In this series of articles, I will go through statistics to set fair expectations for the Chicago Bears’ 2022 draft picks. So far we have covered:
Now, we move on to Velus Jones. The Bears selected Jones out of Tennessee with the 71st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Average Rookie Wide Receiver
Next, we are looking at the average rookie wide receiver that was drafted between picks 33 and 100 and ran 250-plus routes in their rookie season. This data is based on the past five drafts (2017-2021). The top five rookie WR seasons for picks 33 to 100 came from JuJu Smith Schuster, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Chase Claypool, and A.J. Brown.
So why should you care about this info? Because we can use this to project what a good, average, or poor season from Velus Jones might look like.
Velus Jones, Rookie Sensation
We are going to start with the upside case. In this scenario, Jones bursts onto the scene with one of the best rookie seasons by a wide receiver since 2017. This instantly puts him in the conversation with DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin as a game-changing difference-maker.
Using the average stats of the top five rookie seasons since 2017, we project those numbers across 400 routes run. In this scenario, Jones catches 51 balls on 78 targets (64% completion) for 815 yards (16.1 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. Additionally, he hauls in about half of his contested targets and drops just below 8% of his catchable targets.
Velus Jones, Solid Rookie Starter
Now, let us consider what average looks like. In this scenario, Velus Jones performs at an average level for a rookie of his draft pedigree.
Using the average stats of rookie wide receivers (same criteria as above), we project those figures across 400 routes run. In this scenario, Jones catches 43 balls on 69 targets (63% completion) for 605 yards (14 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Additionally, he hauls in 42% of his contested targets and drops 8% of his catchable targets.
The difference between a good rookie season and average is nine targets, nine completions, 210 yards, and three touchdowns. On top of that, note the difference in yards per catch between a good season and average. The best players find a few extra yards in every touch.
Velus Jones, Future in Question
Finally, let’s see the downside case. In this scenario, Jones plays poorly, even for a rookie.
Using the average stats of the bottom five rookie seasons since 2017 (same criteria as above), we project those numbers across 400 routes run. In this scenario, Jones catches 23 balls on 45 targets (51% completion) for 288 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. Additionally, he only hauls in 27% of his contested targets and drops 11.8% of his catchable targets. This would be a hugely disappointing season for Jones, who the Bears are counting on to be a dynamic threat all over the field.
Finding Similar Prospects to Velus Jones
There are not many. And even his closest comparable is not as clear as with most players. Velus Jones is truly one-of-a-kind as a prospect. I ran through all the wide receivers drafted between picks 33 and 100 in the last five draft to search for comps. Despite all this legwork, there just are not many guys who run his speed and tested as poorly as he did in agility testing.
Making it even more difficult is the fact that there are even fewer players who spent as many years in college as he did with as little production before their final year.
In the analysis, the numbers represent each player’s average number of standard deviations from Jones. For example, Deebo Samuel’s volume stats in college are an average of 0.61 standard deviations from Jones’ volume stats. Volume similarity is based on college targets, receptions, and yards. While rate similarity is based on catch rate, yards per reception, air yards per reception, YAC per reception, drops, contested catches, and so on.
Next up, size similarity is based on height, weight, arm length, and hand size. Athleticism similarity is based on vertical and broad jumps, 40-yard, 20-yard, and 10-yard times, as well as agility testing. Finally, career similarity factors in total routes run in college, how many years they spent in college, in what year of college they first achieved 500-plus receiving yards, and how many routes they ran in college.
Who is the Best Pro Comparison?
Ladies and gentlemen, we heard Ryan Poles mention Deebo Samuel while talking about Velus Jones, and while you do have to squint a little to see it, there are certainly similarities. Samuel spent five years playing college football, including his redshirt year in 2014. While he did earn a role in the offense after that redshirt year, he was limited by injuries. However, Samuel achieved a 783-yard season in his third year at South Carolina while Jones did not crack 500 yards until his sixth and final season.
In total, Samuel only ran 807 routes as a Gamecock, compared to Jones’ 662 routes between USC and Tennessee. Both players were typically catching the football within five yards of the line of scrimmage and making things happen after the catch. While they do line up well in physical stature, the difference comes in the testing. Jones is significantly faster than Deebo, but nowhere near as agile. You can review more details in the chart, as well as comparable details for the next closest four players.
Velus Jones Summary
While there are not many players who profile very closely to Jones, the most similar players seem to scream upside. I am not yet convinced that Jones has the same upside as Deebo, McLaurin, or Gallup, but the idea is fun and the reality is that none of us really know until we see him on the field. One fun fact that I found during this exercise is that no WR selected between picks 33 and 100 over the last five drafts ran a better 40-yard dash or 10-yard split than Velus Jones.
The closest WR in the 40-yard dash was Rondale Moore at 4.32 seconds. Jones clocked in at 4.31 seconds. The closest in the 10-yard split was DK Metcalf at 1.48 seconds. Jones clocked in at 1.46 seconds. But it is not all sunshine and rainbows, as Jones logged the second-worst shuttle time among that group (only beat Tee Higgins), and the worst 3-Cone drill time by a wide margin.
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