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NFL draft results 2022: Why the Patriots selected Houston CB Marcus Jones

The Paul Hornung Award winner landed in the third round at No. 85 overall.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Navy at Houston Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the 2022 NFL draft hit the heart of the third round, the New England Patriots hit the heart of the cornerback position.

New England selected Houston’s Marcus Jones at No. 85 overall Friday night, shortly before moving on to Saturday afternoon in a trade-down with the Carolina Panthers.

Here’s an initial look into why.

Hawking, physical coverage in a 5-foot-8 frame

A transfer from Troy to Houston, Jones made 27 starts at cornerback across 44 career games. Ten interceptions would be gathered along the way. Half of which came last season, when the redshirt senior had a hand in an additional 13 pass breakups.

Pro Football Focus tracked Jones’ coverage for a quarterback rating of 53.5 in the process. He gave up 36 catches for 545 yards and two touchdowns on 75 passes sent his direction. And he did so while playing close to 70 percent of his defensive snaps on the outside.

At a listed 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, the slot now projects to be where Jones steps in. But stature did not keep him from the football nor from making 48 tackles during his final season with the Cougars.

On a starting trajectory at cornerback

The Patriots experienced defense without starting nickelback Jonathan Jones for all but six games in 2021. The underneath crossing routes missed the speed to match during his stay on injured reserve. There’s now more of it in another Jones.

No. 85, who did not run at the NFL Scouting Combine due to shoulder surgeries, deepens a room that regains one veteran but lost its Pro Bowler in J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers. The 23-year-old Jones will contend for a starting spot with spring signings in Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell on the outside across from Jalen Mills.

Shaun Wade, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant and core special-teamer Justin Bethel also reside in the fold as the calendar turns to May. The newest member of the depth chart ranked No. 93 on the consensus big board assembled by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan, and on the second-to-third fringe in Dane Brugler’s draft guide.

Tilting the field in the return game

Jones finished his collegiate run with nine touchdowns as a returner. That tally tied ex-Boise State corner Avery Williams and ex-Washington receiver Dante Pettis for the combined NCAA record.

Arriving last fall were four trips for Jones, as 15 kickoff returns became 510 yards and a pair of scores while 26 punt returns became 374 yards and a pair more. Those trips arrived after a 2020 campaign that saw Jones lead the FBS with an average of 19.8 yards per in the latter role, which was most recently held in New England by former All-Pro Gunner Olszewski.

Consensus All-American and AAC Special Teams Player of the Year honors followed for Jones. So did the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in the nation, which Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers took home back in 2016 for Michigan. Jones added 10 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown on offense last year for the Cougars.


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