. He is a fierce competitor on the field who has a tremendous sense of where the ball is at all times. Jared uses his powerful punch and agility to slip through blockers and hit ball carriers with extreme prejudice, wrapping them up and driving them backwards.
Although acutely aware and quick to react to where the ball is thrown, Norris is not as quick to adjust as you would like to see and does not possess the pure speed to catch up when caught out of position in pass coverage. He also often plays with too high of a pad level and sometimes has a tendency to take poor angles against blockers, causing him to be driven away from the play.
Much more solid against the run than the pass, Norris is a player that will need some coaching and mentoring in order to take the next step in his evolution as a pro. Like any player projected on the third day of the draft, he can use some work on all aspects of his game.
Jared will most likely start in a backup role, playing mostly on special teams, while he fine-tunes his technique and adjusts to the level of play in the NFL. Time will tell whether or not he joins his former teammate, Trevor Reilly, on the Jets’ defense.