Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft is up, and with exactly three weeks to go until the draft starts, Kiper has the Dallas Cowboys selecting Connecticut corner Byron Jones with the No. 27 pick.
Analysis: The Cowboys are clearly in win-now mode, and their ability to run the ball effectively and create points on offense really isn't a question mark for me. While the defensive line is an area they can improve, I think the secondary is a bigger concern, and I love the versatility that Jones can offer them as a corner who can be moved around and also play safety if that's where they need him.
This is one of the best athletes in the draft, but with Jones, it's not just about the workouts, because everything you see at the NFL combine is also evident on tape. He has great football instincts and star upside. There are going to be pass-rushers available in Round 2, and running back help is there well into the later rounds, especially with the offensive line the Cowboys have in place.
Jones is a late-rising Cowboys fan favorite after impressing at the Combine with the following numbers:
Over the last few weeks, we've looked at a metric called SPARQ here on BTB. SPARQ is a composite metric that allows you to quickly assess the athleticism of a player with a single number. Eight different measurements go into this metric: player weight, bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, forty-yard dash, ten-yard split, short shuttle and 3-cone drill.
Just how extraordinary Jones's results are if viewed via the SPARQ metric is explained by Zach Whitman of 3sigmaathlete.com:
The name of this blog is 3 Sigma Athlete, which refers to the rare NFL player who stands three standard deviations above the NFL standard pSPARQ at a given position. I’ve written before about the 3 sigma athletes who are currently in the NFL: J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson.
We do have a 3sigma athlete in 2015: Byron Jones, a cornerback from the University of Connecticut. I waited a few days to post in hopes that we’d reach a consensus on his pro day numbers, but given the reported range of 40 times, he’s almost certain to qualify. Even assuming a relatively conservative 40 of 4.4-flat, Jones managed to land a whopping 3.2 standard deviations from the positional cornerback average.
That's some pretty impressive company to be in, and is one of the reasons Jones has been quickly moving up the draft boards. But his Combine performance isn't the only reason Jones is being looked at as a potential first-round pick. Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News explains:
He is his own man and it would be absurd to accuse him of being a "combine creation" as his tape stands up impressively as a combination of both large build and impressive athletic traits. On top of that he has very nice tape to back him up where he can really lock down on his man with aggressive man-cover traits you will want on Sunday. There are many solid corners in this draft, but you don’t have to go very far down that list to find this guy. He only played 7 games in 2014, but 43 college games overall tell you that he has plenty of experience at the position and looks the part of a 1st-2nd round pick.
No word yet on whether the Cowboys brought in Jones for a pre-draft visit.
[UPDATE: Byron Jones was a Valley Ranch visitor after all.]