One of the most under rated wide receivers in this years draft class, Zay Jones could be the perfect fit for the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers are entering the off-season with their biggest need on the offensive side of the ball. While the Bucs have over $70 million in cap space this year they could spend big on the crop of upcoming free agents. The defense could use some help and there are going to be some key players that need extensions in the upcoming seasons. Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, and Kwon Alexander are going to need to get paid. Saving some cap room to re-sign their own guys will be best for their long-term success.
The Bucs may need to address most of the offensive needs through the draft. While many people believe that running back should be the Bucs primary target they could take best player available early in the draft. With the Bucs likely not to re-sign Vincent Jackson, why don’t the Bucs target the best wide receiver no one is talking about, Zay Jones.
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Born in Dallas, Texas, Zay Jones went to Stephen F. Austin High school. Coming out of high school he was a three star recruit. He committed to ECU where his father and uncle went to, whom both went on to play in the NFL. Zay Jones stayed at school all four eligible years and became a NCAA record-setting college receiver.
As a true freshman at East Carolina, Zay Jones started eight of thirteen games. In that season he posted solid numbers with 62 receptions for 604 yards and five touchdowns. Each season after that he got better and better. As a sophomore he had 81 catches for 830 yards and five touchdowns and as a junior he had 98 catches for 1,099 yards and five more touchdowns.
His senior season he exploded becoming one of the most prolific receivers in college football history. With 158 receptions, 1,746 yards, and eight touchdowns he set multiple records his senior season. After this season he was named to the All-America Team and the runner-up for the Biletnikoff Award, America’s top receiver, behind only Dede Westbrook from Oklahoma. He was also a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, the academic Heisman.
Jones’ senior season will go down in NCAA history as one of the best ever. He now owns the division one record for most receptions in a single season, breaking Freddie Barnes record from 2009. He also now has the most receptions for a career with 399, breaking former teammate Justin Hardy‘s old record of 387. In 11 of 13 games he had more than ten catches surpassing 20 once in week three, recording 22 against USC. Having the best hands in college is a much-needed feature that the Bucs could really use.
Coming in at 6-1, 197 pounds, Jones is a player who can go up and get it but he’s got nice speed and great hands. With some of the best hands in the NFL draft the Bucs could really use his help opposite Mike Evans. Jones isn’t the top-tier of talent in this draft class so the Bucs could really target him on day two of the draft.
I’d say his pro comparison is Emmanuel Sanders. Jones is a little taller but both are very fluid in their routes and very elusive. Bucs could use him outside or move him inside to exploit match-ups. If he ends up to be anything like Sanders the Bucs could have an explosive offense for years to come. The combination of an aging Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders had an elite offense. I definitely believe Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and Zay Jones could reach high quality levels.
Coming from a small school he may have been under scouted, so the best case scenario for the Bucs is him to fall as far as possible. With the combine coming up he can really showcase his skills and fly up other teams draft boards. He’s not a top twenty pick but if the Bucs could grab him anywhere on the second day I will be pumped. Jason Licht likes to trade up in the second round and Zay Jones would be a perfect candidate for one of his draft day moves.