Cornerback Marcus Jones gets a bad wrap sometimes due to his slight frame, but in this 2022 NFL Draft Profile I highlight why this notion undersells the impact that he brings to a team.
Height – 5’8”
Weight – 174 Pounds
DOB – October 22, 1998 (23 years old)
School – Houston
Position – Slot Cornerback
Arm Length – 28 7/8”
Hand Size – 8 7/8”
Marcus Jones attended Enterprise High School in Enterprise, a small-town in Alabama. He played basketball and football for the Wildcats during his high school years. Football is where he truly excelled, though. Jones has been a playmaker everywhere that he’s ever been, and his time in Enterprise was no exception. Over the course of his final two seasons, Jones scored a total of five special teams touchdowns and returned one of his six interceptions into a pick-six as well.
The ball-hawking ability stood out to all potential recruiters, with his best offer coming from Big Ten school — the Purdue Boilermakers. Jones ultimately spurned all his other offers and chose to stay closer to home by committing to Troy University. He won Freshman of the Year honors for the Sun Belt Conference in 2017 by returning three kickoffs/punts for a touchdown and adding two interceptions. As a sophomore, Jones intercepted another pass and ran back another special teams touchdown, confirming that he was no fluke.
Following his second season at Troy, Jones began to pursue other, bigger opportunities. With 24 games under his belt, Jones was a hot commodity in the transfer portal. Houston ended up winning the Marcus Jones Sweepstakes, adding a difference maker in the secondary. He had to comply with rules and sit out all of 2019, but he returned for the COVID-shortened 2020 season and intercepted his first pass as a Cougar.
With the pandemic less prevalent in 2021, Jones began to realize his full potential. He intercepted a career-high five passes, while breaking up eight more. That’s not all. Jones also found the end zone twice on kickoffs and two more times while returning punts. Not only is the kid a star at cornerback, he also figures to be one of the best return specialists in the NFL from the moment he is drafted. He spent much of the offseason recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries, but he is still a fixture in the minds of scouts everywhere.
Now that we know the path that led Marcus Jones to the 2022 NFL Draft, let’s dive deeper and take a look at what makes him one of my favorite players available.
2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Ballhawk – Marcus Jones has arguably the best ball skills in the draft. During his time at Troy and Houston, Jones forced turnovers regularly. He intercepted nine passes, and broke up an astonishing 31 passes over the course of his four-year college career. Jones consistently puts himself in position to make a play on the ball, constantly stalking opponents out of the slot.
Toughness – Jones may be one of the smallest players available, but with that comes an incredible amount of toughness. It comes with being the “runt of the litter”. All his life, Jones was told he’s too small to ever make it and he has used that to place a chip on his shoulder. He has to be more crafty to make up for his lack of size, but this manifests itself in a motor and drive that few others’ on this planet possess. It’s impossible not to root for this guy.
Elite Slot Defender – A lot of the attention nowadays goes to the bevy of talent entering the league at wide receiver. One thing that nobody considers is: who is going to defend these guys? With more and more elite receivers taking a majority of their snaps in the slot, the ability to defend those players out of the slot should increase in value to reflect that. Jones may not be a #1 outside cornerback, but he has the potential to be one of the best out of the slot immediately.
Special Teams Returner – As stated before, Marcus Jones is a weapon as a returner for special teams. He returned multiple kickoffs and punts for touchdowns during his time as a high school and college athlete. This brings a steady floor because no matter how Jones fares as a defender, he looks like a superstar for whatever team he grabs return duties with.
Frame – Unfortunately for Jones, some teams will not be able to look past his frame. He plays much bigger than his size on paper indicates, but when matched up against larger receivers, he can be taken advantage of. It will be up to Jones to dispel the notion that his size is going to hold him back in the NFL.
Lack of Versatility – As I’ve touched on already, Marcus Jones is a slot-only defender. He is not someone that you want to put on the outside with the grown men of the NFL. While he would welcome such a challenge, it’s hard to see Jones ever being above-average on the outside. The upside he brings to slot is not something that teams’ will be eager to mess with, limiting his overall potential in the league.
Tackling – Something that Jones is in control of is his tackling. Jones is a more-than-willing tackler, but oftentimes the angles he takes on those tackles makes you scratch your head. He was able to use his superior athleticism to make up for it, but in the NFL that margin for error is cut in half, so it would behoove Jones to clean up the form to avoid looking silly against opposing receivers at the next level.
Marcus Jones is built like the average man, but that is where the average ends. He is among the best in the 2022 NFL Draft class in terms of ball skills, and is THE best slot cornerback. It is easier to find replacements in the slot as opposed to on the outside, so this fact likely keeps Jones out of the first round. Not to mention that he is still recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries over the offseason. He is expected to fully recover in time for training camp, but it is to be expected that Jones falls a little farther due to the circumstances.
Still, Jones should not make it out of the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. I don’t care what position you play, if you have the potential to be the best at it in the NFL, you’re worth a second round pick every time.