With the 60th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select Cyrus Jones, cornerback, University of Alabama:
Cyrus Jones attended Gilman High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where he played running back, wide receiver, and cornerback. Jones was a certified star in high school, being ranked as a five-star wide receiver by Scout.com and the no. 45 ranked overall player. He was ranked the number three athlete nationally by SuperPrep, and the number four player in all of Maryland. Jones was selected as the 2011 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year, and he was also named All-State as a junior and senior. Known for his defense, Jones was an offensive weapon in high school, accounting for 2,365 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.
He was no slouch on defense either, picking off five balls. Jones had many options as he was highly recruited, which is great for any player, but it also presented Jones with a tough decision. Jones received offers from Alabama, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Boston College, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
As a true freshman at Alabama, Jones played in 11 games, but he played wide receiver, not cornerback. He also returned kicks and punts, hauling in eight punts for 61 yards, ten kickoffs for 250 yards, and he had four catches for 51 yards. It was clear that Jones had special athleticism, but the Alabama coaches wanted to move him to cornerback instead of having him play the wide receiver.
In 2013, Jones made a big leap for the Rolling Tide. He played in nine games, starting five, and he finished with 18 solo tackles, seven assisted tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, and five passes defended. His best game in 2013 was against Texas A&M, where he picked off Johnny Manziel in the end zone and made four solo tackles, one assisted.
2014 marked the first year that Jones entered the season as a starter at cornerback, and he did not disappoint. He started 14 games, making 36 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, 13 passes defended, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery that was returned for a 17-yard touchdown vs. Ole Miss. Jones was named Second Team All-SEC Second Team and was named Alabama Defensive Player of the Week three times (No.1 Ole Miss, No. 14 LSU, and West Virginia). Nick Saban used Jones sparingly on special teams; Jones had four kick returns for 77 yards and four punt returns for 82 yards.
Jones, after going through some legal headaches in April of 2015, had an excellent senior year, adding lethal returner to his already impressive resume at cornerback. Jones finished the season with 29 tackles, eight assisted tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, seven passes broken up, one fumble recovery, and two fumbles forced. Jones did damage in the return game with 42 punt returns for 530 yards and FOUR touchdowns. He was only used once on kickoff return (24 yards) but that could be something he adds to his game in the NFL.
Jones, who is listed at 5'10, 196 pounds, has the flexibility to play the slot or outside corner, a skill that made the Patriots value him that much more. With Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan holding down the starting spots heading into the 2016 season, it would be a natural fit for Jones to play the nickel/slot corner. The thing to keep in mind about Jones is his play-making ability, and if that starts to show up immediately, he'll see time in the base defense.
Jones has excellent speed, running the 40 in 4.49 seconds at the NFL Combine, and although he only had 10 bench presses, he's proven he's strong enough to take on and shed blockers in run support as he is a very willing tackler. He needs to improve in zone (just like every other young cornerback ever) but he is strong in man-to-man and he's not afraid to press and get physical. The Patriots like cornerbacks that aren't afraid to get involved in the run game and aren't dumb enough to get repeatedly burnt, and Jones addition falls right in line with that mold.
Jones also brings another skill to the Patriots roster- punt returns. Julian Edelman is one of the best punt returners in football, but his value on offense is too high to gamble on so expect to see Jones get every opportunity to win the punt returner job. Jones is going to see the field a lot in 2016, and Patriots fans are going to love watching him make plays.
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