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2018 NFL Draft Scouting Reports: The Case for First Round RB Ronald Jones II

In a deep pool of RB talent, Jones might prove to be the best of the 2018 bunch

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another running back produced by USC—yet for the first time in a long time, this RB has serious first round potential. Ronald Jones II has done nothing but produce as a Trojan, and his career average of 6.1 yards-per-carry is a clear indicator.

A two-sport athlete out McKinney North (McKinney, TX), Jones won district championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.37 and 21.98, respectably. Jones finished up his senior year with 2,009 rushing yards to go with 28 touchdowns before ultimately choosing to commit to USC over Notre Dame.

In his freshman year, Jones quickly ascended the RB depth chart with replacement-level guys like Justin Davis and Tre Madden losing more and more snaps to the freshman. Jones finished his first year with eight rushing touchdowns and a USC freshman record of 987 rushing yards.

Measurables


Measurements: 5’11″ | 205 lbs | 31 1/8 arms | 8 3/4 hands

Bench: 15 reps

Vertical jump: 36.5″

40 Yard Dash: 4.48 (Pro Day)

Strengths

Homerun speed

This is Jones’ most desirable trait. He’s a playmaker and no matter what part of the field he’s on, HE’S ALWAYS A THREAT to take it to the house:


Exhibit A

Exhibit B


Excellent agility

There was some concern when Jones went from 185 to 200 pounds last summer in terms of any lost “wiggle” to his game. Clearly, it did not…


Quick acceleration

Whether it was out of the shotgun or lined up behind Darnold, Jones always came of the snap looking like he was fired out of a cannon. His innate ability to accelerate and generate that velocity into power is something special—giving him more upside around the goal line versus traditional smaller backs.

Finisher/ Deceptively strong

Since his sophomore year, Jones has added 20 pounds to his frame and the jump was noticeable last season. Jones didn’t fear contact was able to break more arm tackles and plow forward in short yardage work.


Weaknesses

Lean frame might be maxed out at 205 lbs.

In adding the 20 pounds, his current weight seems to be his cutoff. Jones has a tight, muscular frame that might prove difficult to withstand the punishment of NFL defenders.

Inexperienced receiver

In three seasons, Jones has caught a total of 32 receptions for 302 yards. In USC’s offense, not much was asked of Jones as a receiver, only the occasional RB screen and check down. Jones receiving prowess hasn’t been completely unfounded, just not proven to this point.

Patience

For all the praise we’ve given Jones for his acceleration, often times his inability to quickly diagnose a running lane results in him accelerating to a wall of linemen.

Liability in pass protection

This one speaks for itself. Small RBs=Light work for pass rushers

Best Trojan Performance

USC v Arizona State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Technically this isn’t best game category, that notwithstanding—Weeks 9 and 10 of the 2017 season were the best consecutive performances put together by Trojan RB, ever. Coming off an absolute trouncing by Notre Dame, Jones erupted in Week 9 against Arizona State rushing for 216 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.

For an encore, Jones wrecked the Arizona Wildcats for 194 rushing yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns—including one of the best ‘non-TD’ runs you’ll ever.

In a span of one week, he put up almost 400 yards and 5 touchdowns—absolutely ridiculous. During this stretch of the season, the offensive line was held together with guys from the second and third teams, and receiving unit was just barely getting back its long-injured core group. Jones led the offense and drove USC’s momentum into the Pac-12 Title game.

Best Comparison: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

The only difference between the two is Bernard being two inches shorter a 5’9”, other than that it’s a clear comparison. The common comp for Jones is Jamaal Charles, which I’ve always felt was due to the braids popping out of the helmet and the number 25 on the jerseys. Both Bernard and Jones are undersized, use their excellent agility to dodge defenders and have breakaway speed. The two things that jumped out at me from Bernard while at North Carolina was—much like Jones, even though they struggled in-between the tackles, their acceleration out of the backfield saw them shoot into the gap and finish strong. The other is more stat-based.

Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd

The New Orleans Saints laid down the new foundation for what a truly successful running back tandem looked like season just as Atlanta did so a few seasons prior. Jones fits best sharing the ball with another talented RB and would be best utilized in an early down role. However, he has shown the ability to carry a full workload and be able to do so at the NFL-level if guys like Saquon Barkley and Darrius Guice are gone within the first 20 picks.