Cardinals' draft profile: Josh Jones

The Arizona Cardinals have always prioritized speed under Steve Keim and Bruce Arians, and that could be why the team has shown interest in North Carolina State safety Josh Jones.

In the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, CardinalsSource will profile 30 draft prospects who could end up making their way to Arizona this offseason.

Player: Josh Jones

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 220 pounds

Arm length: 32 inches

Hand size: 9 3/8 inches

College stats: 2014: 56 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four interceptions, seven passes defended, 2015: 64 tackles, 0.5 sacks, one interception, two passes defended, 2016: 109 tackles, 1.0 sack, three interceptions, eight passes defended.

Strengths: Though Jones doesn't have the same resume some of the other safeties in this year's draft compiled during their college careers, he looks more like an NFL-caliber safety than nearly every other prospect in the draft. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Jones is ideally suited for the strong safety position, but the 4.41-second 40-yard dash he posted at the NFL Combine suggests he might have the positional flexibility to play either safety spot at the next level. One of Jones' best assets is how he uses his speed against the run, because he isn't afraid to fly up and deliver a blow and is somewhat reminiscent of D.J. Swearinger in that regard. While Jones is faster than Swearinger and has a much higher upside in our opinion, he brings the same physical mentality to the field on a consistent basis. Another strength of Jones' is even when did find himself out of position or across the field from a play, he showcased impressive closing speed and range that made him a threat to get to any spot on the field and stop a ball carrier in his tracks or bat down a pass intended for an open receiver.

Weaknesses: For all the speed and anticipation skills Jones shows against the run, we think he plays a step slower against the pass and isn't in fluid in coverage as he is as a box defender. Jones is a bit hesitant against the pass, especially when he's in zone coverage and attempting to read where the quarterback is going with the football because he appears to struggle with re-directing naturally toward a receiver's route. This sometimes leads to questionable angles, but it's not the type of trait that can't be corrected with advanced film study and coaching. Another trait we noticed from Jones' film is that sometimes when he's making tackles and isn't squared up, he has a tendency to hang on and allow himself to be dragged by opposing ball carriers, as opposed to delivering a blow and driving an offensive player backward. 

Jones' fit: If the Cardinals are hoping to find a potential immediate replacement for Swearinger in the first round of this year's draft, it's unlikely Jones will fit that bill because he's a bit more of a project than some of the higher-graded safeties on the board. Still, if the Cardinals use their first round pick on a player at a different position group, Jones could become an excellent value for the team in the second and especially the third round if he's still available. Jones fits the Cardinals' scheme because he has more than enough speed to handle the rigors of playing strong safety, and he's the type of physical, bruising safety who would fit in well alongside players like Antoine Bethea and Tyrann Mathieu who would each have more coverage responsibilities. Though Jones isn't the perfect fit, he's a player who possesses the types of traits the Cardinals are looking for and appears to have a high enough ceiling that the organization could take its time with him and eventually mold him into a starter-caliber player. 

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