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

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Nov 15, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Matt Jones (24) runs with the ball as South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (4) defends during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Jones, RB, Florida

Florida’s Matt Jones, part of Will Muschamp’s three-headed monster of running backs last season, led the run-heavy offense in carries (166) and yards (817) last season, and finished tied for rushing average (4.9 ypc) and touchdowns (6) with Kelvin Taylor in 2014. Jones is a big, imposing, physical running back at 6’2″ and 220 pounds, and has a squared-up, low pad level, punishing running style with adequate quickness and speed to be a power back at the next level.

Jones is a grinder, the type of back you put in the game late to kill clock and wear down opposing defenses, but will need to work on his vision and feel for play development in order to be an ever-down feature back in most NFL offenses. He also wasn’t used heavily as a receiver in Florida’s offense, but of course even the receivers in Florida’s offense weren’t used as receivers very often.

Jones did flash good hands on his nineteen career receptions, but likely will need a lot of work as a receiving back at the next level. He is, however, a monster blocking back, and thus has value as a passing down contributor. Here’s what he can do to impress NFL scouts next week:

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  • 1. Broad Jump: A power back must have power, and Jones can demonstrate that he has elite lower-body strength and explosiveness combined with good balance if he can do well in the broad jump, both in terms of distance and form. The broad jump is the type of event that top power backs generally excel in: Marshawn Lynch was the second-best broad jumper of any running back in the 2007 combine.

    Demarco Murray finished second among backs in the event in 2011. If Jones can put up a broad jump number that backs up the power he shows on tape, he will solidify his position as one of the top power runners in this years’ class.

    2. Off-Tackle Reaction Drill: In this drill, the prospect takes a handoff and steps over some bags before reacting to a stand-up dummy controlled by a coach. The running back must read the direction of the stand-up bag, then make one quick cut in the proper direction and explode through a simulated gap.

    What this drill tests, aside from footwork and proper ball security, is the ability of a back to quickly read a single block and make a cut, something Jones has struggled with. While this drill is more important for zone scheme teams rather than power teams, EVERY running back in the NFL must be able to read a blocker and make a cut in order to be consistently successful. This is one of Jones’ weaknesses on film, he will want to do well in this drill.

    3. Pass Routes: Unlike Allen, who will use this drill to elevate his draft stock when he shows that he can execute any route on a running back route tree, Jones will want to keep his from falling here. He has a very limited background as a receiving back in college, and likely will not do very well running these routes. If he can, however, look at least competent to serviceable in this drill, he can show that he can at least not be totally out of his element when asked to run routes at the next level.

    Next: Player to Watch: Jesse James