The Pac-12 has been a landscape of high-octane offense for a long time, so in order to have a chance of coming out of the conference a top team, it is imperative to have stout defenders. Not only should defenders be dependable, but when offenses are firing on all cylinders, every possession counts and turnovers are worth their weight in gold.
When this is the measuring stick for defenders, it is no surprise that Sidney Jones has proven to be one of the best cornerbacks in the country, playing for one of the best teams in the Washington Huskies.
Washington has made a run this year that has put them in the playoffs, and that is due in big part to their stingy and opportunistic defense. On a unit loaded with NFL talent, 6’0”, 185-pound Jones stands out as one of the best players.
Speaking of opportunistic, Jones is the definition. He has forced 16 turnovers in his three years playing and is seemingly always around the ball. Jones is at his best in man coverage, moving in phase with receivers and using his ball skills to make plays. However he has good click close skills and good eyes to play in zone coverage as well. He has very good overall athletic ability and leaping ability that allows him to run with the best athletes in college football. Jones is physical at the line of scrimmage, not minding trying to bog down a receiver in press or get physical with the ball in the air.
Jones’ biggest issues come with the fact that he is a bit skinny for his height and can get outmuscled by bigger players. In the run game, Jones can be solid and make some pivotal plays as a tackler, but he can get lazy in run defense and that, combined with his size, makes for a significant weak point for his game.
NFL Comparison: Sidney Jones has a lot of Casey Hayward to his game, dating all the way back to Hayward’s days at Vanderbilt. Hayward was a bit lanky coming out of college, but his ability to create turnovers as a man cover corner was absolutely undeniable. Since then, he has been one of the better cornerbacks in the league when he’s healthy. Jones’ game is similarly predicated on his playmaking skills, and, frankly, the ability to constantly be around the ball should be a baseline trait in potential first round cornerbacks.
Scheme Fit: Jones’ fit on the Eagles would be a bit more of a projection considering how much more Jim Schwartz likes to play off coverage. Jones certainly has the skill set to thrive in such a system, but he would not immediately come in and be the type of playmaker he has been at Washington. As it stands now, this cornerback class is the deepest I have ever seen, and that could push Jones down past where he would be taken in any other draft. While I would not hate the Eagles deciding to take Jones in the first round, I could not help but think there are better values given his fit on this defense. Long-term, however, getting a player with his ability to create turnovers on a defense so bereft of cornerback talent would prove to be a massive improvement, regardless of fit.