Arizona Cardinals NFL Draft Preview: Zay Jones

Wide Receiver Zay Jones has NFL size, and the college production to show for it

There are a number of philosophies when discussing drafting a wide receiver. Some believe in drafting the best players at the top of the draft, regardless of position. Many think receivers aren’t big enough difference makers to take that high. And there’s a group that thinks that drafting in the middle rounds works better due to the depth at the position every year.

The Arizona Cardinals might have different reasoning going into the 2017 NFL Draft. They could eschew drafting a receiver in round one simply because they have other needs.

With Larry Fitzgerald looking likely to retire after the coming season, a high-end target to replace him is needed. However, the Cardinals need a quarterback and a cornerback too, and those needs might be more pressing.

If that’s the case, they could look to get value by waiting on a receiver. Zay Jones is potentially a mid-round option that makes sense for Arizona.

It’s impossible to talk about Jones without mentioning the production he had in college. A four-year starter, he had at least 62 receptions in every year at East Carolina. This culminated in 2016, where he set a record with 158 catches for 1,746 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also set an NCAA record with 399 career receptions.

Jones wins with savvy and determination. He’s not the deep threat that some of his competition in this draft, but he knows how to get open, and he catches everything. He plays tough, and he uses his body as well as anyone. His football IQ is extremely high, as well, and his production speaks for itself.

The biggest criticism of Jones concerns his speed. He did run a sub-4.5 forty-yard dash at the combine, but on the field, he doesn’t display blazing speed. Against NFL cornerbacks, he could struggle to get open, limiting his role, especially in an offense that values downfield throws as much as the Cardinals.

Jones looks like he’ll be a day two selection in this year’s draft. The numbers he put up in college are certainly going to make him tempting to plenty of NFL teams. The Cardinals second round pick might be too early, but if he’s still around for their round three pick, it’d be hard to pass on him.