#31 Byron Jones
Byron Philip Jones was born in New Britain, Connecticut on September 26, 1992. Jones is a versatile defensive back who has played both cornerback and safety in the NFL. He played collegiately at the University of Connecticut before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Byron Jones put together quite an impressive resume during his high school career and excelled in several different sports.
While attending St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut, Jones played basketball, football, and competed in track and field.
Jones was one of the state’s top performers in the 200-meter and 400-meter. At the 2010 NVL Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Jones earned first place in both the 200-meter and 400-meter with times of 22.13 seconds and 48.43 seconds, respectively.
It was on the football field where Byron really made his mark in high school. Jones was named to the Class MM All-State team by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and First Team All-Naugatuck Valley as a senior. He was also named team captain as a senior and helped his team advance to the MM state playoffs.
Coming out of high school, Byron Jones was considered a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and ended up accepting a football scholarship from the University of Connecticut.
Byron Jones made 37 starts in 43 career games at safety and cornerback for the Huskies during his collegiate career.
Jones red-shirted in 2010, but still was awarded the Special Teams Scout Player of the Week before the Syracuse game on November 20, 2010.
In the 2011 season, Byron Jones started a total of eight games and six of the final seven games of the season. He ended up sixth on the team in tackles with 51 and had a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown against USF, in which he earned the honors of being named BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
Jones started all 12 games at safety in 2012 and was the third leading tackler on the team with 88 tackles. Jones had one interception in the 2012 season and his best game came against Temple when he had a career-high 13 tackles.
In 2013, he started all 12 games at cornerback after converting from the safety position. Byron Jones ended up finishing fourth on the team with 60 tackles and had a team-high three interceptions. He was also named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
As a senior in 2014, Byron Jones started the first seven games of the season at cornerback before a season-ending shoulder injury cut his year short. Before his season was cut short, Jones recorded 24 tackles, two interceptions, and four pass breakups. One of his interceptions he returned 70 yards for a touchdown against USF.
2015 NFL Draft
Byron Jones took full advantage of his opportunity to compete at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. He set the world on fire by being a top performer in nearly every event, despite still recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final six games of his senior season.
Jones was a top performer in the vertical jump (44.5 inches), the 3 cone drill (6.78 seconds), 20 yard shuffle (3.94 seconds), and 60 yard shuffle (10.98 seconds); but it was the broad jump that really caught everyone’s attention.
Jones set the unofficial world record for the broad jump – or standing long jump – by jumping 12’3”.
It was Jones’ performance at the NFL Scouting Combine that caused a lot of so-called draft experts to have to go back and review his college game tape in order to get a better idea of exactly the type of football player he was. Was he just a workout wonder or was he truly a physically gifted athletic football player?
Byron Jones was arguably one of the most talked about draft prospects entering the 2015 NFL Draft after the show he put on at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Many draft analysts had Jones slotted anywhere from a late first-round draft pick to an early second round draft pick.
The Dallas Cowboys decided to use their 27th pick overall to draft the versatile defensive back out of the University of Connecticut, despite defensive end Randy Gregory still on the board, who a lot of people considered a top 10 talent.
Luckily for the Cowboys though, Gregory was still available on the second round and the organization didn’t hesitate to write his name on a draft card and make him a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Byron Jones’ versatility to play several different positions in the Cowboys secondary was something they simply couldn’t pass up and was ultimately the deciding factor to make him a member of the organization for years to come.
Byron Jones had a lot thrown at him his first year in the NFL, and he performed admirably for the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The attribute that convinced the Cowboys into drafting Jones in the first place was his versatility and that versatility was on full display throughout his rookie season.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had Jones play nearly every position in the secondary. Byron Jones played as an outside cornerback, in the slot, safety, and even a little dime linebacker when the Cowboys defense was in the nickel package.
The Cowboys couldn’t have been more pleased with Jones’ performance in his first year. He made 11 starts in the Cowboys secondary in 2015, but the majority of the starts came at the safety position (7). He was credited with 66 tackles and nine pass deflections, but failed to record an interception.
Jones did, however, have his rookie mistakes and his first game to start at cornerback for an injured Morris Claiborne against the Miami Dolphins provided evidence enough. He gave up a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills before he left the game with an ankle injury.
Byron Jones rebounded in his second start at cornerback against the Carolina Panthers when he made two key goal line plays to prevent a touchdown before the half ended.
Jones remained relatively healthy throughout his rookie season, but he did have a scary moment against the New York Jets when he suffered a dislocated knee while tackling wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Fortunately, he was able to pop it back in and finish the ball game, playing 71 total snaps.
