Don't Sleep On Jacoby

Jacoby Jones from little Lane College is shooting up NFL draft boards

April 25, 2007

Matthew Shapiro

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Jacoby Jones is used to going up against defensive backs from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  And making the jump from tiny Division II Lane College to the NFL will certainly not be as easy as it may be for a wide receiver coming from a large school in a powerhouse conference.


But according to Jones, you won't see his best game until he faces Champ Bailey or Ronde Barber one Sunday in the near future.


While Jones did not actually single out those two pro-bowlers before he is even officially an NFL receiver--something the WR he models his game after, Chad Johnson, would do--he is certain that his most productive games will come only when he faces the world's best.


"I step up to competition," Jones said. "When the competition steps up, I rise. I walked into the East-West game, and the competition got harder, so I stepped up. I changed my routes up, I changed my whole demeanor."


Scouts and NFL teams seem to agree as Jones is shooting up boards with only days until the draft. He is being called "one of the best-kept secrets in the collegiate ranks" by NFL Draft Scout and could be picked as high as the second round. But Jones wasn't always the chic sleeper pick of this year's draft.


His agent, John Caplin, acknowledges that while he knew what kind of athlete Jones was, not everyone else did.


"When we first started talking to him, back in June or July, not many people even knew who he was. After a solid year in which he grabbed 68 passes for 822 yards and six touchdowns to go along with three touchdowns as a kick and punt returner, a great showing at the East-West Shrine game (four catches, 57 yards) and a solid combine, Jones has become a popular sleeper pick, often being called the "Marques Colston of 2007" (a bit of a conundrum, however, considering that if a player is to be the next Colston, we wouldn't be talking about him pre-draft as a potential impact player). has Jones slated to be the 80th player off the board, heading to Tennessee to team with Vince Young. The move would not surprise Jones, who, without any mention of that particular mock draft, indicated that the Titans were one of the teams he believed had the strongest interest in him.


"You get a gut feeling," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound New Orleans native. "And my gut feeling really tells me the Texans or the Titans."


While many teams don't like to fully show their hand around this time of year, Jones and his agent have received some very good feedback from several teams, Caplin said.


"He definitely went into a couple of places where during his private meetings they said, `we want to draft you and if we draft you, we want you to be our starting wide receiver and our starting kick and punt returner right away'."


Not bad for a guy from a school which, according to U.S. News and World Report, has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,213. Many of the other players taken on day one of the draft regularly played their games in front of nearly 100 times as many people.


But as Jones says himself, "football is football." He notes that the biggest difference between him and a receiver who went to a huge school is the facilities in which they trained and played, but that "whatever I have to work with, I'm going to use to my advantage."


Imagine what he will be able to do when he gets the keys to an NFL team's gym.


No matter what gym he ends up practicing in one day, Jones will be happy. And no matter when he goes this weekend, it will be fine with him.

"Honestly, where I come from, Lane College, Division II, I don't care where I go, first round or free agent."


His agent doesn't envision either of those scenarios; however, saying if he were a "betting man," he'd predict that, based on reactions from teams, Jones will get taken in the second or third round.


When Jones hears his name, he will have overcome more than just playing at a small school. Being a New Orleans native, Jones did not escape the wrath that Hurricane Katrina brought 20 months ago, as his home and surrounding area was devastated by the storm.


Jones doesn't use the tragedy as much of an on-field driving force, and he certainly would never use it as an excuse, Caplin said. Jones only used the storm to fuel him one time.


"Now, I try to forget about it and move on, but when it first hit, I used it as motivation," he said. "I had a game the day it hit."


In the time since that day, much has changed for Jacoby Jones. And in just a few days, he will hear his name called at Radio City Music Hall and officially become an NFL player. Yet while no one knows where he will end up or exactly when he will get drafted, his agent is confident of one thing.


"He's not a sleeper anymore. That's for sure."