On the last drill of Sidney Jones’ pro day, the worst-case scenario for any NFL hopeful showed its cruel face: Jones tore his Achilles tendon — mere seconds from solidifying his place as a first-round selection in the draft.
Washington CB Sidney Jones, consensus first-round NFL draft prospect, leaves pro day on a cart after suffering apparent left leg injury. pic.twitter.com/t0DPc70tAL— Stephen Cohen (@scohenPI) March 11, 2017
Now, instead of getting to enjoy a warm hug with Roger Goodell during Thursday’s first round, Jones remains available on Friday, representing a gamble for a patient team to make.
Compounding Jones’ bad luck was the sizable depth at defensive back in this year’s draft. Teams looking to upgrade at corner could go with Tre’Davious White, as the Bills did; Adoree’ Jackson, as the Titans did; Marshon Lattimore, as the Saints did; Gareon Conley, as the Raiders did — or with Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, and a number of other talented corners who remain available. Why take more chances when you can take fewer? (Notable exception: Conley and his issues.)
But all those stupid turns of fate that beset Jones — could they work in the hometown team’s favor? Seattle finds itself in the unusual position of needing defensive back help, with an aging LOB and the non-emergence of a successor to Byron Maxwell on the defense’s left side.
There are good reasons to love Jones. Pro Football Focus lists a few of them here, which I’ll summarize for you.
- Great in press man coverage
- Great ball skills
- Great run defender
In 2015, Jones held opposing quarterbacks to a 54.0 passer rating and gave up just one touchdown all season.
Jones posted an impressive 86.1 coverage grade in 2016 but his coverage statistics are likely somewhat skewed because teams so often shied away from throwing at him.
Sound like anyone you know?
Still, there are objections a learned Seahawks fan would and should raise.
a) How about the recovery? Achilles injuries sound terrible.
Steve Smith recently returned from a torn Achilles within 10 months to post a 70-799-5 season before retiring. Arian Foster was less than his All-Pro self after his setback and posted 2.5 and 2.6 yards per carry his last two seasons. (Although Foster’s other injuries and his age are also mitigating factors.) Kenneth Arthur wrote about Achilles tears and the rate of recoveries recently, with former NFL team doctor David Chao noting that good, young players at positions of need are pretty much expected to make a full recovery and return to the field at this point. Demaryius Thomas, Brent Grimes, Michael Crabtree, Terrell Suggs (twice) ... many players have returned and been just fine, if not better.
A not-so-recent study (2012) placed recovery for NFL players at 11 months.
That’s why Jones is a gamble and still on the board.
b) He doesn’t quite meet the Seahawks’ physical standards for CB.
He’s 6-0, 186, with 31 1⁄2 arms. No Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner or even Maxwell here. But Walter Thurmond was 5-11, 189 (with freakish arms) and Jeremy Lane was 6-0, 184 as a rookie. There might be wiggle room, but even more concerning is his wingspan, which is under 72” and most Seattle defensive backs come in above 77” in wingspan. It’s less of an issue if he ends up in the slot.
c) This is a homer pick, you lousy homer with homer glasses on!
Counterpoint: It’s easier to be a homer (though I’m not even a UW alum) when the local team ends its season in the national semifinal.
Nerf gun to my head, I’d say a team with draft picks to spare takes a chance on Jones, knowing he won’t contribute until 2018 at the earliest, and even then that season figures to include a steep learning curve. So you’re really thinking ahead to 2019 with the selection.
Who might that mystery “team with draft picks to spare” be? I’ll tell you one thing: The Seahawks have six selections today. No other franchise has more than three.