D-II Corner Has Big NFL Potential

There's a pretty good chance that talent won't meet need at cornerback in the early rounds for the Packers. That could leave them looking at several small-school stars in Day 3. We talked to Northwest Missouri State's Ryan Jones, who picked off 11 passes during his final two seasons.

Ryan Jones had seen the NFL scouts before.

They had made the trek to Northwest Missouri State to see the likes of, among others, running back Xavier Omon, who wound up being drafted by Buffalo in 2008.

This fall, they visited the Maryville, Mo., campus to see Jones, the Division II All-American cornerback.

"I've always wanted to do it but I knew how hard it was for a Division II guy to do it," Jones told Packer Report this week. "It was definitely something I kept in mind and I wanted to keep on going. As the season went on, I kept getting more and more phone calls. More and more scouts each day would come to see our practices. I was so used to having them come and see other people, and then knowing that they were here to see me was just like, ‘Oh, man, this is great. This potentially could be me in that uniform.'"

While LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara get all the ink in this year's cornerbacks class, Jones is one of several small-school sleepers who could be in play for the Packers. Green Bay needs to add another cornerback but the board might be bare when they're on the clock in the first and second rounds. That might mean the Packers will have to look at Day 3, where Jones (5-foot-11), The Citadel's Cortez Allen (6-2), Tennessee-Chattanooga's Buster Skrine (5-9), Southern Illinois' Korey Lindsey (5-10) and Richmond's Justin Rogers (5-10) are jockeying for position.

Even though Allen has the size and Skrine the speed, Jones might have the best combination of size, speed, production and upside. Scouts' official 40-yard time for Jones is 4.42. His 40-inch vertical leap is better than any cornerback at the Combine and matched only by Lindsey among the small-school prospects.

More importantly, Jones has shown he can play in man and zone coverage. In his two seasons as a full-time starter, Jones picked off 11 passes with another 24 passes defensed. While he didn't return kicks, he's shown playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns as a senior and ran back two blocked extra points for two-point plays as a junior. He also blocked four kicks in his career.

"With my ability, I can do anything anyone else can do in the Big 12 or the Pac-10 or any corner in a Division I league," Jones said. "Just because I went D-II doesn't mean anything."

The obvious question about Jones, however, is the level of competition. While Allen, Skrine, Lindsey and Rogers played in the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision, Jones played a rung below them in Division II. Jones got his chance to go up against some of the nation's better receiver prospects during the NFLPA Texas vs. the Nation all-star game in San Antonio. He impressed, whether playing cornerback or in the slot, as well as on special teams coverage units. He also was allowed to work out at Missouri's pro day, which dozens of scouts attended because of quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

"I think that really opened up some eyes and kind of proved some of the scouts wrong about my hips and the way I can move," Jones sad. "These workouts and the pro days that I went to, I think that definitely helped me out and raised my level a little bit higher."

Jones was born in Pittsburgh but says Denver's Champ Bailey and Green Bay's Charles Woodson are his favorite cornerbacks to watch. Jones appreciates Woodson's do-it-all ability and hopes he can develop that type of versatility.

Jones will get that chance, which is something he didn't think was realistic until the start of his senior season. He still seems in awe of the possibility.

"I'll probably be speechless," he said. "I try to envision it as I'm sitting down sometimes. I don't know what I should say. Do I say,' Thank you'? When the coach tells me, ‘Congratulations,' I'll probably be speechless to even say something to him."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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