CB Jonathan Jones could be a Patriots target in the draft to play nickel or slot corner
As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.
The Patriots have a need at cornerback as we highlighted in our piece about Artie Burns on the 24th. While the Patriots can opt for one of the corners out there that have the proto-typical size to play on the outside, there are other players who could be of interest who play the slot or aren’t the biggest guys, but just happen to play that way.
In the upcoming days we’ll highlight some names that could be on the Patriots radar. While we all know the top guys like Vernon Hargreaves or Eli Apple will be long gone by the time the Pats pick at #60, we’ll focus on some of the guys who still at least have a chance of being around by then.
Jonathan Jones from Auburn is another track star/football player that could be a Patriots target in the draft. Jones is a standout, solid cornerback for the War Eagles who once won the national title in the 110-meter hurdles. Jones isn’t the biggest guy at 5’9, 186 pounds but he’s fast, physical and aggressive running a blistering 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
He played as a freshman at Auburn and then missed a large chunk of his sophomore season due to a broken ankle suffered early in the year but did come back in the latter stages of 2013. He had an outstanding year in 2014 with six interceptions, 11 passes defensed and 36 tackles as a junior, earning 2nd team SEC honors.
Despite having foot surgery in the spring of 2015 he didn’t miss any game action and notched one interception, 13 passes defensed and 69 tackles in his final season.
Jones had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and was a standout in coverage against some of the best WRs in the country. He’s best in man coverage and didn’t play as confidently in zone where he tended to give too big a cushion. Has tremendous closing speed and with a 36” vertical is able to get up and compete for throws to WRs that have a height advantage.
He is consistently able to get his head around when the ball is in the air and make plays. With his lack of size, he will have a hard time on the edge in the running game. Has had some injury issues.
– Excellent in man coverage, physical at the line of scrimmage
– Very good ball skills
– Able to play press man or zone coverage, can read the QB and drive on the play
– Excellent speed, can run and stay with any WR
– Size is an issue, will be at a disadvantage with most NFL WRs
– Aggressive style of play will draw plenty of flags
– Injury issues could be a sign of things to come
What his Role Will Be:
His role will be at least initially of being the nickel corner in the slot. His aggressiveness and the ability to play man coverage close to the wide receiver will be a plus. He has the speed and quickness to cover any of the smaller, quicker slot receivers in the NFL.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Possibly, he could transition to an outside starting corner but his lack of size and weakness in run support will be things to work on.
How Many Downs Can He Play?
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot would be in competition with Coleman for the slot position.
What is his ST Value?
Minimal, ran back kickoffs in high school
Jones’ drop in production in his senior season can be directly tied to his foot surgery in the off-season, something Pats fans should remember not so fondly as it happened to Brandon LaFell a year ago. But he’s a competitive, feisty corner and turned heads at the Senior Bowl with tough, physical, sticky coverage.
His biggest negative is his height, but he makes up for it with his ability to cover and blistering speed. He has good footwork and will keep glued to receivers. Should the Patriots select him he’d cover the slot receiver allowing Butler and Ryan to handle the duties outside.
He’s strong (19 reps on the bench press), so he’ll be able to jam receivers at the line. He’s very feisty, something defensive coaches love. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will find a way to use his talents to their maximum. Belichick’s son and Patriots assistant Brian was recently at Auburn’s Pro Day. The team signed for Auburn safety Brandon King a year ago. Jones is slotted to go around the 4th round of the draft. If he’s still available then, the Patriots may show some interest.
He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter on Day 1. He should fit in very well into the NE defense as the nickel or slot corner as the Patriots love to play a lot of snaps in their sub-package defense.
Burns highlight film can be found here, courtesy of SD Highlights: