We’re on the search for the next non-FBS gem to blow up at the Senior Bowl. Last year, it was Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Who will it be this year? Will it be North Dakota OT Matt Waletzko? Chattanooga G Cole Strange? Or what about Fordham OT Nick Zakelj? They’re all quality candidates, but the most compelling 2022 NFL Draft scouting report might belong to Southern Utah OT Braxton Jones.
Braxton Jones NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Southern Utah
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’5 1/8″
- Weight: 306 pounds
- Wingspan: 84 1/4″
- Length: 36″
- Hand: 10 1/8″
Braxton Jones Scouting Report
The FCS ranks can be a treasure trove for under-the-radar NFL Draft talent. The Power Five conferences often monopolize most top-end talent, but players always slip through the cracks. Upon viewing his tape, it’s clear that Jones is one such player. The Southern Utah OT was utterly dominant at his level. But can he translate to the pros?
There’s always an air of skepticism surrounding FCS prospects as they face impending transitions to the NFL. That skepticism is warranted, but you have to take it case by case. Look at a prospect’s traits and see if they translate. With the right offensive line coach, Jones’ traits can indeed translate to the NFL game.
Jones’ athletic profile
Lots of Jones’ tape is just him dominating opponents by virtue of his superior physical foundation. Standing at 6’7″, 310 pounds, Jones has a long, well-proportioned frame. He’s surprisingly twitched up in short ranges, and he stores lots of power on every given snap. His length grants tremendous potential energy to his extensions, and he can load up his arms and latch onto defenders with force.
Going further, Jones has the frame density and length to absorb a degree of power. He can also generate impressive upper body torque on blocks. He can knock back defenders and swiftly impose his will. Plus, once Jones latches, his grip strength can be suffocating for lesser opponents. He maintains his anchor well, even when working at an angle.
All this, and we haven’t gotten to Jones’ mobility. The Southern Utah OT is a solid lateral athlete capable of executing reach blocks and flipping his hips to wall off defenders. That hip freedom shows up in other phases as well. He can effortlessly turn his hips and redirect momentum into his opponents, as well as carry rushers outside the pocket when anchored.
Jones flashes explosiveness off the line, and he can surge into blocks and close gaps quickly. He also mirrors rushers well, and he’s fairly light on his feet moving side to side. In space, he’s a steady mover with good agility for his size, and he can cover ground in long strides.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Jones was clearly a cut above his FCS competition from a physical standpoint. But being a multi-year starter, he’s not a total project. With his violent, snappy hands, Jones can latch with ruthless quickness, and he can assume control against weaker players. He has imposing grip strength, as he’s able to get his hands under pads and drive defenders downfield.
In pass protection, Jones’ best moments show up. He’s shown he can violently swat at hands and stall out rushes early. He also has fairly clean pass sets, and he can bend his knees and lower his shoulders on blocks, attaining good leverage. Jones keeps a wide base, and his sheer wingspan and width can be hard to get around. And when opponents lock up and try to redirect, he can capitalize on imbalance and drive them into the ground.
Perhaps most promising is Jones’ synergy between his upper and lower body. He has a great understanding of timing and positioning when levying punches, and he can time his extensions according to his base. Moreover, the Southern Utah OT can continually reset his base and gather rushers with his length and above-average core strength.
Among other things, Jones has the awareness to chip rushers in two-on-ones, and he’s shown he can respond quickly to stunts. Additionally, as a run blocker, he’s able to sink his pads into extensions and carry force with his hands. He also has solid leg drive when anchored. And for good measure, he was able to shift over to right tackle midgame for a few reps in some outings.
Areas for improvement
As exciting as Jones’ ceiling may be, there is work to do — especially if he aims to start at the NFL level. While he has good size and an NFL frame, Jones could stand to get a bit stronger, both in his upper and lower body. He sometimes struggles to gather more powerful defenders and reset his anchor. His footwork can be frantic at times, and his unstable base in these instances can make him easy to work back. He relies heavily on extensions, and he doesn’t have a ton of experience with hand-fighting technique.
Pad level is also a recurring issue with Jones. While he has the capacity to bend his knees and lower himself, he can be more consistent. His pad level and hand placement can be high at times, impacting his balance and leverage. The Southern Utah OT can go upright on impact, weakening his center of gravity. Defenders at the second level can also get under his tall frame and shed blocks. He can’t always lower his pads on the move and sometimes fails to finish reps downfield.
