If Sidney Jones falls to the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he could go a long way to fixing all that ails the secondary.
The Packers need a day one starter at corner. Now isn’t the time for projects. Enter Sidney Jones, a two-time, first-team All-Pac 12. Had Jones entered the draft another year, there’s reason to believe his name would be called inside the top 15 selections. Given a cornerback class rich in talent, there’s hope he drops all the way to No. 29.
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You only had to watch a few minutes of Green Bay Packers football in 2016 to understand the biggest area of need. Dom Capers’ defense couldn’t cover a statue, let alone the elite crop of wide receivers they faced in the postseason.
Capers had no choice but to shade safety help in the direction of opponents’ top receivers like the Odell Beckhams and Dez Bryants of the world. The moment a Packers corner, often LaDarius Gunter, was tasked with covering one-on-one, there was little resistance.
Jones is a polished, day one starter
Following Sam Shields’ inevitable departure, help from within isn’t on the way. That’s where Jones can help. The projected first-round pick excels man-to-man whether in press or off coverage. His movements are fluid and smooth, and his quick feet help him win early in a receiver’s route.
Jones displays good anticipation and ability to mirror receivers and maintain tight coverage. He has a nose for the football, too, breaking up six passes and picking off three in 2016.
He also displays good mental processing, understanding his job on any given play and showing awareness of his position on the field. Outside of the numbers, he displayed an ability to squeeze receivers towards the sideline, preventing them from maintaining the “red line”, which forces the quarterback to throw into a much tighter window.
Despite the fact Jones is below the ideal frame for a 6-foot-1 corner, he’s a sure tackler and solid in run support. NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranks him No. 12 in his overall prospect rankings, and said “Jones lacks bulk but he is always in proper position and rarely gets beat in coverage”.
Could he drop to No. 29?
In another year, Jones would be a lock for the top 20 in the opening round. He might still. Working in Green Bay’s favor is the deep pool of talent at the position, potentially knocking the Washington product all the way down to No. 29.
The biggest concern is with his frame. Jones is the ideal height at 6-foot-1, but at just 170 pounds threatens to be pushed around by bigger, physical receivers in the NFL. Jones will need to add bulk to his frame without compromising his speed to reach his full potential.
Jones is a talented run defender and displays excellent competitive toughness, but he can occasionally shy away from tackles. Jesse Fritsch of BreakingFootball.com wrote that Jones “too often as a run defender will turn off the jets if the splash play isn’t there for him and is fine with letting others clean up.”
Concerns regarding his frame might be what it takes for Jones to land in Green Bay. That is, of course, unless Ted Thompson is willing to move up a few spots if he drops into the twenties. It’s worth noting compensatory picks can be traded this year, and the Packers are expected to net a fourth-rounder for losing the services of Casey Hayward. Maybe losing one cornerback will help them go get another. It’s purely speculation at this point, though.
Considering the depth of talent at the position, Thompson may prefer to sit back until No. 29 and see which cornerback falls.