NFL Draft Scouting Report: Sidney Jones

Washington
Cornerback #26
Junior 6’0″ 181 pounds

Strengths:

  • Displays the fluidity to quickly turn-and-run in man and bail
  • Has a good feel for routes and will adjust accordingly
  • Aggressive with his hands create a feisty player who will challenge receivers off the line and blockers in the run game
  • Tremendous ball skills with the hand-eye coordination to play the ball in the air
  • Plus closing burst
  • Loose mover with equal hips to shadow receivers throughout the entirety of the route
  • Knows how to properly use his frame to pin receivers to the sideline
  • Eye-discipline to see both the quarterback and route developing in zone
  • Seamless combination of footwork and hips to mirror at the top of the route
  • Instinctual player with the reactive awareness to immediately come downhill and challenge screens
  • Can flip his hips and get to top speed quickly
  • Foot quickness to maintain feel for his man in short areas
  • Requites height and length to challenge receivers on an island
  • 39 career starts

Weaknesses:

  • Occasionally commits to the stem too quickly, allowing a free release
  • Will fly into tackle attempts and struggle to break down and wrap up as a result
  • Can get broken off by quicker/twitchier players and struggles to recover in tight areas
  • Has been late to punch in press in what grants receivers a free release
  • Multiple occurrences of him getting locked and struggling to disengage along the perimeter; has also been too willing to pass up opportunities in the run game
  • Bigger, stronger receivers have shown the ability to win with physicality

Washington’s secondary lived up to the well-warranted hype that met them at the beginning of the 2016 season, and Jones was quietly one of college football’s true shutdown corners. Opposing passers were not shy about their desire to avoid throwing Jones’ direction-through the first half of the season, quarterbacks had targeted him only nine times as Jones allowed four receptions for 20 yards. Jones concluded his ’16 campaign with three interceptions and six pass breakups en route to first-team All-Pac-12 selection.

Jones will more than likely find himself in the top five of my corner rankings, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him end up a first round pick. His height and length, coupled with his cover skills, create a true cover corner that the NFL so desirably covets. The ability to stick to and shadow guys down the field grant Jones the opportunities to challenge the ball when it does come his way, showing the confidence and instincts to locate, leap and effortlessly play the ball in; what’s not lost in his film is Jones’ ability to leap with timing and excellent body control. Athleticism is a requisite trait for corners and is one Jones exudes with the use of his feet and hips often working in tandem to thrive off the line and in tight quarters, while the aforementioned ability to flip his hips and get to top speed in a hurry prevent receivers from getting on top and creating separation. With 39 career starts, Jones has the noted experience and allowed a mere 42.2 passer rating this past season.

There are an abundance of strengths in Jones’ game, yet some rather maddening aspects to what he does at the line. While normally patient to let receivers declare their release, he has shown the tendency to open his hips and tilt, thus committing to the receiver’s stem too quickly. Similarly, being patient blends into Jones opting to land his punch in press once the receiver is out of reach; with length like his, Jones needs to learn to use it more effectively when crowding the line. With a wiry frame that lacks the necessary play strength, the physicality of receivers at the next level will provide Jones with a heavy challenge that JuJu Smith-Schuster exposed in USC’s matchup with Washington this past season.

Pro comp: Desmond Trufant

The two are equally-sized corners with nice length, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jones rival Trufant’s 4.38 40 come Combine time. Jones shares the foot quickness, ability to mirror and shadow routes along the perimeter and the skills to compete for the ball in the air that mirror what Trufant did; both also struggled with overall play strength and physicality to consistently win against physical receivers and finished their collegiate career with unrefined technique in press.

Draft projection: Late 1st-early 2nd

With a crop of talented corners in this draft, it’s tough to gauge Jones’ true projection. Without question he is one of the group’s top talents with that ever-so desirable height, length, athleticism, quickness and ball skills to create a prospect that has every opportunity to develop into a true cover corner. Having started 12 games as a true freshman before developing into a fine corner prospect, Jones has plug-and-play potential and with his length and quickness to handle two way go’s and potentially slide into the slot at some point.

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