In pass protection, Jones sometimes opens up his torso and allows rushers to exert power, driving him back. His arms can be ripped down at times when he doesn’t anchor quickly enough, and that can get him off-balance. Meanwhile, in run defense, Jones can overshoot blocking angles at times. He sells out to attack second-level defenders but doesn’t always hit his mark. And while he has a physical style, he can be a bit grabby.
Rounding out Jones’ weaknesses, the Southern Utah OT’s weight transfers can be smoother at times, as he can get flat-footed. He also doesn’t always recognize stunts and allows delayed blitzers to sneak around.
Jones’ 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Jones’ ceiling is tantalizing. He’s a twitched-up athlete with a wide base and a long frame. He moves well in space and around the edge, but he also has the knee bend, power capacity, sense of timing, and grip strength to be a stalwart pass protector. Meanwhile, as a run blocker, he flashes a road-grader mentality.
A strong physical foundation buoys Jones’ game. He’s a great athlete with visible core strength, a dominant wingspan, and plenty of torque. But there are areas where polish is needed.
In pass protection, Jones was able to lean on his violent extensions a lot. It worked against FCS competition, but more advanced rushers who can match his violence and get inside his torso may exploit him. Going further, he’s not quite as consistent as a run blocker, and he needs to work on taking better angles and lowering his pads on the move.
The good news for Jones is this — he has all the traits. Beyond his athleticism, length, and power, he’s shown he can bend his knees and keep his balance. He can flip his hips and adapt, and he has a twitched-up, violent upper body.
If he can get stronger and keep refining his game, Jones has definite starter potential. Thus, he’s worth an early-to-mid Day 3 pick at the least. He can be a great swing tackle early on, and the tools are there to morph into a solid starter down the line.
Jones’ Player Profile
Great sandstone arches and spires aren’t the only things that stand tall in Utah. There’s also Jones — a 6’7″ behemoth who’s brutalized FCS defenders for years on end, each block eroding at the defender’s psyche like the sting of sand and wind. Talent can come from anywhere. We see more and more examples of this every year, and Jones is just another one in 2022.
Jones came from Murray, Utah, and played football and basketball at Murray High School. At the time, he was a lanky 6’6″, 265-pound monolith. His talent was clear — he earned Offensive MVP as an offensive lineman twice for his team. But Jones’ lighter frame turned away many schools. He measured in as a mere two-star recruit on 247 Sports, and he signed with in-state program Southern Utah out of high school.
Jones’ career at Southern Utah
When Jones arrived at Southern Utah, the work toward molding him into a star began. He worked his way up to 295 pounds as a true freshman in 2017, playing sparingly. The next offseason, he reached the 300-pound mark and added more strength to his game.
2018 was an audition year for Jones, and he passed. In eight games, he showed immense promise. Now, it was time to take the next step. But Jones went ahead and took three instead. He emerged as a steady starter at left tackle in 2019, earning third-team All-Big Sky honors. And in the spring of 2021, he became a dominant blindside blocker for the Thunderbirds. He fielded first-team honors that year and was also recognized as a first-team All-American by Phil Steele.
Entering the fall of 2021, Jones was essentially penciled in as a first-team All-Conference selection. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but Jones earned it again. He once again dominated FCS competition, completing his career with his strongest season yet.
Also impressive is Jones’ recognition as an Academic All-Conference honoree in 2021 — as an accounting major, nonetheless. As someone who’s taken an accounting class before, I can confirm that’s not easy to do.
Jones’ NFL Draft ascension
The physical potential is enticing with Jones. He possesses all the athletic traits and has the length to generate power and suffocate pass-rush reps. It’s no surprise that his favorite player is Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith. Jones’ ceiling isn’t quite that high, but he has the pure physical ability to be a high-end starter at his max projection.
There’s a lot of work left to be done. While Jones has an NFL frame, he can do more work to make that frame NFL-ready. And while he has knee bend and violent extensions, he’ll have to log more hand-fighting experience in the NFL, as well as work on consistently lowering his pad level.
Nevertheless, Jones is an exciting talent. The Senior Bowl will be massive for the Southern Utah OT. It’s his first true exposure against top-end competition. If he can hold his own and win a few reps, he could solidify his stock as an appealing developmental starter in the middle rounds.
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