Former NC State safety Josh Jones, who declared for the NFL Draft with one year of eligibility remaining, was a big winner during the NFL Combine and it's showing as experts update their big boards following the Feb. 28-March 6 event.
Jones shined at the annual Indianapolis scouting event, where he was one of three Wolfpackers in the event (running back Matthew Dayes and cornerback Jack Tocho were the others). The Walled Lake, Mich., native separated himself by showing off stellar size, speed and athleticism.
Only one defensive back was bigger than the 6-1, 220-pounder (Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu, at 6-4, 224 pounds), and Jones placed among the top 10 defensive backs in the 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds, tied for seventh), bench press (20 reps, tied for third), broad jump (11 feet, tied for third) and vertical jump (37.5 inches, tied for eighth). He ranked among the top three 2017 safeties in all four tests and tied for the sixth-best 40 among all safeties since 2006 while his broad jump tied for fifth in the last 12 safety classes.
This year's pool of players is widely regarded as an excellent safety class, and Jones has been somewhat under the radar to this point. That may not last much longer — both Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports now list the 6-1, 220-pounder among their top 50 prospects available in the draft, which will take place in Philadelphia April 27-29.
Jeremiah ranked Jones No. 48 overall, noting: "Jones moved all around in the Wolfpack defense. In each game I watched him play in, he aligned as the high safety, in the box, or over the slot. He is extremely fluid and athletic. He has outstanding range from the deep middle and he shows a burst to fill the alley in run support. In the slot, he has the size to match up with tight ends and enough agility to redirect against smaller receivers. He is instinctive and displays excellent ball awareness. He doesn't always bring his feet on contact but when he does, he demonstrates stopping power. Overall, Jones is a very gifted athlete with a high upside as a free safety."
Meanwhile, Brulger listed Jones 50th and said: "After he moved from strong to free safety in 2016, Jones looked like a new player and watched his production skyrocket. He is a big, rangy athlete with the play strength, versatility and developing football IQ that translates well to the NFL game."
Following a season in which Jones led NCSU with 109 tackles and three interceptions while ranking second with eight pass breakups, he is looking to become the first early departure from the Pack to be drafted since cornerback David Amerson in 2013 . With the way he tested, Jones could also be the school's highest draft pick since Amerson went 51st overall in the second round to the Washington Redskins. Prior to Amerson, the last time the program had a pick in the first two rounds was 2006, when three former players were selected in the first round, led by No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams.
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