New England Patriots

Sep 25, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

  • Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft was all about speed for the Patriots. After adding wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round, the team shifted focus to the defensive side of the ball and picked Houston cornerback Marcus Jones 85th overall.

    In addition to speed, Jones checks perhaps the Patriots’ biggest draft fit box – versatility. In addition to playing a number of different roles in the secondary, Jones also was an elite kick returner in college, and occasionally was used on offense. There’s a lot in his game to break down, so here’s how some draft experts described him heading into the weekend.

  • Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

    “Projects as a twitchy, undersized slot cornerback with playmaking traits and game-changing return talent. Jones has the hips and feet to cover slippery slot receivers and the ballhawking instincts to make plays from zone. He can be too reliant on his athletic ability. He needs to play with better discipline and route anticipation as a pro. He can be mismatched against size but he’s plenty scrappy in those battles. Jones’ lack of size will hurt him with some teams while others will elevate his grade thanks to his electric ability on special teams. There could be teams that look to give him reps at receiver, where he would have more big-play opportunities.”

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  • Joe Mariano, The Draft Network

    “A 3-star recruit out of Alabama, Marcus Jones initially played his college ball at Troy before transferring to Houston after two seasons. Simply put, Jones is a playmaker. He is a tremendous athlete with exceptional quickness, elite speed, and fluid hips. Those traits shine in man coverage where he is sticky and capable of pattern-matching any receiver while having the speed to carry any receiver down the field. He is an extremely physical player that is aggressive and competes well above his weight class. He is enthusiastic about tackling and has outstanding technique. While he is undersized, he will make an NFL team tougher and be an asset defending the run. Jones has terrific ball skills and is a game-breaking kick and punt returner. He has nine career return touchdowns and only one muff across his final three seasons in college. He’s been given some opportunities to play receiver and can impact football games in so many different ways. When it comes to concerns for Jones, it’s all rooted in his lack of height and length. While he doesn’t play small, he is and that shows up at the catch point, especially when receivers have a strong above-the-rim game. In addition, he has some challenges locating the football with his back to the line of scrimmage, which invites targets down the field and he is occasionally victimized. In addition, his lack of length reduces his margin for error at the catch point and as a tackler. While he was mostly an outside corner in college, he is likely a slot defender in the NFL that has the upside to immediately claim that role. By year two or three, Jones has the ability to become one of the top nickel defenders and returners in the NFL.”

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  • Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

    Positives: Athletic defensive back who was a game-impacting return specialist for Houston. Instinctive, shows great awareness, and works hard to make plays. Quick flipping his hips in transition, easily runs downfield with opponents, and mixes it up throughout the route.

    Explodes to the ball out of his plant, quickly closes to the action, and plays with a nasty attitude. Plays faster than his 40 time and works hard against the run. Occasionally used at receiver last season and ran sharp routes to separate from defenders. Game-changing kick and punt returner.

    Negatives: Small and gets overmatched. Had shoulder surgery after the season and was unable to perform for scouts.

    Analysis: Jones was a tremendous college player for both Troy as well as Houston, and he offers possibilities as a dime back in a variety of coverages on Sundays. His biggest contribution will ultimately be on special teams as a return specialist.

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  • Cory Giddings, Bleacher Report

    “Marcus Jones is a productive cornerback with a bunch of experience between playing at Troy and Houston. An undersized player, he has shown the ability to play in both the slot and outside cornerback position. Jones has also shown special team value as a kick and punt returner, racking up both yards and touchdowns. At the cornerback position, Jones is a scrappy player who shows very good physicality when taking on blocks. An aware player who shows the ability to quickly read and react to what is in front of him. When playing the run, he reacts like his hair is on fire, playing to the proper leverage. He is a secure tackler who rarely misses and aims to cut down the ball carriers at the legs. When in coverage, he performs best when playing from the slot. He shows comfort in space with patience and good lateral movement to play the two way go. When playing on the outside, he shows to be hesitant at times, not trusting his eyes and giving up underneath completions. He does a good job playing through the reception point for short and medium routes; struggling to play deeper developing routes. When playing deep routes, he lacks the strength and size to battle bigger receivers; often getting bumped off the routes or being overly aggressive, leading to penalties. Jones looks to be a better slot defender at the next level, primarily because of his size and movement skills. Although he has experience playing outside, he will serve as a depth player in the NFL. A developmental player at the next level, he has the ability to find a role a couple years into his career.”

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  • Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports

    Strengths: Shows excellent footwork plus quickness, which allows him to mirror wide receivers throughout the route. (He had five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, and 16 forced incompletions in 2021, according to TruMedia.) Consistently in phase and rarely out of position, and he will throw his body around in run support, coming downhill from the slot to smack the ball carrier. Dangerous in the return game — he had two kickoff returns for TDs in ’21 — and can also play WR, where he had 10 receptions for 109 yards last season.

    Weaknesses: Only stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 174 pounds but don’t be fooled: he plays much bigger than that. NFL teams may be wary, however, because historically, players at that size have struggled at the next level. Not surprisingly, he’s susceptible to high-point throws, and can be over-aggressive when it comes to jumping routes, occasionally leaving him out of position.

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  • Athlon Sports

    Strong Points: Jones is a true four-down contributor with his ability to cover the slot and his impact as arguably the most dangerous return specialist to enter the league since Devin Hester. Jones is a twitchy athlete who changes direction with ease. He will line up in press and play a lot of trail technique, with the reactionary athleticism to stick to receivers. He’s competitive and physical battling for the ball. He’s also very willing in run support, and his speed has him chasing plays down all over the field. He’s simply exceptional in the return game, showing off 0-to-60 acceleration to a top speed that obliterates angles.

    Weak Points: His lack of size limits him to playing inside and matching up only with quickness as a defender. While he’s a willing run defender, he’s going to get swallowed up in traffic.

    Summary: Jones’s size means he has limitations. Teams interested in drafting him will have to gauge how much his game-breaking ability in the return game means to them.

    (Source)