With the 29th pick in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected…a safety from NC State named Josh Jones. I am fairly certain a select population of Packer fans had a mini freakout when they heard the news.
Personally, I have zero problem with that pick. In fact, this is one of my top 3 favorite picks, in a draft I really liked. Many thought pass rusher was the way to go with this pick, but fear not fellow Packers fans, Ted Thompson and company did their homework with this selection. Josh Jones is an outstanding athlete with NFL size at the strong safety position. Jone’s talents don’t stop there, he couples football skills with outstanding athleticism to solidify his game. If you think Kentrell Brice hits hard, wait until you see Josh Jones on the field.
Before the draft, there was a good amount of fans who saw Jabrill Peppers as the play-maker the defense needed, and a good replacement for Micah Hyde. Conventional wisdom told me that they did not need to spend a first rounder to replace Hyde, but they should address the position on day 3 or even late day two of the draft.
When Jones fell to the back of the second round, the front office clearly recognized the hole Hyde’s departure made coupled with Morgan Burnett going into the last year of his contract. They simply could not pass on him, so they struck up a conversation with Mr. Jones, making him their 2nd round pick.
Many have speculated that Green Bay intentionally tried to make their team faster by drafting almost exclusively good athletes. While we do not know that this was intentional, what we do know is that this is an extremely athletic draft class. Jones might be the best athlete of the entire draft class. Standing at an impressive 6’1″ 220Lbs, you wouldn’t expect him to be the fastest player in Green Bay’s secondary.
To put his height and weight into perspective, Morgan Burnett is listed at 6″1″ 209 Lbs. Despite his big frame for a defensive back, he ran the fastest 40 time of any key contributor in Green Bay’s secondary at 4.41 seconds. Jones also posted a 37.5 inch vertical at the scouting combine. A combination of size and speed like that will allow Jones to be a big time play maker at the next level, provided he can grow as a player on the field.
After a redshirt year in 2013, Jones became a 3 year starter at safety for NC State. In his first two seasons, he was listed as a strong safety, but was moved to free safety his final year. Josh Jones’ listed position didn’t mean much to where he lined up. Of his 868 snaps played in 2016, only 246 were spend playing free safety.
The remainder of the snaps were played at box safety (494), and cornerback (128) per Pro Football Focus. Although he was overlooked for All-ACC honors in each of his 3 seasons, he posted an impressive stat line in 2016. He racked up a team leading 109 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions.
Josh Jones posses the athleticism to help Green Bay’s defense on multiple fronts. He will be able to contribute as an inside linebacker and a slot cornerback in addition to his natural role as a safety. His athletic ability will also allow him to make plays all over the field, something the Packers have been lacking at safety since Nick Collins retired due to injury. He can play both safety positions. Delivers punishing hits against both the run and pass. Plays aggressive. Uses length well to get pass break ups. Decent ball skills.
He could benefit from some coaching in terms coverage technique as well as tackling. Big hitter mentality get him into trouble at times. Arm tackler. Fooled by play action at times. He will make mental errors in coverage occasionally. Takes gambles in coverage that can cause major issues on the back end.
I loved this pick from the start! Jones was generally viewed as an early to mid 2nd round prospect. Some even thought he may sneak into the 1st round. The Packers took the best player available approach, and filled an underrated need in the process.
The only thing they maybe could have done better would have been taking a pass rusher, a bigger need in my opinion. The Jones pick adds some much needed speed to this defense, and fills a potential big need if Morgan Burnett departs next offseason.
How He Fits in Green Bay
Considering the Packers boast one of the better safety tandems in the NFL, it is unlikely that Jones will start right away. I do fully expect to see Josh Jones on the field plenty in his rookie season. The team has already begun cross training him as an inside backer. This is likely an attempt to plug him in during passing situations, but we do not know the full extent of the teams plans for Jones at inside backer.
It is also unknown if he will play slot cornerback, but we do know he played the position in college. In addition to the two extra positions where he could see time, there will be snaps to be played at safety as well. Morgan Burnett has been known to miss a little time, so there could be a few opportunities to start. Look for Jones to find his way onto the field a lot, one way or another.
Josh Jones has all of the physical skills to be an elite player, time will tell if he can refine his football ability to match his athleticism. I trust that there will be a few Sunday’s this fall where everyone is talking about that big hit Jones made. Mike McCarthy was recently quoted as sting that Josh Jones “was a favorite player of mine in the draft class long before we even went to the combine”, sounds like he was pretty stoked to have him on his roster.
Josh Jones, along with fellow rookie Kevin King, won’t be beaten by speed coverage. Considering what we had to watch last season defensively, that is something every Packer fan should be excited about.
Have other thoughts about Josh Jones? Not a fan of the pick? Want to see a different prospect reviewed? Let us know in the comments section, or on twitter @PTTF_Podcast. You can also tweet at me directly @TrackOnPack. Thanks for reading!