EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings bolstered their defensive line in the third round Friday night, taking Pittsburgh edge rusher Patrick Jones II with the 90th overall pick.
The selection of Jones gives the Vikings another defensive end to try and get after the quarterback, a collection that currently includes Danielle Hunter, Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum and Jalyn Holmes.
All of the above have been coached by Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, whom Jones has also become well-acquainted with.
"I talked to Coach Andre a lot. I just got a feel for him and knew he was a great coach. I looked him up, too," Jones told Vikings.com's Gabe Henderson after being drafted. "He's developed great pass rushers, and now that I get the opportunity to work for him, I'm just excited."
Minnesota tallied just 23 sacks in 2020, the lowest total in franchise history since sacks became an official stat in 1982, and the Vikings hope Jones can help them improve that stat.
Vikings Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson called Jones an "incredible athlete" who was the best pass rusher on the board when Minnesota's turn was up.
View photos of Pittsburgh DE Patrick Jones II who was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
"[Patrick] kind of burst onto the scene in 2019. He was more of a rotational guy in '18. He's a guy who finished with 22 total sacks in his career, so he does have a knack for rushing the passer," Stephenson said. "He's a long guy, like we like our defensive ends. We believe he has more growth in him as far as the pass rush and playing the run. But like all these kids, he's a great kid, too. He's going to add so much on and off the field once he gets here."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman emphasized that Jones fit the team's "athletic profile" for defensive ends, and he echoed Stephenson's thoughts on Jones' length and leanness (his arm length was measured at 32 7/8 inches).
"We know as a scouting staff know what Coach Patterson and [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer look for in those type of defensive ends, similar to when we took D.J. Wonnum, similar to when we took Danielle Hunter."
Spielman added that Patterson does a great job of finding diamonds in the rough and developing players who may be seen as a bit raw for the NFL. Wonnum was a fourth-round pick last year, and Hunter was selected 88th overall in 2015.
"As they continue to mature at the position, as long as they have the physical traits we're looking for, we feel like they're all going to have a chance," Spielman said.
Jones, a redshirt senior who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 261 pounds on his NFL.com bio page, was a consensus All-American in 2020 and was also named as a First-Team All-ACC selection.
He started all 11 games for Pittsburgh at defensive end, racking up 44 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks and a fumble recovery.
His sacks total led the ACC and ranked fifth in the nation, and his 22 career sacks rank 12th all-time in program history.
Jones will be able to practice against former Panthers tackle Brian O'Neill, whom he connected with via FaceTime shortly after the draft.
O'Neill posted a screenshot of their call on his Instagram Story with the caption, "My boy, welcome to the squad … gonna be a great one."
"We used to go at it every day in practice my freshman year," Jones told Twin Cities media members. "He was like, 'I'm so happy for you, bro.' He said, 'We get to go back to battle again and get each other better. I'm so happy you're a Viking.
"He's a great player,' Jones said. "Now we get to keep battling in practice and just get each other better."