The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed a bounce-back 2016 season after a horrid 2015. The team won just four games after seeing Quarterback Tony Romo go down. 2016 rookies Ezekiel Elliot (RB) and Dak Prescott (QB) were essential pieces to the team’s turnaround; but the resurgent defense was an underrated piece of the puzzle.
One of the emergent players during Dallas’ 13-3 regular season run was Free Safety Byron Jones. The team’s first round selection in 2015 (27th overall), Jones flourished on the back end. His 2016 included tallying an interception, 10 passes defensed and an impressive 88 total tackles in his 16 starts. Jones was a player that shot up draft boards after a tremendous Combine performance but there was some speculation to where Jones fit at the NFL level.
Below is my 2015 NFL Draft report on Byron Jones:
Pundits were split on where Jones would fit, I elected to project him as a Cornerback. The Cowboys elected to select and slot Jones at Safety, where some of his acknowledged issues with footwork can be masked. In hindsight, slotting Jones as a Safety is a great move; it allows his elite size/athleticism profile to shine most effectively.
Jones’ combative approach at the catch point and when playing in phase was noted in the above report and continues to be a staple of his game as a pass defender. That experience, range and physicality will be sorely needed in 2017 and beyond, as the team has worked to remodel their defensive backfield. Jones will be an essential piece to covering any potential lapses on the back end and preventing big plays.
Two years ago he was a rookie among established vets. Now Byron Jones finds himself as a leader in the secondary.
My projection of Jones was erroneous in forecasting his position long term. Yet the value as a top 32 player from his class appears to be correct. Early returns on Jones are very promising; he’s poised to make the next leap as a player with more on his plate.