Name: Zay Jones
School: East Carolina
Position fit: Wide receiver
Stats to know: Had 216 targets in 2016, the most for a wide receiver in a single season over the past three years.
What he does best:
- Has strong and natural hands, dropped only six of 164 catchable passes in 2016.
- Quick to turn upfield immediately after catching the pass, which is his main tool to gain yards after catch.
- Has a large catch radius and can make tough receptions on passes coming outside of his frame even in tight coverage, including diving receptions on slightly inaccurate passes.
- Versatile receiver who has lined up all over the field and ran all type of routes, including jet sweeps.
- Although his route-running is not extremely sharp, he runs precise routes and knows when to get where to get open.
- Very quick off the snap, was always the first wide receiver coming off the line of scrimmage.
- Has excellent awareness and always knows where the markers are and where he needs to get to gain a first down or score a touchdown.
- Physical receiver who can gain yards during contact and is tough to bring to the ground.
- Excels at finding the soft spots in zone coverage.
- Strong effort during Senior Bowl practice and dominant during the game
- Cannot separate consistently in man coverage and thus cannot create large cushions for quarterbacks.
- Lacks burst and explosiveness after the catch and while he is physical and tough to bring to the ground, he will not run away from defenders.
- Does not use his hands when he is jammed and therefore can struggle against physical cornerbacks in press coverage.
Player comparison: Anquan Boldin, free agent
While Jones may have clocked a faster 40 at the combine than Boldin, his playing speed looks similar to the veteran wide receiver. In addition, Jones is not expected to separate with his quickness and speed, but can still make contested receptions in tight coverage by outmuscling defenders to the ball. Similarly to Boldin, the former East Carolina receiver is unlikely to gain chunk of yards after the reception; however, he is also not afraid of contact and can drag defenders for a couple yards.
Bottom line: Jones’ incredible production alone should raise eyebrows and earn him an opportunity to contribute in the NFL. His ability to improve in separating from defenders and beating press coverage will most likely decide his fate and will impact whether he can be full-time starter in the league. However, his ability to find the soft spots in the zones and pluck the ball out of the air can make him a useful part of an offense, likely in more of a possession role.