In an NFL which is looking for new creative outlets, Velus Jones Jr. offers special playmaking ability. Jones is a special player with the ball in his hands but also has blazing speed, making him a threat to score on any play. Jones has the make-up of a play-maker in the NFL, however, he did not get to run a full route tree at Tennessee thus scouts don’t know what he can do. That aside, scouts were able to see some route running and receiving ability at the Senior Bowl where Jones stood out. Jones transferred schools after the 2019 season from USC to Tennessee. He would have 62 receptions for 607 yards and seven touchdowns in his final year at Tennessee.
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Name: Velus Jones Jr.
Jersey: No. 1
Position: Wide Receiver
Class: Redshirt Senior
Weight: 204 lbs
Games Watched: Senior Bowl (2022), Georgia (2021), Alabama (2021), Pittsburgh (2021).
Major Injury History: None
Hands/Ball Security (7/10)
There is little reason to believe Jones can’t make every catch when the ball is near him or inside his frame. To this point, he only had three drops in the 2021 season. However, his limitation is his lack of arm length, where he may get out-reached by some cornerbacks in the NFL. He can also have awkward catching motions on throws outside of his frame which may contribute to drops.
Contested Catch (6.5/10)
There are some limitations to Jones’ contest catch ability including his arm length, and on deep targets, he tends to let the ball come to him instead of high pointing it. As well, the awkward catching motions outside of his frame make it difficult for him to win against longer cornerbacks. This means Jones will likely be better at winning against cornerbacks with speed on linear routes and crosses.
Tracking/Body Control (7/10)
Jones’ tracking is good, however, it can sometimes be uncoordinated on deep throws. Jones did not have many downfield or intermediate targets that were on the money so he would often be in a good position, but the ball would be out of reach. The tracking and spatial awareness are great and should allow him to develop into a deep threat.
Route Running (6/10)
Route running wasn’t Jones’ forte at Tennessee for one reason. He wasn’t asked to run complex routes, meaning scouts have to project his ability to run the route tree. While his upside for route running is unknown, certain elements such as sinking his hips will be crucial to his development. During the Senior Bowl, Jones dominated in one-on-ones and showed craftiness and the ability to beat leverage. It may take NFL coaching to bring the most out of him, but as it stands the grade is based on what he more so ran at Tennessee which was simplistic routes.
Jones has the makeup to be an excellent separator, as he can modulate his speed. He can also keep his speed while making breaks, as shown in practice in the Senior Bowl. While he didn’t run too many NFL-type routes, there is clearly potential to be a great downfield and intermediate separator with his ability to keep his speed on slants and outs. Once he develops the ability to sink his hips and maintain his speed, it will be very hard to cover him.
Jones played a lot out of the slot and this may be where he plays in the NFL while he develops more release packages for when he plays outside receiver. While being pressed as an outside receiver, he won with quickness as he was oftentimes a better athlete than most cornerbacks he faced. Overall, Jones will have to learn hand usage to pair with his quickness, which could allow him to be a threatening receiver from all positions on the field.
Run After the Catch (9.25/10)
The run after the catch is Jones’ calling card and will be what gets him a role on an offense. He is oftentimes a linear runner as he gets to top speed so quickly. He will be able to break arm tackles easily and can make one of two defenders miss in space. Overall, his speed will make him a home run threat.
Vertical Speed (9.25/10)
Jones has the top-end speed to be a deep threat in the NFL. His ability to shift up in gears or hit the ‘sprint’ button is second to none. In addition, he has the speed to draw safety coverage over the top. Overall, there is significant upside to Jones becoming a deep threat with his long speed, as he was only able to capitalize on a few deep throws because there were so many missed throws.
This would be a five, except Jones doesn’t have the suddenness to pair with the burst he has. The burst off the line of scrimmage and when he is driving through contact is expectational and shows how explosive he can be. His acceleration from his first speed to his top speed will give him the potential to be a great deep threat in the NFL.
Jones was one of the top athletes on the field in College, but when he reaches the NFL he may see a few athletes who can keep up. He has shown dynamic ability in jumping, quickness, long speed, and contact balance which gives him a high floor as a prospect. Jones will be a dynamic athlete on the field, and his technical development in route running and catching will likely decide how successful he is in the NFL.
Jones’ forte is not an elite blocker, as he’s much better with the ball in his hands, however, he hustles to engage and will continuously drive defenders back. In a number of the games where Tennessee threw screen after screen, Jones consistently made good blocks to let the runner get extra yardage. He does a good job with his angles and then driving when engaged.
Not only can Jones be used in motion, but there is reason to believe he can take carries out of the backfield on sweeps and jet motions. He should be able to play outside with his quickness, but in the NFL will need to develop more release packages to beat press coverage. Overall, if Jones can start in the slot his first year and then develop as a route runner and release packages, he can be a dynamic and versatile receiver.
Jones will be 25 as a rookie, yet that shouldn’t stop teams from drafting him. He is one of those players who will likely be a better pro, as college offenses could not release his full potential nor could they give him the correct usage for his skillset. In addition to being a dynamic run after catch receiver and good deep threat, Jones has the ability to be the starting punt and kick returner. There is a role for Jones to start in the NFL, and it will likely be through gadget plays where he can take hand-offs and make defenders miss on screen passes.
Rookie Projection: Rotational Slot Receiver
Third Year Projection: Starting Receiver
Final Grade (78/100): Mid Third-Round Pick
Pro Comparison: Golden Tate
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