Have the Patriots Found Their Backup Tight End?

Photo via bonesville.net

Photo via bonesville.net

I wrote a brief article earlier on Mark Harrison being the player I think most likely to win the receiving tight end job for New England but he got cut. Rob Gronkowski is still recovering from injury and the Patriots need a replacement until his return. Many fans believe that the Patriots will simply use Michael Hoomanawanui or sign a veteran tight end while waiting for Gronk to come back. However the Patriots may already have added a legitimate Rob Gronkowski fill in this offseason.

Justin Jones, the tight end out of East Carolina, flew under most Patriots fans radar as a rookie free agent signing quickly after the draft, but that is likely the last time any fan will miss him since this 6’8” 270lbs man child’s size makes him anything but missable.

In most cases the stereotypical undrafted rookie shows all the talent is there but something just didn’t click in college that translated talent into production but in Jones’ case scouts didn’t see his production last season because he didn’t play! Considered a solid tight end prospect by most after a solid junior year – catching 25 passes for 346 yards – Jones was unfortunately declared academically ineligible his senior year, missing the entire season. With his season lost, Jones had no way of impressing scouts. Pair that with carrying the burden of being a player deemed academically ineligible, it’s understandable why he eventually went undrafted and subsequently fell right into the lap of the New England Patriots.

With his tremendous size, Jones is a red zone/short yardage threat using his size and length to make catches on 50/50 balls and to box out his defender. He has shown solid hands catching the ball in traffic and could be a legitimate option in the passing game. He is not particularly fast or quick but makes up for it with his massive catch radius. Jones could be a legitimate pass catching option for the Patriots particularly in short yardage scenarios.

Scary enough, Jones has actually shown quicker feet than most – recording a 6.96 second three cone shuttle – leading him to play a majority of his time as an inside receiver in college.

It’s not all good for Jones as he went undrafted for reasons other than just his academic ineligibility. Most glaring reason: his blocking. 

Despite his huge size, Jones hardly could be seen dominating opposing players in the run game, which is an aspect of Rob Gronkowski’s game that is very important to the success of the offense. Jones also is unpolished with his route running, mostly using his freakish size to get open rather than running a crisp route.

Fans will be weary of Jones because of the failed Zach Sudfeld disaster from last seasons rookie free agent class but Jones has the size and potential to be a factor for the Patriots or at a minimum make the practice squad so he can help the team in the future.

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