The Patriots’ added speed on the offensive side of the ball with their first Day 2 pick, taking wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. With their second pick, they stayed with the speed theme but shifted to defense, taking Houston cornerback Marcus Jones with the 85th overall pick.
Jones began his college career at Troy before transferring to Houston in 2019, and is a six-time all-conference player between the two schools as both a defensive back and kick returner. In 2021, he was named a consensus All-American as a returner, AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, and won the Jet Award as the nations top kick returner and Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. He was All-ACC as both a cornerback and returner as well.
As a defensive back, Jones had a career year last season. He had five interceptions with 13 pass breakups in 13 games, as well as 47 tackles. In the return game, he housed two kickoffs and two punts, finishing his career with nine total return touchdowns (six on kickoffs, three on punts).
At 5-foot-8, 174 pounds Jones projects primarily as a slot cornerback in the NFL. That’s likely where the Patriots would use him anyway, as his sub-4.4 speed will help them defend the likes of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, as well as the other faster slot receivers in the league. At the same time, Jones plays bigger than his size and is a willing contributor defending the run.
The Patriots showed interest in Jones throughout the pre-draft process. They were at his pro day and hosted him for a top-30 visit.
The Patriots’ current starting slot cornerback, Jonathan Jones, is entering a contract year in 2022. Other slot corners on the roster include Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade.
Meanwhile, Jones will compete for both the kick and punt return jobs, each of which is expected to be open in training camp. Despite playing on the defensive side of the ball he’s a natural ballcarrier, and was used occasionally as a wide receiver with the Cougars. He caught 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown last year.
PHOTOS: Patriots third-round pick Marcus Jones
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