2015 NFL Scouting Combine Watch List: Late Round Players to Watch

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Sep 21, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies cornerback Byron Jones (16) reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (not pictured) in the second quarter at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Byron Jones, CB, UCONN

While the Raiders have drafted a bunch of young cornerbacks of late (DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, Keith McGill, Chimdi Chekwa), this position group is still somewhat in flux as Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers prepare to depart in free agency. Reggie McKenzie will likely want to add another young, quality player to the group, especially one who could potentially also be a fit to solve his long-term question at the free safety position behind Charles Woodson. Connecticut’s Byron Jones could be such a player.

Measuring at between 6’0″ and 6’1″ and weighing about 200 pounds, Jones is the longer, bigger corner that McKenzie has tended toward with recent acquisitions – the type that is trending around the league. Like many bigger corners, Jones does not possess blazing speed, but has adequate speed for the position and decent ball skills and coverage technique.

Also like many bigger college corners, he tends to have slow feet and a lack of balance, often showing a noticeable pause between the end of his backpedal and the break or the turn, but he does recover well and can make a good play on a deep ball.

Unlike many bigger corners, Jones is not a particularly strong or physical player, however, and his lack of foot speed combined with this makes him a poor fit for a press corner, at least initially. He also has some durability issues, having missed most of the 2014 season with a nasty shoulder injury. Here are some things Reggie McKenzie will want to see at the combine from the young player:

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  • 1. Medical: The medical evaluation of Jones’ shoulder will be important. Even for a late-round pick, a team isn’t going to want to take a player who still has an active injury needing further rehabilitation. McKenzie has been burned by a recently-injured cornerback in the draft already in DJ Hayden, he likely doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He will pay close attention to this medical report if he is indeed interested in Jones.

    2. W Drill: The W drill is a series of quick backpedals and breaks, over and over, which will hone in on one of the biggest flaws that Jones has on tape: his slow feet out of his backpedal. If Jones can get some work in on this drill, he can not only show well in this key position drill, but he can improve a flaw in his game, and show NFL evaluators that he has been working hard at his craft.

    3. Speed Turn Drill: In the all important “backpedal, break forward, speed turn and catch” drill, Jones will be expected to execute nearly every single movement needed of an NFL defensive back. He will backpedal 10 or 15 yards downfield, then break upfield before turning and sprinting, then turning his head to locate a deep football and closing by making the simulated INT.

    This drill will be a big test for Jones, who wants to show that his feet are not as bad as they seem on tape. Again, if he has been working on this drill to prepare for the Combine, he can improve his overall game as well.

    Next: Player to Watch: Ladarius Gunter