With their sixth round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions selected wide receiver TJ Jones from Notre Dame. Jones is an interesting prospect, especially given the receivers available at the time he was taken by the Detroit Lions. Jones likely was drafted due to his abilities as a slot receiver and that he is much less raw than players like Jeff Janis. Jones is an excellent route runner with good balance and who makes good adjustments on the ball while in the air. He is good at creating separation, smart on the field and has reliable hands. Perhaps the most important attributes are that TJ Jones is durable and a team captain at Notre Dame.
Jones had an average combine showing. His numbers were average for a receiver but not spectacular. He posted a 4.48 forty yard dash which, while faster than top ten pick Mike Evans, is not exactly elite speed for a slot receiver. His vertical was only 33 inches which is also not exactly great for a receiver. He is not exactly the type of receiver that we would expect to leap for the high ball or break away from coverage with incredible speed. He is meant to be more of a chain mover. He could add some muscle to help keep him durable in the NFL as he is a little small for the position, but he has upside.
Statistically speaking, TJ Jones was a solid player at Notre Dame. In his first season, he recoreded 23 receptions for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns. His second season was much of the same, recording 38 catches for 366 yards and another 3 touchdowns. He received a production boost as a junior, gathering 50 passes for 649 yards and 4 touchdowns. His senior season is the reason he was drafted to play for the Detroit Lions. He picked up 70 catches for 1,108 yards and 9 touchdowns. It showed that he can be the type of receiver that Detroit coaches wanted when they drafted Titus Young and Ryan Broyles.
While Broyles still has the upper hand in a one on one competition with TJ Jones due to NFL experience, I fully expect Jones to push Broyles for playing time, and if he gets hurt again, expect him to be Broyles’ roster replacement. Jones will likely not see much time this season, and his special teams play will determine if he is on the active roster or practice squad this year. I expect though that he will develop into a role player in the offense and potentially into a solid number 3 or 4 receiver.