East Carolina’s Zay Jones is an intriguing option in that loaded second tier group of wide receivers. He offers you some size and little bit of wiggle too. Jones was ultra-productive at ECU, playing in a wide open spread attack. He holds the single season NCAA record with 158 catches last season. He also holds the career NCAA record with 399 receptions. This past season he eclipsed 1,700 yards, grabbing seven touchdowns in the process.
Mel Kiper is taking notice. He put Jones in his first round mock draft last week, landing with the Chiefs at 27. There’s some momentum growing. The numbers are all there, but there are a few lingering questions about his abilities that will determine where he gets selected on draft weekend.
I think Zay’s best trait is the ability to win 50-50 balls. He did it twice against some of the best competition he saw in 2016, against Virginia Tech. Jones displayed spectacular body control along the sideline, bailing out his quarterback a couple of times in this one. Watch him fight through contact and keep concentration here.
Here’s another example. Watch the adjustment. There’s a light push off on this one, but the refs are gonna let you get away with that more often than not. Watch as he twists his body then goes full extension for the ball. He deadens his legs to ensure he gets down in bounds.
Jones isn’t an explosive athlete, but he’s crafty enough to put defenders to sleep and beat them. He gets a day two safety prospect here in Marcus Maye. Jones hits him with the stutter step and sells the out route, then bolts up the field. He’s able to make another miss on his way to the endzone.
The concerns for me with Zay are purely athletic. He definitely doesn’t have that explosive first gear to get him up to speed. I’d call him a momentum runner, but he doesn’t show that last gear to get by defenders downfield either. At best, I’d label him an average athlete for the position.
Separation is a concern with Jones for me. I don’t see the explosive cuts that are going to shake off top NFL corners. Zay won with savviness at ECU, but that can only get you so far. I’m afraid he may be blanketed by man coverage in the NFL.
His thin frame doesn’t bode well for his 50-50 ability either. Bigger guys — like Mike Williams — can get away without the explosive agility or speed because they are physical freaks. Jones stands in at just 6-2, 202 pounds and will get pushed around at the next level.
Overall, I think Zay Jones can grow into an average number two option in the NFL. I don’t think he ever becomes a dominant player, but he will fill a role nicely for a team. He can win you a couple of 50-50 balls, but the athletic ability is lacking. I probably wouldn’t touch him until late day two.