FanPost

2022 NFL Draft profile: OT Braxton Jones

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Savings Time

Southern Utah left tackle, Braxton Jones, is a disappointing draft prospect. Why is he disappointing? Because, he's a player I'd love to steal later in the draft, but it looks like he's going to get drafted too early. I wanted to write a fanpost about a small school OT who has potential and could be a late round sleeper, who is ranked as a 6th round prospect on ESPN's board. Instead, after looking at his rankings on the other boards, it looks like he's going to be a middle round selection and if the Rams want him they might have to use their first draft pick on him. Instead of sleeping on Jones, the draft experts must have all set their clocks ahead and woken up early.

Of course, the draft is unpredictable and it is very difficult to predict where prospects will get selected or if they will even get drafted at all. If you compare Jones to OTs who got similar grades from Lance Zierlein in recent years, some of those players were middle round picks (e.g. Brandon Parker early 3rd, James Hudson early 4th, D'Ante Smith 4th rd and David Edwards late 5th round) but other players were UDFAs.

In terms of actual NFL performance, it can be difficult to differentiate between a 3rd round OT and an UDFA player. Zierlein's NFL comp for Jones is Yodny Cajuste of the Patriots. I don't have a problem with that comp, I think LZ chose a similar prospect. In the 2019 draft, the Rams made a small trade up with the Patriots late in the 3rd round, moving up 4 slots to draft Bobby Evans. The Pats took Cajuste after moving down. The Rams swapped a late 4th round pick (used by the Pats on Jarrett Stidham) for a 5th round pick, which the Rams used as part of the trade up for Greg Gaines.

Cajuste was on the PUP list as a rookie and was on IR his 2nd year. Last season he was a backup who started 2 games at RT and had a 55.7 PFF grade. Bobby Evans similarly has had limited impact for the Rams. He was an injury replacement as a rookie and was up and down, finishing with a poor PFF grade that year. Expected to compete for a starting role in 2021, he instead was kept on the bench when the emergence of Brian Allen kept Corbett at guard.

James Hudson, one of the tackles listed above, was a rookie last season with the Browns, who have arguably the best OL coach in the business, Bill Callahan. Hudson was supposed to have a "redshirt" season for development, but injuries pressed him into action and he made 4 starts. He had a mediocre 57.3 PFF grade.

Like those other OTs, Braxton Jones won't be ready to play at a good level as an NFL rookie. His technique is unrefined and he needs to work on his body to get stronger. When Jones is beaten in pass protection, it can be really ugly. The poor LT who Boye Mafe put on a poster in the Senior Bowl with a highlight strip sack? That was Braxton Jones. Still, if you watch some of the Senior Bowl practice reps, they reveal Jones's high potential. He has good hands and feet, there are physical tools to mold and try to develop him into a good NFL player, potentially even a good starting LT.

Background

6'5'' tall, 310 pounds, 35 3/8'' arms, 10 1/4'' hands, 83 1/2'' wingspan. Senior Bowl had his arms at 36'' and 84 1/4'' wingspan. Southern Utah listed him at 6'7'' tall. Excellent measured arm length for a tackle.

4.97 sec (40 time), 25.5'' vert jump, 9' broad jump, 4.84 sec (shuttle). Shuttle time isn't so hot. Noteboom had a 4.44 sec shuttle. Jones did it essentially as fast as Andrew Whitworth (4.83 sec), but Whit weighed 334 pounds at the Combine.

From Utah. Chose scholarship over walk-on offer from University of Utah. Accounting major. Baltimore Ravens fan. Played 5 seasons at S.Utah. Worked on lowering his body fat during pre-draft process.

ESPN 183rd overall (early 6th round)

Tony Pauline 156th (5th round)

Ian Cummings 128th (4th rd)

Oliver Hodgkinson 124th (4th rd)

Shane Hallam 100th (late 3rd rd)

Brian Bosarge 110th (early 4th)

PFF sim 159th, I did a test run and he went 125th overall in the mock draft.

Lance Zierlein 5.97 draft grade. This is just above James Hudson's 5.96. David Edwards had a 5.90 grade.

