Despite rupturing his Achilles at his pro day, Washington cornerback Sidney Jones insists that he’s still the best corner in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Philadelphia Eagles must believe, selecting Jones with the 43rd overall pick.
The first-team-All Pac 12 cornerback finished his three-year career in Seattle with 145 tackles, 21 passes defensed, 8.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, six forced fumbles and two touchdowns. He now looks to follow in the footsteps of his friend and former teammate Marcus Peters, of whom he is frequently compared, and turn that college success into a productive NFL career.
Saying Jones believes he’ll bounce back from injury would be an understatement.
“I’m the best corner in the draft, plain and simple,” Jones told USA Today Sports. “I will be playing this season. If you take me, I’m a good investment for your team. A great investment.”
Jones’ tape backs that up as well. Had he not suffered the Achilles injury, the cornerback could’ve been the first player at his position to come off the board on Thursday.
Why did the Eagles pick Jones?
There’s a lot to like about the former Huskies defensive back, who plays a lot like Peters.
Jones has the size and competitiveness, plus the physicality and ability to mentally process what it takes to become a superstar cornerback in the NFL. He’s a game-changer with the potential to become the best at his position in this year’s draft class if he can recover from injury.
In fact, if not for his injury, there’s likely no way Eagles is able to grab him in the second round. He was considered a first-round lock. He insists he’ll be running by June and playing by September, which is a bold statement, considering the typical recovery process for Achilles injuries.
But as people have learned with Jones, the cornerback does whatever it takes to get the job done.
Jones is ultra-physical, whether it’s jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage or undercutting routes to make a play on the ball. Jones is a gambler, which can result in game-changing plays when things go right. Jones got a hand on 21.3 percent of passes thrown in his direction in 2015 and, per Pro Football Focus, didn’t allow a single touchdown reception last season. His ball-hawking tendencies clearly instilled fear in opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks — he was targeted just 48 times in 2016.
While Jones’ ball-hawking and instincts flash on tape, it’s his ability to mirror and anticipate routes, coupled with his technically sound footwork, that separate Jones from the rest. He has fantastic recovery speed, balance and discipline, an abundance of traits that can distinguish good players from great ones.
Are there any knocks on Jones?
A ruptured Achilles is one of the more difficult injuries to come back from, and the recovery timetable is often long. Even though Jones has made it clear he intends on playing in 2017, there’s definitely a good chance he won’t see the field in the upcoming season. Durability concerns will likely hound Jones, especially given his relatively slight frame (6’1, 186 pounds).
Injury aside, Jones’ gambling play style has definite pros and cons. Gamblers who make plays — like Peters, for example — are praised for those plays, but there’s always the flip side. Look at Peters, who had eight interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in his rookie season in Kansas City. But he was also beaten for 939 receiving yards and eight touchdowns that season.
If Jones can recover from injury, however, he could become one of the league’s best at his position.