Byron Jones is a cornerback out of the University of Connecticut who really wowed those following the NFL during the NFL Scouting Combine. He performed a world record broad jump and he flashed in nearly every event he participated in. Having just posted an unofficial 4.36 40-yard dash at his pro day (second best among cornerback prospects), Jones will continue to climb up draft boards.
As good of an athlete as Jones is, I don’t expect him to make his way into the first round. There are deep positions in the 2015 NFL Draft that will entice suitors before they turn their attention to the defensive secondary. That would be a shame for many teams as Jones possesses impressive athleticism.
It would, however, leave the Jacksonville Jaguars relatively happy to take a chance on Jones to fill a major need on their roster: free safety.
The Jaguars are sitting pretty with the fourth pick in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and will be able to get any high-talent player they want. Whether it’s a running back or a wide receiver, the Jaguars will be looking for someone who can be an immediate impact player on the team. The secondary is a jumble of players that shouldn’t be overlooked either. Dwayne Gratz, Demetrius McCray, Aaron Colvin, and Davon House will battle it out for the primary cornerback roles and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien is slotted in to start in his third year. Josh Evans and newly signed Sergio Brown aren’t inspiring confidence at free safety, however.
Free safety is a shallow position in this year’s draft and will not have many players who truly fit the mold coming out. Byron Jones doesn’t truly fit the mold either, but he does seem to offer many of the characteristics that the Jaguars would be looking for. At 6’1″ he fits the size needed for Gus Bradley’s secondary though he would be coming in just under 10 pounds lighter than Josh Evans and Sergio Brown. Weight can be added at the NFL level and the Jaguars would be looking for him to continue doing what he has done in college, play instinctively and get to the ball. From his NFL.com draft profile:
"Extremely smart and instinctive on the field. Shows above-average anticipation of routes. Is able to sniff out rub routes and works to avoid them. Flashes recovery speed downfield and gets head around to find ball and make a play on it. Uses instincts and adequate closing burst to disrupt the catch. Generally reliable tackler. Team captain and leader on the field and in the locker room. Scouts say he’s willing to play hurt and inspires his teammates."
All of those strengths are missing at the safety position for the Jaguars right now.
If Jones doesn’t work out at safety, they have another long corner to add to their secondary. That’s not all bad.
The main concern with looking at a player like Byron Jones to transition from cornerback to safety is that the Jaguars may be taking an unnecessary gamble when they could fill another need at running back, wide receiver, left tackle, or even reaching for a more “true” free safety prospect. The Jaguars need someone with instincts back there and they need someone who is a reliable tackler as well. They could do a lot worse than Jones in their search to fill the position.
While I think it is an interesting prospect overall, the odds of this happening are slim. I’d expect the Jags to go with a known commodity like Brown for the 2015 season.
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