Arkansas' Matt Jones is the X-factor in this year's draft. The former QB switched to WR at this January's Senior Bowl and turned heads with a strong week of practice.
Jones' stock has soared after an amazing workout at the Scouting Combine, where the 6'5", 242 pounder clocked a 4.37 40 time. The biggest question now surrounding the player one personnel man calls "the Freak" is how high he will be drafted. If history is any guide, Jones should go somewhere in the second round. The Pittsburgh Steelers have established precedent on picking QB/WR converts, successfully selecting Hines Ward in the 3rd round of the '98 draft and Antwaan Randle-El in the second round of the 2002 auction. ESPN's Chris Mortensen caused a stir last week when he proclaimed Jones the best player in this year's draft.
The prospect of a wide receiver who is two inches taller than Terrell Owens and almost 40 pounds heavier than Randy Moss, with every bit of his deep speed, has Cowboys fans talking. Should Dallas take a chance on Jones if he's available with the 42nd pick, a very real possibility?
There are arguments in Jones favor. He is not a long shot who spent most of his college career running track. Jones is a true football player, who played some receiver early in his Razorbacks career. He's a fierce competitor, who fits the Parcells mold. And, as Jones' boosters point out, he's a Razorback, which should make him highly desirable to fellow Arkansas alum Jerry Jones.
Despite his promise, I think there is one compelling reason why Jones won't get serious consideration from Dallas on April 24th. His name is Scott Frost. Like Jones, Frost was a successful option QB who made a position switch after college. In the '98 Hula Bowl, the former Nebraska Cornhusker impressed pro coaches as a safety. Frost, like Jones, was a pure football player with an impeccible pedigree. Both his parents had been football coaches. His father had preceeded him on the gridiron at Nebraska and his mother had been an Olympian.
Frost's draft profile read like a modern-day Frank Merriwell: "[he] could play many positions. Would have a chance to make a team as a fullback, running back, H-back, safety or linebacker...could be another John Lynch, only faster and more athletic."
Bill Parcells, who had the pedestrian Victor Green playing free safety for his Jets, fell for Frost's promise. He selected Frost in the third round that year and gave him the opportunity to quarterback New York's defense. Frost failed to make the conversion and is one of Parcells' biggest busts with the Jets.
Were this 2004, with the Cowboys coming off a 10-6 high, the team might roll the dice on a guy like Jones. As I have pointed out, this is year three of the Parcells regime, a time when the Tuna begins to play it safe with his first day picks. Add the embarrassment of a 6-10 season and the memory of Frost's failure, and I have more reasons to believe that Parcells and Dallas will take the conservative route, which runs away from players like Matt Jones.