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How Josh Jones Fell Into Cardinals Arms at #72

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Houston v Tulane Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

No, University of Houston All-Star tackle Josh Jones didn’t kill anyone, thank goodness!

As Cardinals’ fans have learned, when it became clear that Josh Jones, considered by the vast majority of NFL draftniks as a late 1st to early 2nd round pick, was sliding in the draft like a toboggan down a mountain ski slope, Kliff Kingsbury called his good buddy and mentor Dana Holgerson (Jones’ head coach at Houston) to ask “what in the world is going on, did Jones kill somebody?”

As it turns out, it took something of a perfect blizzard for Jones to land into the eager and outstretched arms of the Cardinals early in Round 3 at pick #72.

Here is an account of how it happened:

  • First of all, even though Steve Keim appeared to have overpaid LT D.J. Humphries, the re-signing of Humphries, plus RTs Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert gave the Cardinals the freedom to select LB/S Isaiah Simmons at pick #8. Had Keim not signed D.J., he would have been forced to take a tackle at #8.
  • Secondly, all of the teams in need of an immediate starter at tackle went ahead and drafted a tackle in Round 1. NYG—-Andrew Thomas (#4); CLE—-Jedrick Wills (#10); NYJ—-Mekhi Becton (#11); TB—Tristan Wirfs (#13—-trading up from #14); MIA—-Austin Jackson (#18) and TENN—-Isaiah Wilson (#29).
  • Analysis—-the consensus “Top 4” tackles in the draft: Thomas, Wills, Becton and Wirfs were all off the board by pick #13. The questions are: (1) why did the Dolphins select Austin Jackson over Josh Jones at #18?; (2) Why did the Titans select Isaiah Wilson over Josh Jones at #29?
  • Dolphins—-it appears that Brian Flores preferred Austin Jackson because he’s played both left tackle and right tackle. After making the pick, Flores said he wasn’t sure yet which tackle spot Jackson would play and that it may take some time for him to develop. However, it looks like the Dolphins have a greater need at LT, where Julie’n Davenport posted a 56.5 PFF grade in 8 starts there last season. Last year they signed their RT Jesse Davis (58.9 PFF) to a 3 year contract extension.
  • Mel Kiper wasn’t crazy about the Dolphins taking Jackson at #18: “ Austin Jackson is a little inconsistent for me. I can’t get over watching him get beaten by AJ Epenesa when USC played Iowa. He’s going to need some time.”
  • Pete Prisco called Jackson Miami’s worst pick: “I didn’t love the choice to take Austin Jackson in the first round. I think there were better tackle options. He’s a project – one with a lot of talent, but it may take some time.”
  • One can imagine that one of the “better tackle options” at #18 that Prisco was talking about was Josh Jones. The Dolphins, in selecting Jackson over Jones, may have done the Cardinals a big favor, as they did last year in the draft with the Rosen trade.
  • Opinion: Austin Jackson is an excellent prospect—-don’t get me wrong. But, I believe that Josh Jones has more upside as a LT, which, imo, is one of the Dolphins greatest and most glaring needs.
  • At #29 it made perfect sense for the Titans to take RT Isaiah Wilson because Wilson is a natural RT and now the “smash mouth” heir to Jack Conklin.
  • Fun Fact—-the last time that 6 offensive tackles were taken in the 1st round of the NFL Draft was in 2015—-and who was the #6 tackle taken in that draft? D.J. Humphries.
  • Over the past 3 years, the number of tackles taken in Round 1: 2019—-4, 2018—-3; 2017—-2.
  • Therefore, heading into Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft, no other teams had an immediate need for a starting tackle.
  • The Vikings were making some overtures in trying to trade for the Redskins’ LT Trent Willams. That likely meant that they would have been willing to trade or release LT Riley Reiff, who at 31, is making $13.2M in 2020 and is coming off a good, solid 2019 season (71.1 PFF grade). Releasing Reiff would have cost the Vikes $4M in dead cap money.
  • Once it became clear that the Vikings were not going to be able to trade for Trent Williams, they went ahead and selected T Ezra Cleveland (Boise St.) at pick #58 in Round 2. This pick was aided and abetted by the fact that, thanks in part to the Stefon Diggs trade, the Vikings by Round 2 had already addressed their two top needs at WR (Justin Jefferson) and CB (Jeff Gladney) in Round 1.
  • As we know the Cardinals met extensively with Ezra Cleveland and had a very high grade on him. Cleveland was the star tackle at the NFL Combine where he posted the fastest times and ran the most fluidly in the drills. What we don’t know is whether the Cardinals had a higher grade on Cleveland than they did on Josh Jones—-but I imagine that the Cardinals probably thought they would have a better chance to draft Ezra Cleveland at #72 than Josh Jones. Surprise, surprise!
  • There is also some speculation that the Vikings will try to work Ezra Cleveland at tackle and guard to see what his best initial fit is. The Vikings’ starting tackles remain Riley Reiff (71.1) and 2018 2nd round pick Brian O’Neill (70.8).
  • Ezra Cleveland was the only tackle taken in Round 2—-as 20 of the 32 picks were made at WR (7), DB (8) and Edge (5).
  • The other significant miracle of sorts for the Cardinals and Josh Jones is the timing of the Trent Williams trade, vis-a-vis Joe Staley’s retirement announcement. Had the Redskins made the trade a day earlier, they most likely would have taken Josh Jones with the 2nd pick of the 3rd round, pick #66. Like the Cardinals, the Redskins did not have a 2nd round pick.
  • So the picks in the early part of the 3rd round leading up to the Cardinals’ pick at #72 were:
  • 65. CIN—-Logan Wilson, ILB, Wyoming
  • 66. WAS—-Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis
  • 67. DET—-Julian Okwara, OLB, Notre Dame
  • 68. NYJ—-Ashtyn Davis, S, California
  • 69. SEA—-Damien Lewis, G, LSU
  • 70. MIA—-Brandon Jones, S, Texas
  • 71. BAL (from NE)—-Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
  • 72. ARI—-Josh Jones, T, Houston
  • Analysis—-Bengals and Lions did not need tackles, Jets and Dolphins had already drafted tackles in Round 1, the Redskins hadn’t finalized the Trent Williams trade yet—-so it came down to the Seahawks at #69 and the Ravens trading up right in front of the Cardinals at #71.
  • The Seahawks chose G Damien Lewis (LSU) who fits their run first style of offense—-but—-they may regret passing on T Josh Jones. LT Duane Brown is 35 and is signed through 2021 although the Seahawks could release him next year with only a $2M hit in dead cap money. At RT they signed UFA Cedric Ugbuehi to a 1 year prove-it deal. it’s no secret that the Seahawks have had trouble protecting Russell Wilson.
  • The Ravens swooped in right in front of the Cardinals—-but thankfully they are pretty well set at tackle with LT Ronnie Staley (Pro Bowl) and RT Orlando Brown (Pro Bowl alt.).
  • As an aside—-what’s interesting is that it appears teams were very privy to the fact that the Cardinals were wanting to add defensive linemen in this draft because here the Ravens hopped right in front of the Cardinals to take DT Justin Madubuike and a short time later in Round 4 the Vikings hopped right in front of the Cardinals to take DT James Lynch. Yet—-I don't know about you, but I like the combination of DT Leki Fotu and DT Rashard Lawrence just as well and Madubuike and Lynch, if not better.
  • What’s may be shocking to some is that the Ravens picked Justin Madubuike over Leki Fotu (who is their kind of NT) after losing NT Michael Pierce in free agency.
  • Thus, lo and behold, T Josh Jones fell right into the Cardinals’ outstretched arms at #72.
  • Mel Kiper lauded the pick saying: “Offensive tackle Josh Jones (72) is No. 40 overall on my board, and I thought he could sneak into the bottom of Round 1. He was a four-year starter at left tackle in college, but he could move over to the right side in the NFL.”
  • Mel had the tackles ranked: Wills—-7; Wirfs—-10, Thomas—-14, Becton—-19; Jones—-40; Jackson—-48; Cleveland—-49; Wilson—-54.
  • Curious—-Mel’s ranking of Jones at #40—-the very pick the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins—-and even more curious—-the Cardinals were able to take Jones 32 picks (a whole round) later.
  • Pete Prisco ‘s Best Pick for Cardinals: “Third-round tackle Josh Jones will be a steal for the Cardinals. He will begin on the right side, but will eventually be a good left tackle someday.”
  • PFF was perhaps the most effusive in their praise for the Cardinals picking Josh Jones;

