The Eagles took a chance in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft this year by taking Washington cornerback Sidney Jones. Jones, as many are aware, would have likely gone to the Eagles in the first round if he had not injured himself during a Pro Day workout, tearing his Achilles. The Eagles, in desperate need of cornerback help, took a swing for the fences by taking Jones with their first day two selection. A lot of people question the risk, but is it really that risky?
Here at BGN I already covered how much I loved Sidney Jones as a prospect. He was my second rated cornerback in an incredibly good class and ranked 11th on my big board. Jones’ mixture of technical savvy, athleticism, ball skills and physicality made him an incredibly safe and steady cornerback prospect. As a whole package, he was probably the most pro-ready cornerback in this class. Even more encouraging, Jones was constantly improving in college. After giving up six touchdowns in his freshman season, Jones only allowed one for the rest of his college career, blanking receivers since week 7 of 2015 (per Pro Football Focus).
Jones is best utilized as a press man cover corner, which isn’t an immediate scheme fit for the Eagles, but his overall talent transcends schematic pigeonholing. To nitpick, Jones could stand to get stronger and is a bit skinny for his frame, but he possesses mostly everything teams want from cornerbacks. There is not denying Jones’ ability and I doubt people will disagree with that. However, people wonder if taking a player fresh of an Achilles injury is worth it.
First of all, the Eagles can and need to swing for the fences at the cornerback position. Can you remember the last time the Eagles had a homegrown talent at cornerback? Sheldon Brown? Lito Sheppard? It’s been over a decade since those guys were making an impact in Philly. After years of failed cornerback transplants, the Eagles are finally taking to producing their own defensive back talent. Moreover, it is impossible to get worse than the cornerback play last year. Jalen Mills impressed given circumstances, but the cornerbacks were simply overmatched last year. Anything is an improvement over McKelvin, Carroll and Ron Brooks. After signing Patrick Robinson and believing in Mills taking another step, the Eagles are in a position where they can wait on Sidney Jones to be healthy. The team properly recognized that they were not Super Bowl contenders and did not make a second round pick for 2017. They made a second round pick for 2018, 2019 and beyond. There is absolutely no rush for Jones to come in next year. If he does, great, but the Eagles have the luxury of rebuilding to let Jones ease in and play as he gets to his healthiest.
Obviously there is the risk that he never pans out and never gets healthy enough to play. Of course, there is the reality that medical advancement has gotten exponentially better and the possibility that his injury is not as serious as the average Achilles tear. Also, even if he returns as 80 or 90% of the player he was before, that is still a cornerback who can play at a high level for this football team, with this pass rush and safety duo. Most importantly, it’s a second round pick! The Eagles didn’t take Jones with a top 15 pick; they took him in the same round where they’ve spent resources on Sam Bradford and Eric Rowe. The opportunity cost of potentially getting a top 15 caliber player in 2018 is absolutely the risk of his recovery. What I like about this team is the self awareness and the want to get better. Bad teams do not become good by keeping Sam Bradford around. Bad teams become good by trading for a franchise quarterback and moving Bradford the hell away from the team. Similarly, the team recognized that they are not pressed for time to win and took a chance to massively improve their defense in 2018. While drafting Jones may ruffle some feathers and I do not deny that the risk is great, the payoff is much, much greater.