Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #40 - Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. Find all the profiles here.
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut - 6'1, 199 - RS Senior - No 40 (Yet)
 Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones (16) is seen during warmups before an NCAA college football game at Rentschler Field, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in East Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones (16) is seen during warmups before an NCAA college football game at Rentschler Field, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in East Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Byron Jones is a player that I had not spent too much time on this spring until he set the world on fire with his performance at the NFL Draft Combine.  This is a very odd development since he was not supposed to do anything at the combine besides the interviews, because of his recovery from shoulder surgery.  But his recovery was going so well that he did quite a few things, including setting a world record in the broad jump.  That's right, a world record.  Then, he vertical jumped at 44.5", which also made people marvel at his skills, since he is also a rare 6'1 corner who has these gifts.  So, without even having a 40-time on the record until his pro day, March 31, you can see how everyone is now scrambling to know the player.  I did not have my normal supply of tape, however, so I had to use a couple games from 2013 (Michigan and UMass) as well as the East Carolina game in 2014.  I would like to gather more and perhaps look at him again before draft day with more 2014 information, but for now, here is what I have:
What I liked:  With Jones, he checks the boxes for just about everything you like for a NFL corner in this present generation.  He gets up on you in press coverage and tries to suffocate, knowing he can stay with you down the field.  He is best like this where his long arms and huge hands are used to direct you on a re-route.  He is right in the hip pocket not the fades and although he sees some action, he generally is able to handle what comes his way.  He is also surprisingly physical for a gifted athlete (usually it is one or the other) and is willing to get dirty to make a tackle on your bubble screens or runs around the corner.  His overall game is solid and he looks like he has the tools to develop into a #1 CB who is up for your best receiver and willing to travel side to side to stay with him.  Absolutely best in press coverage versus the zones Connecticut would run.  Nice ball skills over the top as well.
What I did not like:  Two things jumped out at me, with the first one being that in zone or even "off" man, he doesn't have great technique to pounce forward without being susceptible to the double move and you can get things done underneath him.  It is clear that he wants to keep his man within arms length to feel like he has the proximity to deal with action.  Then, he tends to border on "too physical" which is a real thing in this league where they are emphasizing illegal contact penalties on defensive backs.  He will draw some flags because he is not going to let you run free.  I would also like to see that 40-time to see about the long speed which might be just what you would call average as he was beaten on a post route and resorted to tackling his man against East Carolina.
Summary:  It certainly doesn't hurt that the NFL is becoming populated with quite a few UConn Huskies on the defensive side of the ball recently to demonstrate the caliber of defensive backs that school is producing.  But, that said, he is his own man and it would be absurd to accuse him of being a "combine creation" as his tape stands up impressively as a combination of both large build and impressive athletic traits.  On top of that he has very nice tape to back him up where he can really lock down on his man with aggressive man-cover traits you will want on Sunday.  There are many solid corners in this draft, but you don't have to go very far down that list to find this guy.  He only played 7 games in 2014, but 43 college games overall tell you that he has plenty of experience at the position and looks the part of a 1st-2nd round pick.

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