Prospect of the Day: Byron Jones

U Conn CB Byron Jones
6'1", 196 lb.
Senior

Bio
Was team captain in HS
Named to All-State team in Connecticut as a senior (2009)
Played on the St. Paul Catholic basketball team as well (44.5" vertical jump? I'd assume so)
Was originally recruited as a receiver, but played QB until his senior season
Track star as well - 22.13 in 200-meter dash, 48.43 in 400-meter dash
Rated by Rivals.com as a two-star recruit
Economics major who interned two years for Congressmen/women in Washington, D.C

Honors
AAC All-Academic team (2013)
Set a world record with 12'3" broad jump at the Combine

Combine Measurements
Arms: 32"
Hand: 10"
40-yd dash: 4.40 secs (Pro Day)
Vertical Jump: 44.5" (top mark for DB)
Broad Jump: 12'3" (world record)
3-cone: 6.78 secs
Short Shuttle: 3.94 secs
Long Shuttle: 10.98 secs

Overall
Looking back on Jones' history as a player, there aren't a bunch of All-Conference honors or All-America type plaudits. He was a two star recruit that remained in state for college. He was the best athlete in a state not usually teeming with bona fide next level stars. But, one weekend in Indianapolis changed everything and it made him one of the household names in this 2015 NFL Draft class. And to think he contemplated not working out.

There wasn't just buzz created when Jones worked out on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf; rungs of the draft were climbed, two at a time. Jones put on a freak show - a world record broad jump, nearly a Combine best vertical jump and sub-4, sub-7, sub-11 shuttle times in the short shuttle, 3-cone and long shuttle. As such, it eliminated any chance for anonymity in this process for Connecticut's finest.

Texans analyst and radio sideline reporter John Harris unveiled his top 100 prospects for the NFL Draft. (Photos courtesy of AP)

But, on field cynicism arose almost immediately.

"Oh, he's just going to be Mike Mamula." The former Boston College Eagle DE's name is the one we all invoke when trying to describe a Combine warrior. That's not entirely fair because Mamula was on his way to become an excellent player in this league before injuries put a stop to that progress. But, invoking Mamula's name is a way of saying "yeah, we've seen Combine winners come out of nowhere before and where did it get them?" Without question, scouts, player personnel and others scrambled back to the film room to make sure that their initial grade on Jones was accurate. Complicating matters is that Jones was recruited as a receiver, started in 2012 as a safety, played a full year in 2013 at cornerback and then missed the last five games of the 2014 season with an injury.

As such, his projections are all over the board and with good reason. It's more of a forecast than educated film watching, in a sense. But, keep this in mind, he tore the labrum in his shoulder IN THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST CAMP, yet played seven games with that intense pain. There's some definite football character and off the field character to go with the athlete we all saw in Indianapolis. Let's take a look at the full package.

Quote
"I'm hoping I can solidify a nice mid-round projection, so we'll see" - Jones heading into the Combine. Yeah, I think he did a little more than that.

What to like
--Vocal leader - easy to see that on the field
--Tough, played press technique with a torn labrum in 2014
--Versatile - played both safety and cornerback
--Quick feet to match cuts
--Innate knowledge of where the ball is in the air
--Not a Ronnie Lott hitter, but he's a decent tackler (had 87 tackles at safety in 2012)

What needs some work
--When his eyes go back to the quarterback, he can't slow his break - he has to continue to drive through upfield hip of WR
--Even though he's got great feet, he tends to clutch and grab
--Don't like him in off coverage - doesn't react to challenge shorter throws - slants, hitches, etc…
--Doesn't drive on the ball as I'd want in off coverage

Projection
I wanted to fall in love with Jones when I studied him on the field but he's got a lot of room to grow. He's everything I want in a football player. He's got every physical asset any team would want in a football player. He'll never be an issue off the field. He was a captain at U Conn. He played through a torn labrum for as long as he could as a senior to help the team. He's just not as good a football player as some other corners in this draft class. Today.

Tomorrow and beyond? That's a totally different question and perhaps most pertinent when discussing Jones. We all want to see him fully healthy and there's no 2014 film in which he was just that. Either way, he's got the physical ability, smarts/intelligence and toughness to eventually be a big time player in this league...as tough as it is to forecast success for a Combine warrior.

Take a look at Byron Jones' football career at Connecticut.

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