Strengths

Good feet. Can generate torque in hands to move defenders. Moves his feet to sustain blocks. Balanced when mirroring. Fluid moving in space. Gets hands up and into stance quickly after snap.

Good grip strength. Able to hang on and save some bad blocks just by having a firm hold of the defender.

Solid aggression. Finished some blocks by throwing defenders to the ground.

Has potential to be a very good zone blocking lineman.

Good lateral quickness out of stance to cut off slanting DL, cut off blitzing LB and get to seal blocks.

Lateral quickness to recover to inside after he overset and opened door for inside move.

Solid hand speed.

Likeable personality, self-aware, coachable and willing to learn, gives thoughtful answers to questions, embraces being the underdog, understands that the NFL draft is just the start of the journey, not the destination, displays proper perspective and work ethic.

Weaknesses

Against FCS opponents, sometimes he was able to rely on his sheer size to make the block, covering up sloppy technique. That's not going to work at the NFL level.

Average anchor. Can be walked backwards into the QB. Not skilled or advanced in digging in and reestablishing anchor.

Spacing and angle of steps in pass sets need substantial work, but he has good foot quickness, which makes me think he could eventually be a good pass blocker.

Oversets and resorts to trying to hug and pull DE closer to try to prevent sack. If he doesn't overset he becomes vulnerable to edge speed around the corner. Forced to open shoulders too early, not enough depth in kick slide to cover arc, gets beaten at the apex.

Bad habit of ducking his head into the block and edge rushers exploit this to beat him both with outside and inside moves. Ducked into block against twist and the DT beats him and goes right by. Ducked head into block, beaten to outside by rip move, QB gets crushed.

Poor hand placements. Repeatedly tries to grab outside of shoulder pads. His inside hand sometimes will slide up too high and his outside hand tends to be weak and come off or get knocked off. Misses grabs on run blocks. Hand sometimes goes around back of jersey.

Turns what should be simple blocks into wrestling matches with wild hand placements.

If he misses the defender and gets out of position, a couple times he just wildly and desperately tries to grab them. Once it led to a silly holding penalty and another time he appeared to injure his hand or arm on the play.

Average awareness. Gets surprised by some twists and catches the DT.

Has a "nice" personality that some OL coaches might not like. A lover, not a fighter, not a glass eater.

Played in shotgun system against FCS level opponents that didn't require NFL vertical pass blocking sets very often.

Developmental project who could require multiple years of coaching and experience before competing for a starting job.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Jermon Bushrod (4th round 2007, Saints, Towson), 4th round grade

When Yodny Cajuste was in the draft, LZ's comp for him was Bushrod.

Bushrod was not invited to the Combine. These were his Pro Day numbers: 6'4 5/8'' tall, 315 pounds, 34.5'' arms, 4.92 sec (40 time), 30.5'' vert, 8'6'' broad, 4.72 sec (shuttle). Some people projected Bushrod to play guard in the NFL.

Bushrod became a starter in his 3rd NFL season. His OL coach at that time was Aaron Kromer. Bushrod made 2 Pro Bowls and his best season was probably 2011, which was his 5th year in the NFL. While he was a solid starter for a number of years for NO and Chicago (where Kromer was the OC), Bushrod was generally considered to be a mediocre pass blocker, a weakness covered up by Drew Brees throwing the ball so quickly. Aaron Kromer was hired this year to be the OL coach for the Bills. Bushrod also played some guard in the latter part of his career. Whether Bushrod was ever a true "franchise" LT is debatable, but he had a very good NFL career for a 4th round draft pick.

I think Jones is a better prospect than D'Ante Smith, who was a 4th round pick last year by the Bengals. Smith probably should slide inside to guard for a zone blocking team, while I think Jones has a better shot at staying outside at tackle. I think Noteboom was a better prospect than Jones, but their overall tier is about the same.

I think most of the draft boards and experts have this prospect evaluated and ranked correctly, so there is a decent chance that if the Rams waited until their 2nd draft slot Jones won't be on the board by that point. Would it be worth it for the Rams to target Jones to try to land a possible future starting tackle or should they go with safer options at other positions and draft a player with less bust potential?