The Arizona Wildcats will be without their top receiver over the last two seasons in Cayleb Jones after he decided to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, forgoing his senior season. Many believed it was a questionable decision. However, it came off his best performance of the season in the New Mexico Bowl, hauling in four passes for 187 yards and a touchdown.
This is a risk-reward pick for any NFL team depending on where he falls. There are more weaknesses that drop Jones down the board, but his measurables and skill set give him a whole lot of upside.
Production at Arizona
Jones' sophomore campaign was by far his best year at Arizona, totaling 73 receptions for 1019 yards and nine touchdowns. Still, there were many games where he didn't have much of a direct impact, falling short of 50 receiving yards in six of the 14 games in 2014.
His production dipped in 2015 and it seemed pretty clear that he was going to stay in college until he started to pick things up in week seven, racking up 634 of his 907 total receiving yards in the final six games, plus four of his five touchdowns in that same span. He finished with just 56 receptions on the season.
Stats from sports-reference.com
Combine results (NFL.com)
Cayleb Jones has some great size, checking in at 6-foot-3, 209 lbs. He also has a hand measurement of 9.25 inches and a vertical jump of 33.5 inches. That size allows him to go downfield and win the jump ball battle. In the NFL, he seems like a great option for a red zone fade or even a back shoulder fade on the goal line.
At Arizona, I felt like he was the most dependable receiver next to Trey Griffey. Rarely did you see him just drop a ball that would have easily been a catch, especially when you consider he was playing the 2014 season with a broken hand. A couple of deep balls were just out of his reach, which could either be an Anu Solomon timing issue or lack of speed on Jones' part. But he's a deep threat possession receiver that can make his way into the rotation for a pass-heavy offense.
The way it stands now, his biggest weakness is his character. Some teams have reportedly taken him off their draft boards for issues that stemmed from Texas, being charged with felony aggravated assault, which was later dropped down to a misdemeanor. Rich Rodriguez dispels all those rumors.
The next concern comes with his speed. He's never been a downfield burner and his 40-yard dash at the combine proved that, posting a time of 4.65. That isn't necessarily a bad time, but it's not great. And at Arizona's Pro Day he elected not to run it again, feeling confident in his time.
Another concern I could see with Cayleb is his route running abilities. He was mostly used on the deep ball or a skinny slant downfield, there wasn't a whole lot within his route tree; that's just the way the outside receiver plays out at Arizona. He'd have the occasional comeback route, but there wasn't much route differentiation.
This took a while to come up with but I came down to a few receivers and narrowed it down. First, it was down to Mohamed Sanu, Michael Floyd, and Donte Moncrief, but ultimately I decided on Brandon LaFell.
LaFell is a guy who measures almost exactly the same to Cayleb Jones and you figure that Jones will have a similar type of role as LaFell did throughout his career. I would project Cayleb to be a fourth or fifth receiver in the NFL once he gets settled down.
Jones wasn't ranked highly amongst the receivers to begin with and his off-the-field issues have taken him down even further. It would be surprising to see him go before the fifth round and I would still be pretty shocked if he doesn't get picked up by any team.
As a seventh round pick, he figures to be worth the gamble. His character issues seem to be a thing of the past and his route running is something that can be fixed. With speed being his only true knock, he has a whole lot of upside to him. He's been pretty private as to which teams he has visited, but his family, who has deep NFL roots, has helped him out throughout the process.