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- Position: Cornerback (CB)
- Class: Senior (redshirt)
- College: Connecticut
- Ht/Wt: 6'1", 199 pounds
You may have heard Byron Jones' name during the Combine, after he demonstrated some freakish athleticism. Jones jumped so far in the broad jump that he set a world record, his 44.5-inch vertical leap was a half-inch shy of the Combine record for the last 10 years, and he also led the pack in his 60-yard shuttle. At his pro day, Jones ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash. He also managed 18 bench press reps, so if you're looking for a supreme athlete at the cornerback position, this is the standard to measure everyone against.
On the tape, you can definitely see how quickly Jones can move his feet. He takes very light steps, and his hip transition is very fluid. He has the long speed to hang with deep receivers, and the short-area quickness to stick tightly to slot guys. Jones does a good job of keeping his eyes on a player's hips, anticipates lateral changes in direction well, and closes quickly on receivers. He's a physical player who's not afraid to keep a hand on his opponent as they run the route. When he can see the ball, he plays it naturally in the air, and is a good hands catcher.
The thing that worries me about Jones is what happens when he takes his eyes off the receiver. When watching Jones play, I was reminded a lot of a young Leodis McKelvin - a guy who looks great covering receivers for 90 percent of their routes, but whose game falls apart at the catch point when he suddenly forgets how to attack the ball. Sometimes he's late turning his head, which lets the receiver make an uncontested catch. Sometimes he turns his head too early, giving the receiver room to finish his route. Donnie Henderson eventually fixed the problem with McKelvin, so I'd like to think he could do it for Jones, too.
Jones is a sound tackler, if not overly physical, and he does a decent job defending the run game. He's a very demonstrative player on the field, and I can tell he's a leader for his unit and his team. He missed about half of his final season after suffering a shoulder injury. He also began his career at UConn as a safety for a couple seasons.
Jones is the litmus test for calculating how much NFL teams care about raw athleticism. While Jones is a world-class athlete, I still think he needs seasoning before he can start at cornerback. I can't shake the McKelvin comparison in my mind, and I don't think McKelvin was worth that first-round pick - and he could also return kicks at an elite level. With the assumed risk involved, I'd grade Jones as a late first, early second-round pick, slotted just ahead of Jalen Collins, whom I wrote up last week.