Wide receiver Zay Jones displayed flashes early in his NFL career but didn't really put it all together until the joined the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. In his first season with the Black and Teal, Jones set new career highs for receiving yards and receptions and he's poised to pick up where he left off in 2023. However, Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report doesn't think he'll be able to recreate his success.
Ballentine predicted each NFL team's biggest bust for the 2023 season and picked Jones for the Jaguars, arguing that the arrival of Calvin Ridley could have a negative impact on his total targets. On the top of that, Ballentine thinks Jones' career year might have been the product of him playing on a good offense rather than an actual breakout season.
"But the return of Calvin Ridley from suspension means that one of Kirk, Evan Engram or Jones are about to lose targets and become less relevant.
Jones still struggled with drops last season. He had nine on the season which was second-most in the league, per Player Profiler. He wasn't necessarily elite at any one thing and was 30th in route win rate.
It was certainly a career year for the 28-year-old, but it may have been more of a product of his role in a good offense than a true breakout season."
A second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2017, Jones only hauled in more than 50 passes in a season once in the first five years of his NFL career. Similarly, he only reached the end zone more than twice in 2018, when he scored seven touchdowns.
When general manager Trent Baalke gave Jones a three-year contract worth $24 million last year, he got a collective blank stare. Why would you give a player a top-market contract when he had been given several opportunities but hadn't been able to take advantage of them? Still, the Jaguars recognized Jones' talent and paid him for what he could do on their offense, not his past production. And their investment paid off as the former East Carolina Panther went on to catch 82 receptions for 823 yards with five touchdowns.
Zay Jones will definitely not be a bust for the Jaguars in 2023
You can make everything sound bad if you spend the whole day shuffling words around. This is to say that the case for Jones being a bust might not be nearly as strong as Ballentine made it sound. As he noted, Jones had several drops in 2022 context is necessary; five of them came in Weeks 13 and 14.
At the time, Jones was dealing with a chest injury and it's fair to assume that the injury had an impact in his performance. This is a reasonable conclusion when you consider that he didn't have more than one drop in a game the rest of the season. Heck, Doug Pederson said he wasn't worried at all and believed the receiver was going to be able to get back on track.
Regarding Ridley, it's true that he'll most likely become the Jaguars' top receiver next season and he'll surely take away some of Jones targets. However, Jacksonville lost Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency, so Jones might not experience a steep dropoff in targets. Moreover, Ridley's presence will draw coverage away from other Jaguars, which will in turn lead to more favorable matchups for everyone.
The bottom line is that Jones Zay might not get as many targets as he did last year but saying that he'll be a bust is probably a reach. He will still have a huge role on offense and help the Jaguars win games, just like he did in 2022.