UConn CB Byron Jones
— Jones started 40-of-43 games at Connecticut – 21 as a free safety and 19 as a boundary cornerback…Finished with eight interceptions, 18 pass deflections…Recorded 223 tackles (131 solos) with 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and one fumble recovery.
— As a senior, the All-American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year favorite started the first seven games at boundary cornerback before a season-ending left shoulder injury requiring surgery brought his college career to a close…The senior finished with 24 tackles (16 solos) with two interceptions for 70 yards in returns and four pass deflections. One of the interceptions was a 70-yard pick-six vs. South Florida and the other came in his final collegiate game, vs. Tulane. Jones was targeted 48 times, but held his opponent to just 12 grabs.
— Jones arrived at the Scouting Combine for medical tests on the shoulder and interviews with interested teams. He was only three weeks removed from getting medical clearance to begin working out, so the intention was for Jones to wait until UConn’s March 31 pro day. Instead, Jones shattered the Scouting Combine record with a standing broad jump of 12 feet, 3 inches. In fact, it was more than a Combine record. Jones’ jump was a world record, breaking the 12-2 jump by Norwegian Arne Tvervaag set back in 1968. Among the 330-plus players to participate, Jones finished second in the vertical jump (44.5 inches), third in the 20-yard shuttle (3.94) and 11th with a 6.78-second three-cone drill.
— Jones received All-American Athletic Conference first-team honors from the NFL Draft Report as a junior and and was named to the league’s All-Academic team…Shifting to boundary cornerback, he recorded 60 tackles (42 solos), third-best on the team…Intercepted three passes and deflected eight other throws.
— Jones started all season at safety as a sophomore and for the nine games as a redshirt freshman. He had a career-high 88 tackles (40 solos), one interception and two pass deflections as a sophomore and 51 tackles (33 solos), two interceptions, four deflections and a fumble recovery as a freshman.
2014 Season: Jones missed the final five games after undergoing left shoulder surgery in late October.
Height: 6-foot 5/8. Weight: 199 pounds.
4.36 in the 40-yard dash (at pro day)…1.59 10-yard dash…2.59 20-yard dash…3.94 20-yard shuttle…10.98 60-yard shuttle…6.78 three-cone drill…44 1/2-inch vertical jump…12’-03” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times (at pro day)…32-inch arm length…10-inch hands…76 1/2-inch wingspan.
Along with his athletic ability, Jones is a coveted prospect due to his versatility. With his range and hitting ability, some teams are valuing him more as a safety prospect than at cornerback.
He has 21 starting assignments at safety and 19 more at cornerback to show for his 223-tackle performance as a Husky. As a pass defender, he recorded eight interceptions and broke up 18 other tosses.
If his shoulder passes team medical tests, Jones could hear his name called in the second round. The earliest any Connecticut defensive back has been selected was Darius Butler, the 41st choice by New England in 2009. The school has had only one player to be taken in the opening round, as Indianapolis selected tailback Donald Brown with the 27th overall choice in 2009.
With any assignment placed in front of him, Jones has shown confidence in getting the task assigned to be completed. He has above-average anticipation and route recognition skills. That asset could be very beneficial if he was to return to safety at the pro level, as he shows excellent awareness in zone coverage. He’s not one to gamble much with giving the receiver a big cushion, preferring to maintain a strong position and mark opponents coming into his area.
Jones is a quick decision-maker with not only elite diagnosis ability on screens, but also shows the proper angle technique to be effective taking on ball-carriers. As a press corner, he knows how to use his hands and upper-body strength to be physical at the line of scrimmage, consistently disrupting the receiver’s release and impacting the route’s progression.
You can see his alertness eyeing the quarterback's eyes, as all scouts that have seen him agree that he was the best player within his conference in anticipating routes, closing quickly to jump underneath routes and getting into the flat in a hurry to attack screen plays and outside runs. He’s too savvy to be fooled by misdirection, double moves and pump fakes and, even though he plays with aggression, he’s not the type that will give up any room to receivers when playing the deep ball or when squatting on routes.
Jones demonstrates good balance with movements, which provides with the ability to quickly transition when changing directions. He is quick to plant and drive breaking forward out of his backpedal or when executing his zone bail, as he has no stiffness in his hips, looking like a ballerina when having to make a sudden 180-degree turn. He closes with good urgency and also demonstrates a solid extra gear to recover once caught in trail position.
Jones has above-average fluidity for a player of his size and can easily flip his hips and run with receivers downfield when aligned in press coverage. There are times where he will get a bit high coming out of his backpedal, but compensates with quick-twitch moves and valid initial explosion transitioning into breaks.
With eight interceptions, Jones has valid hands and, with his world-record jumping performance at the Scouting Combine, teams are pretty confident that he can win most jump ball battles (five of his thefts came when reaching for the sphere at its high point).
He has good aggression attacking and playing the ball, and you have to like that he has that attitude that he can make the play vs. the thrown ball.
Jones has the natural hand strength to pull in the tough interception working through a crowd and also has the arm extension to make plays outside of his frame. He also shows good sideline awareness in attempts to keep his feet in bounds after he secures the interception along the boundaries.
It is rare to see receivers get behind him, as he has a functional second gear to routinely make up for a false step. With his loose hips, he can cleanly change directions and looks comfortable and smooth when getting out of his breaks and closing on the ball.
While his primary responsibilities are in pass coverage, Jones is very effective in run support. He is the type that will diagnose blocking schemes quickly and get down hill to make the tackle. He is not going to blow up the ball carrier and deliver a violent hit, but he does a nice job of staying under control securing as a tackler.
He is also quite effective at keeping his pads low and cutting out the legs from under the bigger and more powerful runners. With his active hands and upper-body strength, he does not appear to have too many problems trying to disengage from bigger blockers to get to the ball carrier.