With the 85th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Houston cornerback Marcus Jones. This selection marks the first defensive player that Bill Belichick has taken this draft.
The secondary was a spot on New England's roster that some believed would be addressed as early as the first round given that the organization lost All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson in free agency and found no suitable replacement to this point. Instead, they elected to address the offensive line by taking guard Cole Strange at No. 29 overall and then continued to pluck players for the offensive side of the ball with wideout Tyquan Thornton coming off the board in the second.
At Houston, Jones totaled 13 pass breakups in 2021 to go along with five interceptions and 47 tackles. Not only will Jones look to help the defensive side of the ball, but he could also be an option on special teams as a returner.
Below, you can find out more about this latest pick by the Patriots, where he may factor in this season, and a grade on the selection.
Things to know
Versatility on special teams: Not only will Jones be a factor in the secondary, but he was also an elite returner at Houston. Last season, he took two kickoffs to the house for touchdowns and averaged 34 yards per return. He also found the end zone twice off punts and averaged 14.4 yards per return in that situation.
I mean, look at this 100-yard kickoff return against SMU.
Last season, Jones won the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the nation's most versatile player.
An option at receiver? Jones did catch 10 balls last season for 109 yards and a touchdown, so don't put it past Bill Belichick to see if he can unlock Jones as a two-way player in some situations.
Do not be surprised to see Bill Belichick find ways to use Marcus Jones not only as a slot corner, but also as a receiver. He was absolutely unguardable getting in and out of his routes when he was given receiver reps at Houston. Electric with the ball in his hands.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) April 30, 2022
On the mend: Jones is currently recovering from two shoulder surgeries, but Pro Football Network does report that he is expected to be ready by training camp.
How he fits with Patriots
It may be too much to expect Jones to immediately slot in as a plug-and-play starter in the secondary to replace the likes of Jackson, but he should be able to contribute, particularly as a slot corner. As he gets his feet wet in the secondary, Jones may find himself as the ideal replacement for Gunner Olszewski -- who signed with the Steelers this offseason -- in the return game.
Chris Trapasso: Such a fun player on film. Just extremely small. Bouncy, nickel CB who finds the ball often. Long speed and length are lacking. A tick early because of his physical limitations. Amazing returner.
Rating: 81.41 (Long-term starter)
Pro Comparison: Devin Hester
Shows excellent footwork plus quickness, which allows him to mirror wide receivers throughout the route. (He had five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, and 16 forced incompletions in 2021, according to TruMedia.) Consistently in phase and rarely out of position, and he will throw his body around in run support, coming downhill from the slot to smack the ball carrier. Dangerous in the return game -- he had two kickoff returns for TDs in '21 -- and can also play WR, where he had 10 receptions for 109 yards last season.
Only stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 174 pounds but don't be fooled: he plays much bigger than that. NFL teams may be wary, however, because historically, players at that size have struggled at the next level. Not surprisingly, he's susceptible to high-point throws, and can be over-aggressive when it comes to jumping routes, occasionally leaving him out of position.
- 2021: AP All-America first team
- 2021: Fifth in FBS in punt return average (14.4)