Special teams players matter too. While the majority of the attention of the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft is focused on prospects who can come in and upgrade either the offense or defense, and rightfully so, those who can do the same for special teams rarely make the headlines. That’s truly unfortunate, because players like cornerback Marcus Jones more than deserves the spotlight.
Soon-to-be-former Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones is arguably the most dynamic return man we’ve seen enter the NFL draft since probably Devin Hester, arguably the best return man in the history of the league. That’s not said just to get your attention. Jones has proven, at least at the collegiate level, just how dangerous he is. Now he just needs to do it as a professional.
At just 5’8”, 174-pounds, Jones doesn’t pass the eye test of a prototypical NFL player. But, what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in athleticism, speed, physicality, and play-making ability. This is someone who can be a Deion Sanders-like triple threat as a receiver, cornerback, and return man if used correctly, but even if not, he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber return man.
During his time at Houston, the Cougars coaching staff really tried to tap into everything Jones could give them. He was not only their dynamic weapon in the return game, but he was also the starting cornerback, playing inside and out, and was used as a receiver in the passing game as well, averaging 10.9 yards per reception and scoring one touchdown. But, where he’s likely to make his money in the NFL is as a kick/punt returner.
Throughout his collegiate career (two years at Troy, two years at Houston) Jones averaged an impressive 28.4 yards and scored six touchdowns as a kick returner. As impressive as that is, he also averaged a jaw-dropping 14 yards and scored three touchdowns as a punt returner. Those numbers are on par with Devin Hester’s in college who averaged 25.5 yards on kick returns and 15.6 yards as a punt returner.
We are probably jumping the gun a bit to say Jones can equal or come anywhere close to what Hester managed to do in the NFL, however, we can’t completely shoot it down either. Jones has the same type of play-making ability and whoever ends up drafting him could be getting themselves a complete game changer. So, why shouldn’t it be the Dallas Cowboys?
Maybe it’s luck or destiny, but would you believe the Dallas Cowboys could be looking for both a new kick and punt returner in 2022. With CeeDee Lamb taking over as the No. 1 wide receiver now that Amari Cooper was traded to the Cleveland Browns, and with Tony Pollard in the last year of his rookie contract, both jobs are currently up for grabs. If the Cowboys were to add Marcus Jones to the mix, that would no longer be the case.
Dallas Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel may not carry as much weight in the “War Room” on draft day as either Kellen Moore or Dan Quinn, but if he’s going to pound the table for one player in the 2022 draft class it’s probably going to be Jones. His kind of play-making ability in the return game is rare and adding him to the mix would make Fassel’s job a lot easier. And he might be able to get the other two to agree,
Dan Quinn might be easy to get on board. Jones, even at 5’8”, is one of the better CBs in this year’s draft class. Both Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis could be in their last year with the Cowboys. Jones could possibly step in as a nickel CB as soon as Year 2, and work his way up the depth chart even earlier.
As far as Kellen Moore is concerned, it could take a little more convincing to bring him around. While Jones was used as a receiver at Houston, the sample size of him being successful in the passing game is a small one. He may have averaged 10.9 yards per reception, but that was only after catching 10 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. That doesn’t exactly scream he can be an NFL-caliber WR.
Overall, Marcus Jones is a somewhat under-the-radar player who could do a lot for the Dallas Cowboys. They may not view cornerback as a position of need, and that’s probably true to an extent, but for a player who bring so much more to the table they should absolutely consider him at some point on Day 2. Now we just have to wait and see what happens.