The more dynasty players I come to know, the more obvious to me it has become that each one has certain boxes they like their rookies to check. Production, breakout age, athletic profile, and projected draft round are among the most commonly mentioned. While some boxes may be more important to an individual owner than others, presumably, the more boxes a prospect checks, the safer one might feel about investing high draft capital.
Zay Jones checks all those boxes.
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The son of a Super Bowl champion, and a four-year starter at East Carolina University, Jones leaves college as the all-time FBS career receptions leader and the single season FBS receptions leader.
Statistics from sports-reference.com.
Jones increased his reception and yardage totals each season, showing consistent role growth. It all culminated in a 2016 that will be difficult for future prospects to top: an incredible 216 targets and 158 receptions. These numbers would be historically great in a 16 game NFL season. Jones posted them in a mere 12 games.
What I appreciate most about Jones’ production is what he added on his own. Forty-five percent of his yards in 2016 were in the form of accumulated yards after catch (YAC). A small criticism of his otherwise stellar production profile would be he scored relatively few touchdowns (23) when considering the immense number of career receptions (399).
Per Player Profiler, Jones compiled a career college dominator score of 37.1 percent. If you are unfamiliar with dominator rating, it is the combined percentage of a player’s receiving yards and receiving touchdowns versus his overall team totals. Jones first crossed the 20 percent mark in his sophomore season, which equates to a 50th percentile breakout age. No red flags here.
At 6’2”, 201 pounds, Jones has the requisite size to be effective anywhere on the field in the NFL. Jones’ measured athleticism is among the most impressive in the entire wide receiver class. He marries 4.45 forty speed with several other standout metrics. His Mock Draftable web stretches nearly to the edge in several categories, including eye-popping broad jump and 20 yard shuttle ranks above the 90th percentile.
Jones’ catch radius score, which attempts to quantify a player’s ability to cover ground in three-dimensions, is 10.27 (per Player Profiler), which is considered extraordinary.
Jones’ combination of size, agility, and burst shows up on film. He accelerates quickly in and out of breaks, and is an effective runner after the catch. He gains yards after contact and makes catches in traffic.
While I’m hesitant to share player comps, I know that many readers appreciate them and feel it helps them understand a player’s style better. The best I can do here is to describe Jones as a hybrid of Anquan Boldin and Jarvis Landry. He has the size, physicality in traffic, and hand strength of Boldin, but is much more athletic. He is a YAC specialist like Landry, although to me he doesn’t appear quite as fluid in space.
NFL evaluators appear to be sold on Jones, as he is commonly being projected as second round pick. This means he should see playing time early, and maybe even be a starter in his rookie campaign.
Dynasty evaluators aren’t quite as confident. Jones ranks all over the board amongst the DLF rookie rankers. He is slotted as a first-round rookie dynasty pick by two rankers (including me), as a second-round pick by one ranker, and as a third-round pick by six rankers. I’m not sure why the rest of the team isn’t as confident in Jones. I can’t speculate that it’s level of competition, because the same group ranked fellow small school standout Corey Davis as the top wide receiver prospect this season.
If the writing team is so split on Jones, it’s likely his draft range will vary widely from league to league. What does this mean for you? If you end up in the pro-Jones camp after reading this, you won’t be able to wait on him. There’s no telling when he might be selected by your league mates.
Perfectly illustrating my point, Mo Brewington struck early on Jones at 1.09 in the DLF post-combine rookie mock draft.
Zay Jones is one of the more complete prospects I’ve reviewed this season. I didn’t uncover any glaring issues in my research, which led to my high ranking. In my rankings, Jones sits in the second tier of wide receivers in the class, below Mike Williams and Corey Davis. I don’t see Jones as having NFL WR1 upside like those two, but I believe he can become an effective WR2 at the next-level. I think he has one of the safer fantasy floors in this wide receiver class and am comfortable selecting him near the turn of the first and second round in dynasty rookie drafts.
Enjoy the highlights!
- Mount Bust-More? Historical Context for 2017’s Early First Round WRs - December 28, 2017
- The Return of Josh Gordon - December 2, 2017
- Player Value: Two Wide Receivers Who Might Never Be Cheaper - September 15, 2017
Nice work. When are we going to get Making the Machine – Part two?
Can’t wait for more of your articles.
I agree with a lot of this assessment. I had him in my 2nd tier of WRs with WR2 upside, flex floor. I go back and forth between he and Godwin. as the top 2 in that tier. Juju would fit in there, but he’s gone from a previous devy draft. In a 14 team deep IDP league, he’s a candidate to be taken with my 2.01 – which I dont’ see him (or Godwin for that matter) lasting that long, depending on when and where these guys land in the NFL Draft.
All I know is that one of the two, Z. Jones or C. Godwin, better be available to me at 2.01 or I will be very sad.
Great article! Watching the highlight video, it seems that ZJ catches the ball semi-frequently with his body (coincidence with the article cover photo?). In watching his film, is this something that came up often or is something that folks should not worry about?