Josh Jones — PFF’s fourth-ranked offensive tackle and 14th ranked prospect overall — fell all the way to the Cardinals at 72nd overall, a high-end prospect at tremendous value who fills a need. Jones has plenty of starting experience stemming from his time at Houston, playing 600 or more offensive snaps and earning grades of 65.0 or higher in each of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. He really elevated his game this past season, though, with an overall grade of 93.4 that ranked second to Penei Sewell among all qualifying FBS offensive tackles.”

The Perfect Blizzard (Quick Recap):

  1. Cardinals re-sign Humphries, Murray and Gilbert before the draft.
  2. All teams needing a starting tackle pick one in Round 1 (6 taken).
  3. Dolphins at #18 take Austin Jackson over Josh Jones.
  4. In Round 2, Vikings at #58 take Ezra Cleveland over Josh Jones
  5. Ezra Cleveland is the only tackle taken in Round 2.
  6. The Redskins’ trade of Trent Williams to the 49ers is finalized early on Day 3 of the draft—-otherwise the Redskins may have taken Josh Jones at pick #66 on Day 2. After the trade, the Redskins selected T Saahdiq Charles (LSU) at pick #108 in the 4th round.
  7. The Seahawks at #69 take G Damien Lewis.
  8. The Ravens trade up in front of the Cardinals at #71 to take DT Justin Madubuike.
  9. Cardinals get confirmation from Dana Holgerson that Josh Jones dd not kill someone.
  10. Josh Jones is the Cardinals pick at #72.