Draft Daily: Byron Jones On Short List At No. 20
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. If you have a player you want covered, let us know on the Birds 24/7 Facebook page.
THE BACK STORY
Last Tuesday, much of the football world was focused on Tallahassee, Fla. where Jameis Winston was working out in front of scouts, coaches and GMs at his Pro Day.
But Chip Kelly was not in attendance, and neither was his hand-picked personnel man Ed Marynowitz. They were both up north at UConn’s Pro Day, checking out cornerback Byron Jones.
Chip Kelly talking with Byron Jones. pic.twitter.com/3uNBEvqf8F
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 31, 2015
The other two men pictured are defensive coordinator Billy Davis and Eagles senior football advisor Tom Donahoe.
Jones has been a big winner during the pre-draft process. He missed the final five games of the season because of a shoulder injury but picked up steam with one of the most impressive performances of any prospect at the combine.
He has on-field production too. Jones played safety for two years in college before transitioning to corner in 2013. He has size, athleticism, versatility and is considered a high-character prospect, having served as a team captain last year. In other words, there’s a lot for the Eagles to like:
The term “freak” gets thrown around quite a bit during the pre-draft process. But in Jones’ case, it’s appropriate. You’re unlikely to find a more impressive spider chart among this year’s prospects:
He’s 6-1, 199 and can jump out of (or across) the gym. Jones reportedly ran a 4.4 at his Pro Day.
Given his measurables and character, it’s reasonable to project a high upside for Jones.
It’s tough to evaluate cornerbacks without the coaches tape, but we can at least see where Jones lined up and what he did when the ball was thrown his way.
Jones has the size and length to be a press corner, and that’s a role he played with the Huskies the past two seasons. On this play against East Carolina, Jones lines up in press, plays the fade, gets his head around briefly and helps force the incompletion (click through to the 2:03 mark):
Here is Jones in off coverage. He avoids the rub from the inside receiver, reads the slant, explodes on the ball and forces an incompletion (click through to the 4:10 mark):
Jones definitely has good ball skills. In 19 games at corner, he had five interceptions and 12 pass breakups.
At the 2:12 mark of the video below against Michigan, Jones is beaten initially. But the pass is underthrown, he recovers nicely and does a fantastic job of tracking the ball while fighting off the receiver for the interception.
Below is a very different interception. Against East Carolina in the red zone, the QB buys time with his feet and rolls to his right. Jones does a tremendous job of mirroring his receiver and finding the ball for another pick (click through to the 3:40 mark):
In the games I watched, Jones was also a sound tackler.
Jones’ biggest supporter among draft analysts is probably ESPN’s Louis Riddick:
Byron Jones on field work at combine = flawless. Everything displayed from movement/technical standpoint that you want to see.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) March 20, 2015
Well… I guess that settles that for CB Byron Jones. Workouts confirming what he showed on tape in fall. 1st day pick.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) March 31, 2015
Clearly, there’s a lot to like here.
Jones makes sense as an Eagles target on a number of different levels. He fits what they’re looking for from a measurables and character standpoint. He has positional versatility, having played both cornerback and safety. And he’s a freak athletically.
Once Jones refines his technique, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.
The guess here is that the Eagles will look at Jones as a cornerback first, but there’s always the possibility that they might project him at safety. Jones has the man coverage skills the Eagles covet out of their safeties, and he has the speed/athleticism to cover a lot of range in single-high looks.
Where will he go off the board? Analysts seem to believe Jones will be taken in the back end of the first round or early in the second. I’m not ready to rule out the possibility that he gets picked at No. 20. In fact, if I’m making a short list of possibilities for the Eagles at that spot right now, Jones would be on it.
We’ll see how Kelly navigates the draft process, but the guess here is that he will care less about value and more about getting the players he wants. Given how Jones stacks up in a number of different categories, he’s a player that very well could fit the bill.