The Dallas Cowboys are expecting big things from him in 2016 as their starting free safety.
The total value of Byron Jones’ rookie contract is $8,601,938. Jones will make an average of $2,150,485 per season and is fully guaranteed $6,993,947. This makes Jones the 63rd highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
Jones is entering the second year of his rookie contract and will have a cap hit of $1,954,986 in 2016, $2,345,983 in 2017, and $2,736,980 in 2018. The Dallas Cowboys will then have to decide if they want to offer him a long-term contract or pick up his fifth year option.
5 Points: Analyzing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule
Every year around this time, sports fans everywhere are reminded of just how dominant the National Football League is. The NFL schedule release is literally just the sharing of a calendar that has little meaning until after next week's NFL Draft, but still dominates headlines both before and after the event.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to return to the playoffs in 2018, we now know the path they will take -- beginning on September 9th in Carolina against the Panthers.
Here are five of my initial thoughts on this team's schedule.
1. "Early" Bye Week Still Later Than Recent Seasons
The Cowboys' bye week falls in week eight this season, which is certainly nothing new. This team is used to having their bye earlier in the season, but week eight is actually the latest it's been over the last three seasons.
In Dak Prescott's rookie season, the Cowboys rolled to six straight wins following their bye week - all part of a longer 11 game win streak. In 2017, the Cowboys played their final three games with Ezekiel Elliott after the bye, improving to 5-3 and inspiring hope for a salvageable season before further injuries piled up.
This season, the Cowboys will come out of their bye week to host Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.
2. AFC South to Play A Huge Factor
Speaking of the Titans, it is the NFC East's year to face off against the AFC South. This has been an unpredictable division as of late, with the Jacksonville Jaguars emerging as early favorites following their improbable run to the AFC Championship Game.
Unlike the NFC East, the AFC South has been decided by who maintains stability at quarterback. The Colts are hoping to contend with Andrew Luck back on the field in 2018, as are the Texans with second-year QB Deshaun Watson.
The Titans overhauled their coaching staff in hopes of progressing QB Marcus Mariota further to make a run at the playoffs once again.
For the Cowboys, their meetings with the AFC South will carry extra weight - as all but one of them precedes a divisional game in some sense. Following back to back games at the Texans and home against the Jaguars, the Cowboys will visit the Redskins in week seven.
The first shot Dallas will get at the defending Super Bowl champions will be November 11th in Philadelphia, two weeks removed from their bye after facing the Titans.
Coming out of two games in 12 days through weeks 12 (Thanksgiving) and 13, the Cowboys will have little chance to come up for air against the Eagles in week 14. Their chance to regroup may come the following week, with a favorable December road game in Indianapolis against the Colts.
3. Revenge Against the Falcons
The Cowboys' week 10 game a year ago in Atlanta is truly where the 2017 season was lost. Playing without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys looked lost on offense thanks to the added absence of All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
The Cowboys' fight to carry on at 5-4 was buried into the Falcons' new turf, as was Dak Prescott that afternoon, sacked eight times.
Only a week removed on the calendar from meeting the Falcons on the same date, the Cowboys will again play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in week 11 this season. The chance for revenge against the Falcons will also mark the only pair of consecutive road games this 2018 Dallas Cowboys team will play.
4. Running Through December
The national media may not want you to know that the Cowboys are a combined 6-2 in December over the last two seasons, as this team's fabled late season collapses remain a topic of conversation.
This point also stands as a great example of why breaking down team schedules in April is often a pointless exercise, but not obsessing over every twist and turn of the NFL as a yearly hobby is no fun. According to me.
It is no secret that the Cowboys will be relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, expecting their star running back to suit up for 16 games and carry the offense. If you believe that Prescott and Elliott paired together full-time again is enough reason for optimism about the Cowboys, their December schedule becomes even more favorable.
Aside from playing three of the four games indoors and away from the elements, the Cowboys will face three of the worst rushing defenses in yards per game allowed from last season in December. With the Eagles being the glaring exception (leading the league in this category), the Cowboys should have their way on the ground with the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants over their final three games.
5. Thanksgiving Tradition
For the second time in three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were victorious on Thanksgiving in 2016 over the Redskins, 31-26.
The Cowboys have only lost to the Redskins once on Thanksgiving, facing them a total of eight times and dropping a 2012 bout with Washington 38-31 (Robert Griffin III's rookie season with the Redskins).
Riding a four game winning streak against the Redskins, the Cowboys get to face an Alex Smith led Washington team on Thanksgiving to wrap up their first series against the NFC East. Following week 12, the Cowboys will still have meetings with the Eagles and New York Giants.
