If the Vikings have an interest in UConn cornerback Byron Jones, they didn’t hide it.
Jones had some professional help when it came to running his individual drills as one of nine players going through their pro day paces for NFL brass. Usually, prospects will have an NFL assistant coach or coordinator run their drills at pro days. Who was the coach giving an assist to Jones?
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Zim was giving everyone a look at Jones, who has been viewed as a late-first/early-second round prospect, and Jones didn’t disappoint.
Few prospects have as much positive momentum going their way as Jones does. Back in February, Jones opened eyes with as impressive a workout performance as any player at the NFL Scouting Combine. He had a Spiderman-like 44½-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 12 feet, 3 inches. The one thing he didn’t do was run the 40 or lift weights (he was recovering from October shoulder surgery).
On Tuesday, he did 18 reps of 225 pounds – a solid number for a defensive back and, by his own admission, a personal record.
But what got the ears perked up for the coaches and scouts that attended UConn’s workout in Storrs was his 40 time – a blazing 4.36 seconds.
We may be taking that early-second round tag off of Jones soon.
While the Vikings may not be his destination with the 11th pick of the draft, what Jones achieved Tuesday was filling out the rest of the résumé that was missing in Indianapolis. The numbers that filled in were just as impressive as the ones he posted two months ago.
What was different was that Zimmer’s approach was looking to see how Jones took correction for things he struggles with. The knock on Jones that has been visible on film is that, while he is impressive, he has issues with balance. He will stumble at times when flipping his hips and changing direction.
Zimmer was aware of that and, when tutoring Jones through his drills, he was asking him to do things out of his comfort zone – offering up coaching corrections that were foreign to him. As Jones told The Hartford Courant, it was something he wasn’t used to, but something he adapted to.
“(Zimmer) was trying to change my backpedal and be more relaxed in the upper body, instead of getting down too low, (I’d) stay up a little more,” Jones said. “I’m a 6-foot-1 corner, so I use that to my advantage. It’s stuff I have to work on and, if I’m going to be on this team, then I have no problem working that technique.”
It’s unlikely that Jones will make the climb to the point that the Vikings will use the 11th pick of the draft on him, but if Zimmer was impressed enough with what he saw Tuesday, it wouldn’t be shocking for the Vikings to trade back a few spots and have Jones on their short list of players they want to use a first-round draft pick on.
One thing that seems certain after Tuesday is that Jones has impressed enough people that he could be one of the players that gets drafted on Thursday, not Friday. He hasn’t made that leap yet, but Tuesday was a telltale sign that the arrow is pointing up. The big question now is how far up will it end up going?
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