Just over two dozen defenders in college football had over 10 pass deflections this past season. Ball State CB Nic Jones was one of them, and as his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report shows, that production is a prime indicator of the impact he can have at the next level.
Nic Jones NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Ball State
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’0″, 186 pounds
Much like receivers on the opposite side, production can be a guiding tool for discerning quality cornerback talent in the NFL draft scouting process. Of course, production alone isn’t the most important factor. But when a productive player shows off translatable traits on tape, that’s when you take notice.
It stands to reason that the scouting community is starting to take notice of Ball State’s Nic Jones, who’s coming off a career-defining 2022 campaign. Opposite fellow defensive stalwart Amechi Uzodinma II, Jones racked up 23 tackles, two interceptions, and 12 deflections, earning second-team All-MAC honors in the process.
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Jones was originally a three-star recruit out of Southfield A&T High School in Detroit, Michigan. Once ranked outside the top 1500 nationally, Jones has now worked his way into a very selective group — the 2023 NFL Draft prospect pool.
He’s already earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl. But looking at his film, how high might Jones rise up the board in April, and does he have the tools to surprise in a stacked positional class?
Nic Jones Scouting Report
- Lean, well-built cornerback with excellent proportional length and reach.
- Snappy short-area athlete who can quickly redirect and surge out of his stance.
- Flashes great initial explosiveness and long-strider acceleration coming downhill.
- Has enough long-strider speed to carry receivers upfield and gather with his length.
- Has the high-level reactive athleticism, twitch, and foot speed to match off the line.
- Can use length to squeeze receivers against the boundary after matching.
- Shows patience and discipline using feet first in press man.
- Displays good processing capacity and reaction quickness both in zone and man.
- Can recognize screens quickly and trigger downhill in anticipation.
- Consistent playmaker at the catch point with the necessary length and ball tracking.
Areas for Improvement
- Doesn’t quite have elite explosiveness, speed, or fluidity as a mover.
- Appears a bit high-hipped as a mover at times, and sometimes plays too tall in stance.
- Lacks the elite recovery speed to avoid being stacked if delayed on his hip turn.
- Sometimes hesitates in zone after correctly identifying underneath routes early.
- With leaner frame, can be outmuscled and worked off-balance on contested reps.
- At times, can improve pursuit angles downhill in run support.
- Can improve play strength as a tackler and more consistently wrap up.
- Occasionally a tick late to get his head around to track the ball on the boundary.
Ball State CB Nic Jones Current Draft Projection
Jones could go on to be one of the more underrated CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. He grades out as a priority Day 3 talent. In a deep CB class, a rise into late Day 2 is relatively unlikely. But in Round 4 or 5, Jones could be a great value addition, with starting potential at the NFL level.
A strong showing at the Shrine Bowl will only help matters for Jones. Yet, already he’s shown enough on tape to pique the interest of evaluators. Jones isn’t sorely lacking in any area. He’s a long, lean cornerback with good explosiveness and long speed, solid ball skills and playmaking ability, and the processing capacity to position himself effectively.
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All this, and Jones’ most appealing trait is his agility and twitch. Especially for a longer cornerback, Jones’ short-area athleticism is tantalizing. He doesn’t have elite linear explosiveness, but his ability to suddenly redirect, adjust his feet, and snap into place is a quality that helps him routinely stick to receivers off the line. From there, Jones can use his length to gather and suffocate opponents.
Jones has room to get stronger and add more mass to his frame so that he might hold up better against physicality in the NFL. But Jones has shown he can play with disciplined technique and fast feet, and dictate reps with his length in press-man coverage. As long as Jones continues to perfect his craft, he has the combination of length, short-area twitch, and playmaking ability to be a boundary starter down the line.