AnalysisJones was one of the Combine darlings after he nearly jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a broad jump of 12-foot-3. That’s extraordinary. This is an explosive and versatile defensive back that played well at both safety and cornerback at UConn. He has a nice combination of size (6-1/199) and speed. Jones plays with good instincts, shows range and is good in run support. He started 40 games and finished with eight interceptions and 223 tackles.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
While Dallas needs a running back they also have to revamp their defense at all three levels. Here, the Cowboys go and get a talented defensive back from UConn in Byron Jones. He was one of the Combine darlings after he nearly jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a broad jump of 12-foot-3. That’s extraordinary. This is an explosive and versatile defensive back that played well at both safety and cornerback at UConn. He has a nice combination of size (6-1/199) and speed. Jones plays with good instincts, shows range and is good in run support. He started 40 games and finished with eight interceptions and 223 tackles.Byron Jones’s big day came during his March 31st pro day back at school, and based on that and his 2015 Scouting Combine performance, he has become this year’s “athletic media darling.” Unlike another New England product that dazzled at the Combine (Mike Mamula), only to flame out as a Philadelphia Eagles first-round bust, Jones has not only a better athletic skill set, but he’s also a coveted prospect due to his versatility. With his range and hitting ability, some teams are also valuing him more as a safety prospect than at cornerback.
Jones is certain to join former teammates and UConn cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz (Jacksonville) and Blidi-Wreh Wilson (Tennessee) in the NFL next season. 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’s 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 overall choice by New England in 2009. The school has had only one playertaken 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 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 watching 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 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 good 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.
Jones might lack blazing speed going vertically down the field, but 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 downhill 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.
Byron Jones Scouting Combine measurables
6-1/199 (No forty)
32-inch arm length
No bench 44 1/2-inch vertical jump
12-foot-3 broad jump
6.78 3 cone drill (right calf strain)
3.94 20 yard shuttle
10.98 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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