What just happened?
The Arizona Cardinals woke up Friday morning hoping to secure a quality, developmental player at pick 72. They ended the day with a first round caliber right tackle.
Josh Jones, projected by many as a top 40 pick, fell to Steve Keim in a miraculous twist of fate for a team that is desperate for young building blocks upfront.
Jones was a player Arizona met with during the pre draft process, but after the team opted not to trade down from the eighth overall selection on Thursday, an acquisition of the former Cougar seemed farfetched.
Exiting the first two days of the NFL Draft with a top five talent like Isaiah Simmons combined with Jones was something unfathomable a week ago. One would think any scenario resulting in Arizona netting these two standouts would have included the Cardinals shipping off premium 2021 draft capital.
Alas, not only is the 2021 class mostly intact, the Cardinals still have their two fourth round selections equipped when day three kicks off Saturday morning.
So how could this have happened? We must at least entertain the notion that Jones was not as well thought of within league inner circles when compared to the likes of draft twitter. Perhaps it was his up and down Senior Bowl performance, when Jones admittedly struggled against future top 14 pick Javon Kinlaw.
“Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones has submitted himself as a “best player at the Senior Bowl” candidate with two strong showings to begin the week of practices here, and on Wednesday he was downright dominant.
The 6-foot-7, 310-pound rock of a blocker effortlessly thwarted everything defensive linemen threw at him in one-on-one drills with a phenomenal display of knee bend, power in his upper half, and mirroring skills thanks to high-end athleticism.”
Jones is not the same caliber of prospect as his top 10 counterparts (A. Thomas, M. Becton, J. Wills) but that shouldn't diminish his opportunity at developing into a quality right tackle for the Cardinals.
He also benefits from an already seasoned group upfront for Arizona, led by well respected offensive line coach Sean Kugler. Kugler figures to play a critical role in Jones’s development, as he will be able to watch and learn from the likes of D.J. Humphries, Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert.
Speaking of Humphries, Jones also offers additional insurance for the Cardinals at left tackle should the newly extended OT end up missing time. Something that both Murray and Gilbert are unable to provide, given their limitations athletically.
The 2019 season was the first time Humphries was able to complete a full 16 game NFL slate.
Jones represents the first offensive tackle taken by Arizona’s front office, within the first four rounds, since Humphries was selected 24th overall back in 2015.
A trendy pro comp for Jones is former Cardinal fourth rounder Bobby Massie, who was thrust into starting as a rookie back in 2012. Like Jones, Massie fell to Arizona but his issues stemmed more so from off the field concerns during his time at Ole Miss.
To Massie’s credit, he rebounded from a tough rookie season and developed into the team’s most consistent, home grown linemen in years. So much so that Arizona likely regrets allowing him to walk and sign with the Chicago Bears back in 2016.
Massie has since received another extension that will keep him in the Windy City through 2022.
The Cardinals were due for a pick like this, particularly upfront on the offensive line, where they had struggled so mightily before. It helped that head coach Kliff Kingsbury had some familiarity with Jones, having recruited him during his time with Texas Tech.
Great players fall every year, for different reasons, and it doesn’t always pan out. In the case of Josh Jones, however, look to players like Raven’s OT Orlando Brown for signs of assurance.
Brown, coming out of Oklahoma back in 2018, was a player that had initially received some first round buzz. Following a poor combine, however, Brown inexplicably fell to pick 83 to Baltimore. Rather than focus on his limitations, the Ravens opted to rely on what they saw on tape and that was a mountain of a prospect able to move like few at his position.
Baltimore has since been rewarded with a 23 year old franchise right tackle fresh off his first Pro Bowl season.
When the Football Gods gift you a break, don’t question it.
Just take it.
Thankfully for Steve Keim, when it came to Josh Jones, he did.