Last Saturday, the Jets selected Mississippi defensive back Derrick Jones with the 204th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The 23-year old Jones is 6'2" and 189 pounds and started eight games over four years at Ole Miss. Jones started off as a cornerback before converting to wide receiver in 2014 and then moving back to cornerback in his senior year. He registered 54 tackles, two interceptions and six passes defensed over the course of his career, along with 11 catches for 175 yards and two scores.
Jones started off at cornerback with the Rebels, starting starting four games as a freshman and registering a career-best 27 tackles.
In 2014, he saw playing time at both cornerback and receiver but didn't have a major role as either. He played just 40 snaps in a reserve sub-package role on defense and all five of his catches (for 55 yards and a touchdown) came in a late season blow-out win against Presbyterian.
In 2015, Jones was a receiver full-time but still didn't have a major role. He ended up with six catches for 120 yards, although that did include a 45-yard touchdown against Auburn.
He started off 2016 as a receiver but then moved back to cornerback and gradually worked his way into a rotational role and then back into the starting line-up for the final three games of the season.
Jones was not invited to the scouting combine but posted some elite-level numbers at his pro day, including an outstanding 41" vertical leap and 140" broad jump. He also ran a 4.48 40-yard dash, but his agility numbers weren't very good and he only posted nine bench press reps.
Just by looking at Jones you can immediately see how much length he has, although unlike Jeremy Clark, the Jets' other sixth round cornerback selection, Jones is thin and lanky.
When employed at the cornerback position, Jones played almost exclusively on the outside and mostly up at the line of scrimmage.
He apparently also played some free safety in 2014, but the only time he lined up as a safety in 2016 was if there was no receiver on his side of the field.
Jones' coverage numbers were pretty good, although he did give up two big plays last season. One came on a long 51-yard touchdown pass down the middle, although on the play he seemed to be expecting safety help to the inside. The other was a 67-yard pass play down to the three-yard line on which he bit badly on an out-and-up and got burned deep.
On the whole, Jones makes good use of his length and athleticism, although he at times looks raw technically. On this play, Jones (#19) shows how well he runs as he comfortably stays on top of his man on a deep route:
This play saw him trailing his man across the field mainly because he allowed too clean of an inside release and didn't react fast enough:
Here's another inside route where he at least recovers well enough to make the tackle. However, the pass was behind the receiver and had it led him, there's a chance this would have been another touchdown:
He will also be too far off and unable to recover on hitch routes at times.
Although he played up at the line a lot and possesses the long arms that will be ideal for a press coverage cornerback, I didn't see much of Jones jamming his man at the line of scrimmage, as he often just bailed and dropped.
Generally, in the running game in particular, he plays tentatively and doesn't go looking for contact. On this play, he tried to stop the runner at the goal line, but got over a beat late and was trucked:
He didn't have any penalties on defense over the last three years, although he had one on offense and one on special teams.
With his experience at wide receiver, you'd expect Jones to be adept at making a play on the ball. From his time as a receiver, he has proven he can go up to make contested catches down the field and catch the ball cleanly.
On this play, Jones gets his head turned and locates the ball very quickly, then uses his 41" vertical and long arms to snag the pass. You have to wonder if that might have been a completion if the ball was thrown a beat earlier and with more touch over the top, though:
On this play, he has safety support behind him and comfortably stays in front of his man to pick off a pass that should never have been thrown. His speed on the return is impressive though:
As you'd expect, Jones' length is an asset when breaking up passes because it gives him a big range and helps him pry the ball away from receivers who don't make a clean catch.
Jones doesn't contribute much in run defense with just a few stops against the run each season. He did have a tackle for loss as he was unblocked into the backfield on a run blitz against Auburn though.
Jones generally plays the run very tentatively and doesn't tend to get involved unless he has to. On the one occasion he uncharacteristically attacked the line of scrimmage more aggressively, he ended up getting sealed to the inside to set up a big run:
Jones has contributed a lot on special teams, but still seems to have a lot to learn in terms of how he should be handling his assignments.
He has three tackles over the past three years on special teams, including this one on kick coverage:
Jones saw action on kickoff and punt coverages, as a blocker on the kick return unit and in the vice role on punts. In all of these roles, he struggled at times, especially in space, although there's no doubt he runs well.
The LSU game was particularly interesting from a Jets fan perspective because he was matched up with Jamal Adams quite a lot. Adams, playing gunner, blew by him twice, although Jones did get by him once when the roles were reversed. Adams landed the knockout blow in the fourth quarter though:
Here's a nice play by Jones, reading the receiver screen and jumping it so he doesn't get sealed to the outside by a blocker:
However, there were plenty of plays, especially on special teams, where Jones looked a bit lost in terms of who to block or how to react. I didn't definitively see him blow any coverage assignments, but he was involved in a couple of breakdowns that may or may not have been his fault in part.
Jones only had one missed tackle on defense last season, but isn't particularly productive as a tackler and will sometimes get dragged or let his man fall forwards for a few extra yards.
In the open field, there were a few plays where he threw a shoulder at the ball carrier rather than making a secure form tackle. However, he did force a fumble on one such play.
On this punt you can see how he gets down there fast but slows up and contains the outside rather than just trying to cut down the runner. In doing so, he then ends up overpursuing and misses a diving tackle in his attempts to recover:
Jones had no sacks in his college career and, in fact, no pass rush attempts last season. As noted, he did make a tackle for loss on a run blitz.
Jones has handled the fact the Rebels kept changing his position well and is a fiery character in between the lines. He portrays himself with a confident demeanor and gets fired up after big plays.
However, he was suspended for the first three games of 2016 for violating team standards. The nature of this indiscretion was not reported.
Jones doesn't appear to have had any injury issues in college. He missed three games due to suspension in his senior year and otherwise had played every game since his freshman year. He played in nine of 12 games as a freshman.
Just like with Clark, Jones' length makes him ideal for a role as a press-cover corner which is something Todd Bowles likes his defenses to have.
However, unless he bulks up and sharpens up his instincts, Jones probably wouldn't be an option to also contribute at safety like Clark might.
Jones is an impressive athletic specimen, but his lack of experience, rough and ready technique and questionable instincts probably mean he'll be a developmental project.
While it would be nice if he could be a good special teams contributor as a rookie, the coaches will have to work with him to ensure he knows what his assignment is because he did seem to look a little unsure of himself at times in the footage watched.
It's clear the Jets are in the market for a young, cheap, long and athletic defensive back and they've doubled up on two intriguing prospects in Clark and Jones in the sixth round.
With Clark's injury and Jones' rawness, the Jets can't really rely on either of these players to be ready to contribute much this season. However, if the aim is to get them ready to step up next season, then the competition between them and the rest of the cornerbacks on the roster should be interesting to gauge.