Some may look at this year's division as a two-team race, but counting absolutely any team out of an NFC East race is foolish - even more so in April.
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By this time next week, the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to look entirely different - adding as many as ten players at the 2018 NFL Draft. Only then will we have a better feel for how they stack up against this 2018 schedule.
Stay posted right here to Inside The Star for draft coverage live from Dallas, as I will be at AT&T Stadium for all seven rounds of picks alongside Slant Sports Draft Analyst Nick Flaherty.
Cowboys TE James Hanna Retiring
In an unexpected bit of pre-draft news, Dallas Cowboys backup tight end James Hanna will be retiring after six seasons. He was drafted by the Cowboys in sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The news of Hanna's retirement was first reported by ESPN's Todd Archer:
The Cowboys will place James Hanna on the reserve/retired list as the tight end could not get over a serious knee condition that troubled him for most of the last two seasons, according to sources. Hanna was not involved in the early part of the team's... https://t.co/45BAZ2avSC
Hanna, who turns 29 in July, missed all of 2016 with that knee issue and has had two surgeries. He was active for all 16 games last season but wasn't used much on offense, only having four catches. James did catch his first and only NFL touchdown in the team's Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Many thought Hanna would be a salary cap casualty this offseason, but a retirement has the same effect on the cap. The Cowboys now save $2.75 million off his scheduled $3.5 mullion cap hit in 2018.
James Hanna has stuck around this long thanks to being a proficient blocker and one of the standout players on special teams. Geoff Swaim, entering the final year of his rookie deal, will likely be trusted to fill those roles.
That said, tight end was already a targeted position for the Cowboys in next week's draft. Losing Hanna only give the team more incentive to add more talent.
John’s 7 Round Cowboys Mock Draft, with Trades
With Dez Bryant's release, the need for a front-line wide receiver becomes a bit more urgent for the Dallas Cowboys. The 2018 NFL Draft sets up very well for DAL to fill several needs on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. With a lot of depth at positions that the Dallas Cowboys have been looking into, there will be options to move around in this draft that fit what the front office likes to do.
So, here is my new seven-round mock draft, only because the Bryant move made me rethink what I would do.
Using Fanspeak's On The Clock Premium, I explored what it would look like to trade back in the first round, which is becoming my preference if the first round falls right. After picking up an extra pick or two in a trade back in the first, I'd love to see them move up in the second.
I made probably more trades than they would make, but they all make sense from a trade value chart perspective.
I used Connor Livesay's big board from Pro Football Talk Line and set the computer to use multiple big boards, trying to simulate what an NFL Draft actually looks like. Different teams place different value on the players due to their varying evaluations.
Using the running list that KD Drummond has going over at The Cowboys Wire, I made an effort to select players the Dallas Cowboys have met with in some capacity.
Round 1: James Daniels, G/C, Iowa
National 30 Visit
Five quarterbacks went in the first 18 selections, which is the best case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys at #19. I've been very vocal about the idea that Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson will all go before the Dallas Cowboys pick at 19. There are enough quarterback needy teams in the first half of the first round, and some in the back half, that it just makes sense.
The top two guard prospects, Quenton Nelson and Isaiah Wynn, were gone by 19, and Harold Landry went at pick 14 to the Green Bay Packers.
The New England Patriots came 'a callin' with #23 and their third rounder (#95) to move up to 19. It's not as good as adding a second rounder, but I didn't want to fall back too far and miss out on who I eventually picked for the Dallas Cowboys.
Iowa guard James Daniels.
He's a player that will fit what the Cowboys want to do with their zone blocking scheme. He has the mobility to get to the outside and to the second level. He completes the Dallas offensive line and allows them to continue being the physical run-first football team that they've morphed into over the last three or four years.
Round 2: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
National 30 Visit
Maryland Wide Receiver DJ Moore slipped to the top of the second round, so I made a move up from 50 to get him.
In order to do so, I had to give up pick 50, New England's pick at the back-end of the third round (95), and pick 192 to equal 534 points. That is about equal to the first of Indianapolis' two second round picks at pick 36 (540 points).
Moore is a good route runner with quickness and speed to make big plays happen. Was very productive at Maryland and has received comparisons to Minnesota Vikings' Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs.
We still have our third rounder to work with and now have filled the two biggest needs on the offensive side of the ball with players who could be day-one starters.
Round 3: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Heading into round three, I'm feeling really good about the draft so far. Obviously there are still some needs to address, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Got an offer from the Carolina Panthers to move back from 81 to 85, while also adding their fifth round pick, number 161.
