With the 38th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected running back Ronald Jones. Jones was coming off of an impressive 2017 with the USC Trojans after racking up 1,550 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns, 5.9 yards per attempt, with no fumbles, and forcing 58 missed tackles. While all of those statistics are great, one of the more impressive things about Jones was the fact that he was one of the highest-graded college running backs of all time with an incredible 92.4 PFF Grade.
Jones struggled early on in his NFL career playing eight games in his rookie season and only getting snaps in five out of eight of them. If that’s not disappointing enough, Jones only had 44 yards on 23 carries meaning he was averaging 1.9 yards per carry. Fortunately for Jones, he’d bounce back in year two recording 724 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry, and six touchdowns.
Once Tom Brady entered the picture in 2020, Jones went on to have 1,117 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, seven touchdowns, 701 yards after contact (eighth), and 3.65 yards after contact per attempt (third). While Jones’ performance in 2020 definitely played a part in Tampa Bay reaching, and eventually winning, the Super Bowl, 2021 wasn’t as kind. Not only would Jones record nearly 700 less rushing yards, but he’d receive 126 less carries as well. This all stemmed from a week one fumble against the Dallas Cowboys that led then Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians to bench him.
Jones would go on to sign a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2021 season, and while it initially looked like he was heading towards a better situation, it eventually turned into him playing just 23 snaps in 2022.
The good news? Jones is going to be fresh in 2023 which is rare for running backs going into their sixth season. Regardless, the Cowboys don’t need Jones to be Emmitt Smith. The Cowboys need Jones to add competition to the backup running back battle in training camp. With Jones’ experience, he could realistically grab a roster spot or maybe be on the practice squad, but don’t expect him to fill in the Ezekiel Elliott role behind Tony Pollard. Jones has never been a good pass blocker (12.4 pass block grade his last season with meaningful snaps) and should be used as a pass catcher.
Ronald Jones is at the very least a solid depth signing that’s a sleeper to make the roster. Depending on what Dallas does at the running back position through the draft, Jones could even surprise everyone in camp and be RB2 by week one.