There are few draft prospects more intriguing than Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones. When Jones is at his best, he is an absolutely game changing RB. He has an incredibly rare combination of speed and shiftiness, which has caused some to liken Jones to a poor man’s Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles.
The Eagle made huge plays from the very beginning of his collegiate career: his took his first carry for an 87 yard score. Jones used his talents to amass outstanding statistics in his time at Eastern Washington.
As a junior, Jones rushed for over 1,700 yards (averaging a whopping 7.1 yards a carry) and had 17 total TDs, good for second best all purpose yards in FCS football. Jones also was a dangerous player on special teams as a kick returner. Jones proved he is a talent receiver out of the back field as well, making him extremely productive in his time at Eastern Washington. This production led to Jones being named Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Big Sky conference.
Physically, Jones compares well to both Johnson and Charles. Jones (6’1, 200 lbs) is slightly larger than both Johnson (5’11, 191 lbs) and Charles (5’11, 199 lbs). Jones is a better receiver than Johnson, who sometimes struggles to make routine catches. Jones may not have the same level of speed that Johnson and Charles have, but his speed is more than enough to be successful at the next level.
In spite of the high level of production and his speed, there are several concerns that scouts have about Jones’ ability to produce in the NFL. The first concern is that he is extremely raw. He spent his first year at Eastern Washington playing CB. Jones only played his sophomore and junior year at running back, and the concern is that he dominated because of his athleticism as opposed to being a skilled RB. Jones’ speed was head and shoulders above his competition in the Big Sky conference. He won’t be able to “out athlete” his way through the NFL. He needs to show that he is a RB, and not just a superior athlete that played against inferior competition.
The biggest concern that teams will have about Jones is his ability (or lack thereof) to stay healthy. Jones missed the first part of his freshman year as he recovered from a broken leg. Throughout his sophomore year he played with a sports hernia.
Jones broke his foot late in his junior season and will not be healthy enough to run in the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. While there is a chance that he may be ready to run at Hawaii’s pro day on March 31st, it is incredibly concerning that Jones was unable to stay healthy for a full season.
It’s not hard to see why Jones decided to skip his senior year and enter the draft. He had an outstanding individual season, helped carry Eastern Washington to a national championship, and this year’s senior class of RBs is much weaker than usual. On the other hand, Jones would have benefitted from staying to play his senior year. He needed to show that he can stay healthy through a full season.
In spite of that, Jones looks great on film and will likely put up an impressive 40 time on March 31st. There will be many teams that will have no problem taking a chance on Jones in the 4th round or later, where his talent would make him a great value.