As a Montana State graduate, it's always tough to hype up a University of Montana player. U of M has generated some great talents in the past, but the rivalry between Montana State and the University of Montana always makes such actions feel like one is sleeping with the enemy. That being said, I enjoy seeing kids from the Big Sky Conference make it to the next level, and the conference has become somewhat of a Division IA powerhouse of late, with some great prospects.
Jamaal Jones is the next in a line of talented players from the Big Sky Conference. A wide receiver who transferred from the University of Washington to pursue more playing time, Jones has a great set of hands. How great are they? Here's a highlight. Jones is a player that not many people outside of the Big Sky Conference have heard of as of yet, but he's poised for what could be a monster senior season, and could turn plenty of heads on draft day.
Jones is one of the best receivers to come out of the conference in a while. Some negatives are visible; he occasionally makes mental errors and drops occasional passes, but when he's on, he's absolutely solid. Big Sky Conference WRs tend to get overlooked, so Jones might struggle to make national headlines. That being said, Jones also has a tendency to come through in big moments, and has turned into a reception machine in Montana. If he can smooth out the mental errors, he could be special, especially for a player from that conference. He seems to be almost perpetually open when you watch him play, and the big plays, when they happen, are enough to make a scout drool with anticipation.
What's his floor? He's probably going to fill a 4th WR or reserve role in the NFL and start on special teams; the guy always hustles to get downfield on kickoffs, and that's something that will secure him a place on a roster in the NFL. He'll probably be a late pick, unless he has a monster year (which is possible considering his career progression. That being said, things will change if he does have a monster year. Will he be under-drafted considering his talent level? I think absolutely. The Big Sky Conference is not known for its WRs, and Jones will be overlooked by many. That being said, his upside is big. I think he could fill a role as a #2 or possession WR with some development. While that might not seem like a big deal, a later round pick with the ability to make big plays when needed is absolutely worth taking a shot on. If nothing else, he gives you solid depth, and will absolutely make a difference on special teams. At best, he gives you much more. I think with the right system, he has an above average chance to start in the NFL.
If I'm a scout, Jamaal Jones is a player that I'm hoping nobody finds out about (sorry guys, secret's out!). If he falls to me late on day 3, I take the selection and run with it. In 2012, he didn't record a catch in Washington. In 2013, as a U of M Grizzly, he recorded 42 receptions for 760 yards and 3 TDs. In 2014, he recorded 67 receptions for 1044 yards and 8 TDs. In 2015, his ceiling is extremely high. If his progression continues, we could be looking at a day two pick with upside. The value is there, it's just a matter of where he falls. He's a player I'm watching early in 2015, and looking forward to watching in the NFL. Don't forget about him when the 2016 Draft begins!
Best of luck to Jamaal and the Grizzlies in 2016, and Go Cats (because I have to).
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