After making the trade, the time came to address the linebacker position and Josey Jewell is the best one available at this point. Also the best available player at a position where the Dallas Cowboys have a hole.
The Cowboys coaching staff loves linebackers from the Big 10. See Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, and Sean Lee.
Josey Jewell is someone who can come in and rotate with Jaylon Smith at the MIKE linebacker spot right away. He isn't fast (4.8 40) but he has the quickness to be a pretty good linebacker at the NFL level. He will need to work on his coverage ability. He can help on special teams right away as well.
*After the trade back, we are armed with two fourths, two fifths, two sixths and a seventh.
Round 4: Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Mississippi
National 30 Visit
When our pick came up at up at #116 we had some trade-back offers, but Tarvarius Moore, who excited the masses with his Pro-Day 4.32 40-yard dash, was still available. That speed and his true free safety ability couldn't be passed on any longer.
He makes a great addition to the safety rotation and can potentially be "the guy" at free safety. He'll have value immediately as a special teams gunner with his speed and could compete to be the full-time free safety right away.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The other player I considered was Penn State TE Mike Gesicki. It's time for this team to begin looking at life without Jason Witten and Gesicki has some impressive athletic ability.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, he was no worse than the 95th percentile in any measurable and compares favorably to Vernon Davis -- hopefully without some of the headaches.
To get him, I sent both of our fifth round picks to Detroit to make the pick.
I traded pick 137 to the Seattle Seahawks for picks 141 and 168, though it was awfully tempting to stay there and take Nyheim Hines.
Round 5: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
National 30 Visit
Was able to pick up an extra fifth, move back and get a player who can contribute offensively and on special teams right away, Nyheim Hines. A dynamic pass catcher, Hines would be an excellent change of pace back to Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith.
He rushed for more than 1,100 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2017 at NC State, so he could be more Darren Sproles-like as a runner and receiver than anything they have on the roster at the moment.
Breeland Speaks, DT, Ole Miss
National 30 Visit
Attempting to add some depth with promise along the defensive line, Breeland Speaks is a nice addition who could fill some of the Tyrone Crawford role if he sticks. He can take some running-down snaps at defensive end or move inside and play some 3T defensive tackle for you as well.
Here's what NDTScouting.com's Jonah Tuls had to say about Speaks.
"I have a feeling Breeland Speaks will get drafted higher than he should because of his athletic traits and tools as a pass rusher, but his experience is mostly as a two-gap defensive end who is relatively unproven and underdeveloped with his plan of attack. Comparison: Jonathan Babineaux."
Jonah Tuls - NDTScouting.com
Round 6: Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
Part of the National Championship winning Georgia Bulldogs, the Dallas Cowboys like getting players from the Power 5 conferences and players who have good motors. Thompson has that.
Here's what Connor Livesay from ProFootballTalkline.com had to say about Thompson.
"Trenton Thompson was built in a lab, and passes the eye test with ease. At 6-foot-4 297lbs, Thompson has extremely good size and matches that with a fluid lower half that allows him to move well laterally and vertically. Has very heavy hands and you can see that from the tape when he strikes offensive lineman. Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistent play plagued Thompson’s career, but he can be a quality three-technique in the NFL if he’s able to stay healthy and hungry."
Connor Livesay - ProFootballTalkLine.com
208 - Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin
Another linebacker from the Big 10 who can be competition for Damien Wilson on the strongside, but also has some weakside EDGE potential for you as well.
"The thing with Leon Jacobs is that he may be scheme specific to just a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker who can drop if asked, but rush with a blend of speed and power as well. He is incredibly raw and will take time to develop mental processing, however. Comparison: Aaron Curry"
Jonah Tuls - NDTScouting.com
Round 7: 236 - Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma
Yes, they signed Jamize Olawale in free agency, but that shouldn't prevent them from drafting one of the better chess pieces in the 2018 NFL Draft. I outlined my affection for Dimitri Flowers in last week's edition of my mock draft.
Dimitri Flowers is a pet cat of mine that I think could be a dynamic weapon for the Dallas Cowboys offense. He can run, catch, and block. He can lineup in the backfield, in-line as a tight end, or in the slot as a receiver.
If you watch his tape, you see him catching passes over the middle, down the seem, and along the sideline.
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While I don't expect that this is the way the draft is going to unfold, I do think trading back in the first and then up in the second is going to be the best option for the Dallas Cowboys to get the guard, wide receiver, and/or linebacker they need in the first two rounds.
Take it easy on me in the comment section. Thanks for reading.
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