From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today I’ll be profiling a SEC receiver with lot of experience as a kick returner.
#1 Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee (R-Sr.) — 5116, 204 lbs.
Senior Bowl/Combine Measurements
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Velus Jones||5116/204||9 3/4″||30 7/8″||73 1/2″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Height/weight/speed prospect
— Impressive 40 time
— Good release versus Off coverage; Solid vs Zone coverage
— Can create space with quickness and acceleration
— Solid hands and ability to adjust to the ball
— Can create in space and find yards with his speed
— Willing blocker for teammates
— Extensive experience as a return man
— Balance and hand usage versus Press coverage
— Creating space with physicality and manipulation
— Most receptions in the short area
— Adequate tracking the deep ball over his shoulder
— Route running is raw
— Doesn’t break a lot of tackles
— Block positioning and sustain on outside and second level
— Age; six years in college
— Career: 120 receptions, 1,434 yards, 12 ypr, 11 TD, 15 rushes, 59 yards, 3.9 ypc, 1 TD
— Career: 122 kick returns, 2,973 yards, 24.4 ypr 1 TD, 18 punt returns, 272 yards, 15.1 ypr
— 2021: 62 receptions, 807 yards, 13 ypr, 7 TD, 1 rush, 15 yds.
— 2021: 23 kick returns, 628 yards, 27.3 ypr, 1 TD, 18 punt returns, 272 yards, 15.1 ypr
— Finished his career as the FBS’ active career leader in kickoff return yards
— Played at USC from 2016-2019
— 2021 SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year
— 61 career games with 21 starts
— Earned his undergraduate sociology degree from USC in December 2019
— Completed his master’s degree in agricultural leadership, education and communications at Tennessee in December 2021
— Senior Bowl invitee, leading receiver for the American Team, catching four passes for 53 yards
— Born May 11, 1997 – 24 yrs. old
I’m starting to repeat myself but the Steelers need to add speed. Jones turned some heads with a blistering forty time at the Combine. He has good size and played primarily in the slot for the Volunteers. His best asset may be what he can do on special teams but don’t count him out in the offense.
As a receiver, he showed a good release versus off coverage varying his release speeds and having the acceleration to eat up space quickly. At the top of the route he can use hesitations and quickness to create space and he does a nice job keeping up his speed out of the break. Against Zone coverage he has a solid understanding of where settle and give the quarterback and good target. He has solid hands can adjust to the ball well. He fought some throws early in the season but became more comfortable plucking the ball cleanly as the season continued.
Vs South Carolina, he runs a post from the slot and makes a clean catch and is one step from a streak to the end zone.
Vs Purdue from the slot at the top, he uses a hesitation, outside fake and quickness to get the defender to jump to the outside creating gobs of space inside.
Most of the receptions I saw were screens, quick outs, comebacks and slants in an effort to get him the ball in space and let him create. He was primarily in the slot but lined up occasionally outside as well as in the backfield. As the season progressed he was used more on intermediate and deep routes. Once the ball is in his hands he can turn it on quickly add yards after the catch. He was not used to run the ball a lot but was used on occasional sweeps and fly passed behind the line of scrimmage displaying patience to use his blocks. He is willing blocker on running plays using a good base and hands on the outside and second level as well as willing to block down from the edge.
At Missouri, he’s the stacked receiver and will take the screen pass loop inside behind the offensive linemen and then hit the gas for the touchdown.
Vs South Carolina, he takes the handoff on the sweep and shows patience to set up his blockers for the positive gain.
Vs Georgia, he’ll act like he’s blocking before breaking to the outside and making a fingertip catch.
When he doesn’t get the ball he immediately makes the effort to block for teammates. Here are couple reps from the slot. The first he hangs in there before getting sent to the ground. The second he starts to block nearly 25 yards down field and controls his man for another thirty.
An accomplished return man Jones was used on punt and kick returns. He displayed good ball security and can get to the edge using his speed.
Vs Purdue, here is an example of him on a kick return.
A couple of punt returns showing speed and vision.
Against Press coverage he needs to learn to use his hand more efficiently to not get knocked off balance. Within the route, he also needs to use his hands better to not have his route impeded. His route running is raw and improvement is needed in creating space in ways other than quickness and sharpening his breaks at the top of routes. He can run through arms but didn’t break a lot of tackles. He was adequate tracking over his shoulder and on contested catch throws. As a blocker in space, he can improve getting positioned between the ball and the defender and sustaining better.
Overall, Jones is height/weight/speed prospect with extensive return experience. He was used in the slot running routes on all three levels with most of his production on short throws in space. He has solid hands, can get open with quickness and can create after the catch. Areas to improve include combatting Press coverage, improving his route running and creating space. Better effort to break tackles and positioning as a blocker would also be beneficial.
The Tennessee passing game was limited with a lot of half field reads by the quarterback and adequate accuracy. Watching Jones you could see his comfort level rise as the season progressed. If he can be coached up to improve his route running he could become full time slot but it may take some time. His potential and speed are intriguing though.
The kick/punt returner job was open for a few hours this week and Jones could have easily filled that role. With the signing of Gunnar Olszewski the need for a return man is diminished. I think Pittsburgh will look for more polished receivers to add to the roster now. As a comp for Jones I’ll go with speedier K.J Osborn who had a good second season in Minnesota. They have similar size, were both good return men in college and had room to grow as a receiver.
Projection: Early to Mid-Day 3
Depot Draft Grade: 6.9 Backup/Special Teamer (5th round)
Games Watched: 2021: At Missouri, vs South Carolina, At Alabama, vs Georgia, Vs Purdue