With all the hoopla surrounding the controversial first pick of TE Eric Ebron some of the other non-defensive picks got swept under the carpet. In the sixth round, the Detroit Lions selected WR T.J. Jones out of Notre Dame. Ebron, LB Kyle Van Noy, and DT Caraun Reid will garner more talk, but don’t ignore Jones — he could prove to be a valuable asset.
The Lions needed defense in the draft, and they needed it badly, so every pick that wasn’t a defensive guy was considered misguided by many people. With Jones, the initial report was simple. The Lions are getting a solid slot receiver from a good school, who isn’t necessarily outstanding in any category.
Let’s dive deeper into this pick. First of all, football is in his family. His uncle Phillip Daniels played 15 seasons for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. His father, Andre Jones, started as a defensive end for Notre Dame on their 1988 Championship Team. That led to his relationship with his godfather, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. I don’t care when you were drafted or what you end up doing — that’s pretty cool.
Ok, obviously that information doesn’t mean much, but you could surmise that his football I.Q. would be on the higher side, and that’s actually evident in his style of play. He’s a very solid route runner, which suggests an understanding of the game outside of pure ability. Jones needs to be a good route runner because he’s not very big at just 5’11” and 188 pounds. However, he’s speedy with a 4.48 40-yard dash.
In the same way that it’s important to have someone like Ebron as a large receiver, guys like T.J. Jones are also important in today’s pass-heavy league.
Players that come to mind are Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, and especially Percy Harvin. Those were all guys who didn’t have a lot of size or blinding speed, but were great route runners and helped teams get to Super Bowls. Harvin is virtually the same size as Jones, they both played in National Championship games, and they both became favorite targets to their quarterbacks. Harvin was loved by Brett Favre, and he was a key cog in the Seattle Seahawks’ recent success, despite dealing with some injuries.
Jones was also favored by the quarterback at Notre Dame. In 2012, Jones was the team’s leading receiver when they went on to the national title game. He ended up with 181 career receptions, which is second in school history, ranking ahead of Lions’ teammate Golden Tate, who also starred at Notre Dame.
Jones is someone who gets open, plain and simple. He runs great routes and gets separation. He’ll be a good guy for check downs when Tate and Calvin Johnson are covered deep, and he could prove to be very useful on third down and short yardage plays. Jones could be used on first down, with quick passes in the flat, and dumps underneath. These areas should be more open due to the other weapons the Lions have over the middle and on the deep outside.
I like the T.J. Jones pick, and I think he’s a steal in the sixth round. The Lions defense is still the main question, but you can’t help but be excited about all these complementary options coming together on the offensive side. It’ll be an exciting season no matter what happens.