Scout's Notebook: TE Braden Jones

The Vikings pulled about 90 players from their draft board due to character or injury issues. Despite their emphasis on character, they're comfortable that rookie free agent TE Braden Jones has put his off-field problems behind him. If they're right, they might have gotten themselves a real find as a pass-catching tight end in their West Coast Offense. Here's a complete scouting report…

#87, Braden Jones, TE
(6031, 260, 4.55-4.76) Southern Illinois

Personal:  Born April 20, 1983. His parents are Dr. Larry and Janet Jones. His father is a family practitioner in Harrisburg, IL. He played RB, WR, TE and S in high school, leading his team to a 14-0 record and 3A title his senior year. Was also second in the state long jump (22’-10”).

College:  Enrolled at Northwestern in 2001 but never played that year after getting in a fight while visiting his brother at Vanderbilt. Jones suffered a head injury when Vandy player Doug Wolford knocked him to the ground and punched him while unconsious. Injuries sustained in that incident kept him off the football field for six months and he was subsequently granted a medical redshirt year. Started at strongside linebacker in 2002 (missing one game with a bruised shoulder), recording 76 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass breakup. In March of 2003, he pled guilty to misdemeanor battery charges and unlawful use of a driver’s license stemming from an incident at a fraternity party. He was put on court supervision. He came back to start 4-of-13 games that fall with 39 tackles and 1 PBU. Was Academic All-Big Ten in 2002 and 2003. He left the team in the spring of 2004 after reportedly being arrested for attempting to rob a taxi that he didn’t have money to pay for. He returned to the team in the fall but was dismissed for good after getting into another altercation that led to an October 2004 conviction for battery. Within two weeks of that, he spent 37 days in a rehabilitation program for alcohol and anger management.

Jones transferred to Southern Illinois in 2005 and moved to tight end. Caught 16-188 (11.8 avg.) with 2 TDs; also blocked 2 kicks and returned a fumble for a score. Finished his college career at SIU by leading the team with 32 catches for 521 yards (16.3 avg.) and 7 touchdowns in 2006; earned first-team All-Gateway Conference honors. Was a college roommate of rookie free agent running back Arkee Whitlock at SIU. Posted a 3.6 grade-point average as a biology major and plans to eventually attend medical school.

Ran a 4.58 and 4.60-second 40-yard dash at SIU’s pro day. Posted a 1.58 10-yard dash, 2.62 20-yard dash, did 20 reps at 225 pounds, recorded a 39-inch vertical jump, a 10’6” broad jump, a 4.28 20-yard shuttle time a a 7.19 3-cone drill time. He was also timed in 4.55 in another workout at SIU in Carbondale, IL.

Pro:  Signed a three-year contract with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2007 draft. He was brought in for an individual workout by the Packers. One mock draft on had Jones projected as a possible third-round pick to Green Bay. Wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers or the Vikings, but chose the Vikings when the Packers drafted a tight end (Clark Harris).

Positives:  Intelligent person who understands the game of football. Instinctive player. Very good athlete. Good hands. Catches the ball nicely, plucks it with his hands out away from his body. Can compete for the ball among defenders. Shows good technique as a blocker; bends his knees, plays with leverage and sustains his blocks well at times. Tough, physical and aggressive. Has played on defense in the Big Ten, knows how to tackle, and should be able to contribute on special teams. Hard worker. Will put in the time. Has kept out of trouble since transferring to SIU and shows signs of maturing.

Negatives:  Had at least five documented off-field incidents while at Northwestern that demonstrated a lack of respect for the law, poor judgment, questionable character and immaturity. He does not have great size and strength as a blocker. Is still learning the position, having only played tight end the past two seasons. A little tight in the hips. Doesn’t always run clean, crisp routes. More fast than quick or maneuverable. The after-affects from prior concussion are at least a minor concern.

Summary:  Jones made a very favorable impression on the coaching staff during its rookie minicamp. He showed good pass-catching ability and speed the position has been lacking for the Vikings. Jones very likely would have been drafted, perhaps even in the early to middle rounds, had he not had the character issues from his days at Northwestern. If that nonsense is behind him, he has a very good chance to make the team and even contribute as a rookie, especially with his ability on special teams.

What they said:

“Still growing into the position and has upside as a TE prospect. Physically has the ability to play at the next [NFL] level.” - Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly.

“[Former Northwestern coach] Randy Walker gave me a second chance, and he did everything and more for me. I think he saw a good kid who made mistakes. He tried to help me, but it comes to a point where it looks bad for the program. Eventually I had to grow up. I was immature and making poor decisions.” - Jones, on his past.

“He didn't have to give me a chance, taking someone who was in trouble repeatedly. He took a risk. I owe him a lot.” - Jones, on SIU head coach Jerry Kill.

“He had some immaturity issues 2 1/2 years ago. He has straightened his act out, and he's doing a fantastic job in the last two-plus years.” Jones’ agent, Chris Schuering.

“I had a list of teams that I thought would be great fits for me based on the type of offense they run. Green Bay and Minnesota were at the top of my list. After the Packers drafted a tight end in the seventh round, Minnesota went to the top. Of course I would have liked to have been drafted, but it's more important to be in a good situation, where you can actually make the roster, than just to be drafted.” - Jones, on signing with the Vikings.

“It's great that we're both going to the same team. We're good friends, and it will be nice to see a familiar face.” - Jones, on going to training camp with college teammate Arkee Whitlock.

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