Los Angeles Rams: DE Deacon Jones, 14th Round (No. 186), 1961
The draft is half as long now as it was when Jones was drafted in 1961, which makes him an even better draft pick in hindsight. With a menacing look and a name that befit utter dominance, Jones became an all-time great defensive end.
“The Secretary of Defense” was one of the leaders of the Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive front in the 1960s, and he perfected the now illegal head slap move as a pass rusher to leave offensive tackles disoriented.
Jones’ career predates when sacks started to be an official NFL statistic, in 1982, but he is credited with coining the phrase to describe taking down a quarterback before he could let go of a pass. By some unofficial estimates, Jones has been credited with 159.5, 173.5 or perhaps over 200 sacks in his career. Regardless, even today over 40 years since he last played, Jones would be fairly high among the all-time leaders in sacks if they officially existed when he played.
The premium placed on pass rushers today owes a lot to Jones’ trailblazing in the 60s. The big money contracts the cream of the crop get now also can be traced back to his influence on the game, and the eventual institution of a statistic to officially measure how productive a pass rusher is. Sacks are not necessarily the end game anymore for how good a pass rusher is, with Pro Football Focus offering deeper analytics with their grading system and crediting of pressures, but if Jones played today he’d surely get high marks below the surface too.