FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ second-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft wasn’t exactly met with shock and awe.
The Patriots grabbed an undersized cornerback with good speed, agility and special-teams prowess out of what has essentially become a New England farm system, the University of Alabama. Cyrus Jones was rightly connected to the Patriots throughout the pre-draft process after he ran a 4.49-second-40 yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with a lightning-quick 6.71-second 3-cone drill.
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound corner also ran a 1.55-second 10-yard split with a 33-inch vertical leap, 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump and 4.21-second short shuttle. He put up 10 bench press reps of 225 pounds. Jones’ speed and agility stand out, but he doesn’t have elite explosion or upper-body strength.
He finished his career at Alabama with 108 tackles, one sack, 7 1/2 tackles for loss, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 25 passes defended in three years at cornerback. He began his college career as a receiver and caught four passes for 51 yards with one carry for two yards as a freshman.
Jones also stood out in special teams. He returned 15 kicks for 351 yards and 54 punts for 673 yards with four touchdowns, all of which came as a senior.
Jones allowed 39 receptions on 68 targets for 497 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. He missed just three tackles all season.
An NFL scout mentioned to NESN.com that Jones covers with his “feet,” not his hands. That became apparent while watching his tape from the 2015 season. Jones does a great job tracking receivers using his speed and quickness. He doesn’t get too hands-y while covering downfield.
Jones also is adept at multiple coverages. He has experience in press coverage, off man and zone. He mostly stayed outside, where he covered on an island. Jones mentioned on his post-selection conference call that he practiced in the slot but rarely played there on game day.
There are times when Jones can’t overcome his physical limitations. He’s 5-foot-10 and has a 33-inch vertical leap, so there will be times when a big receiver makes a contested catch over his head. Jones is a solid tackler, however, and he allowed just 145 yards after catch last season.
As a returner, Jones doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but he uses his vision and quickness to find open creases and dart past the opposing punt coverage unit. He could take over punt return duties from Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola from Day 1.
The Patriots likely will use Jones outside and in the slot throughout spring practices and training camp to see what he can handle. He could begin his Patriots career as a slot cornerback before transitioning outside. On top of handing punt returns, Jones can be a core-four special teams player for the Patriots.
Thumbnail photo via Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports Images