Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 43: Houston OT Josh Jones

Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

43. Houston OT Josh Jones

6-foot-5, 319 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.94

TL;DR scouting report: Body-beautiful tackle with plus athleticism, but NFL scouting opinions vary widely on his upside.

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit who initially committed to Oklahoma State, Jones landed at Houston with then-coach Tom Herman in 2015 and was redshirted his first season on campus. After putting on more than 25 pounds, Jones won the starting left tackle spot in 2016 and remained there — minus games missed with injury in 2017 in 2019 — for the remainder of his Cougars career.

Jones started 13 games in 2016, 10 in 2017 (missed games against ECU and Tulane with a knee injury) and 13 more in 2018. In the 2019 season, Jones was named second-team all-AAC as a senior despite only starting the first nine games before missing the remainder with a knee injury.

Jones, who turns 23 years old in June, attended the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine and was a standout at both places.

Upside: Solid dimensions: nice height, length and a frame that could support more mass if needed. Even so, has what scouts refer to as a “bubble butt” — and that’s a good thing. Good athletic traits and a nice template to work with.

Four years of tape displayed tangible improvement in college, capped with impressive final season. Plenty of dominant stretches in 2019. Also played handful of snaps at right tackle and could be cross-trained as a swing OT. Had to learn three different playbooks in college and was coached by four OL coaches.

Basketball athleticism — quick, active feet and lateral quickness to slide and adjust — shows up readily in pass protection. Effective on the move, hitting landmarks quickly and smoothly. Pulls nicely and gets into space on screens and draws. Can sink his hips and bends extremely well for a man his size.

Pass pro is his bread and butter with only five sacks allowed over final three seasons. Fires his hands out well and clearly has been coached up in this regard. Utilizes a variety of handwork, replaces them well and will enter the NFL more advanced in this regard than typical rookies. Patient blocker who knows when to open his hips and mirrors rushers effectively. Uses length well and likes to be the aggressor even in pass blocking.

Stood out in 2019 season opener vs. Oklahoma, and did so in front of a press box full of NFL scouts, no less. Nice combine workout with testing numbers all above-average to very good, and positional workout was pretty. Had some dominant reps at the Senior Bowl, including some flashes of nastiness that were not always there in college.

Here’s one nice rep from Mobile, Alabama, where Jones stood up to the power of Syracuse’s Alton Robinson, a mid-round prospect in 2020:

And one more where Jones buries UNC’s Jason Strowbridge, a Senior Bowl standout who nonetheless struggled on this rep:

Downside: For a four-year starter (five years removed from high school), some view Jones as raw, technique-wise. Has some quirky, unorthodox pass sets — stays flat-footed and relies too much on recovery quickness. Takes false steps and wastes movement. Will lean and lunge. Can be dissected by DL ninjas who exploit those things for a living.

Not a refined run blocker yet, too linear and upright at times. Even with strong elements to handwork, improvement is needed as he lowers his guard, misfires on some punches and can stay locked on. Operated mostly out of two-point stances. Not a finished, polished product and will require some extra supervision on the side.

Lumbered out of the gates on the 40 at the combine, 10-yard splits of 1.81 and 18.4 put him in the lower third of combine OT prospects since 1999. Core strength needs work and might need a year or two in an NFL weight program to continue development. Anchor-strength issues show up on tape.

Injuries have caused him to miss time in two of the past three seasons. Faced sub-par pass-rush competition in the AAC. Wide range of one-on-one results at Senior Bowl — some dominant reps, some less-than-impressive ones. Could stand to display nastiness more consistently.

Best-suited destination: Jones could use time to refine his technique, but it was effective enough in college that he could earn a starting spot Year 1 if needed. He’d be best in an inside/outside-zone blocking system, we believe. Scouts have offered a wide variety of opinions on Jones, but there is enough interest league-wide where it would not be a shock if he went early.

Among the teams we think could be interested in his services: the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons.

Did you know: Jones’ father, Bobby, was a high school quarterback and later played and coached semi-pro football with the Houston Buccaneers and Katy (Texas) Cowboys.

They said it: “That I’m a competitor, man. That I compete at a high level. I go out there every single rep and try to win. That’s just my lifestyle. That’s just me. Every single day, I want to win in everything I do. If I raced you to the door, I’m gonna beat you right now. That’s just my thing ... I’m gonna be there every day, ready to work, no matter if it’s a bad day, hard day, I’m going to come back the next day.”

— Jones, at the combine on what he wants to prove to NFL teams

Player comp: Similar to Dion Dawkins, Cam Erving or Ja’Wuan James, Jones enters the NFL with a boom-bust quality to him, but his first-year performance might pale in comparison to what he can do down the road.

Expected draft range: Anywhere from about the 20th to the 50th overall selection.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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