Skip to main content

Jaguars News | Jacksonville Jaguars -

Jones worth the risk


So much for not addressing offense in free agency. The Jaguars took the biggest swing of the draft Saturday when they selected wide receiver Matt Jones of Arkansas with the 21st overall pick.

Rumors the Jaguars were interested in Jones began earlier in the week. After a free agency period in which the Jaguars addressed defense exclusively, Jones became a very sexy choice for a team that ranked a lowly 29th in the league in points-per-game scoring average last season.

Jones, 6-6, 242, burst onto the draft scene at this past winter's Senior Bowl, where Jones flashed speed and receiving skills few thought he possessed. Those skills were hidden at a quarterback position where Jones lacked an NFL-caliber arm.

"We knew he was fast but we didn't know he was a 4.3," Jaguars personnel director James Harris said following the selection of Jones. "He was able to beat the press. The league was aware of him. It was just where would he play?"

Following Jones' performance at the Senior Bowl, which included a spectacular touchdown catch in the game and several spectacular catches during the week's practices, it became obvious that wide receiver or tight end was just right for Jones. His draft stock shot up dramatically and the Jaguars' interest became intense.

"We had 21 players we would draft when the day began. When the pick came, he was number one," Harris said.

When the Jaguars made the pick, the immediate concern was the risk factor. Jones is a projection. The Jaguars believe he can make the move from college quarterback to pro wide receiver. Is there a risk that he won't be able to make that transition?

"There's risk with anybody you take. This is a play-maker. He's been productive at every stage and at every level he's been at. He's been a winner all of his life," coach Jack Del Rio said of his first-round pick.

When asked about the risk factor, Harris said: "I see it as a guy who's 4.3, 6-6, dominated high school, dominated college. I see it as a play-maker. You just have to go with it. We might as well take the criticism with a 4.39 guy who's 6-6 and dominated at every level he's played."

Jones will join a wide receiver corps that includes veteran Jimmy Smith and last year's ninth pick of the draft, Reggie Williams. They finished last season as the starters at the two positions.

"There are questions about how long it'll take him to (learn) the whole route tree, but we're going to use him at the route tree he knows. Whether he's playing in the slot or outside, he's going to be tough to defend," Del Rio said. "We have a specific role in mind. We believe we'll be able to enhance that and build on that as we go."

Oklahoma wide receiver Mark Clayton was available when the Jaguars picked Jones. Clayton is also a top punt-returner.

"Matt was our guy; the next player on our board. Mark is a good player," Del Rio said.

"He ran through the SEC and he made the other guys look like they were standing still," Del Rio added of Jones. "You're talking about the best football conference in the country. He's got some wow! to his game. The guy had 77 touchdowns in his career. He's played his best in the biggest moments of games. He's made play after play after play to win games.

"Can he catch the ball? He's got great hands. Can he separate? He's got great speed," Del Rio added.

Jones will play for wide receiver coach Steve Walters, who came to the Jaguars this winter from the Tennessee Titans, where Walters coached former UCLA quarterback Drew Bennett into the elite ranks of NFL wide receivers. Bennett is also a tall receiver with a long stride, though Bennett lacks Jones' speed and athletic ability.

"What Steve was able to get out of Drew in Tennessee and how much more of an athletic guy we're talking about," Del Rio said of another issue that weighed in Jones' favor.

Jones is a long-strider and there would normally be concern about that for someone making the move to wide receiver, but Del Rio said Jones' three-cone drill at his pro-day workout erased any worries about Jones' stride.

"He had an exceptional three-cone time. It's elite. It's up there with the top defensive backs," Del Rio said.

Quarterback Byron Leftwich now has another weapon in his arsenal. Leftwich has a tall, fast wide receiver who the Jaguars hope will be the play-maker this year that the team lacked last year.

Will Jones be the player who puts the Jaguars over the top and into the playoffs?

That's the definitive question.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content