Despite so-called struggles, Zay Jones did what 3 first-round WR’s couldn’t


In the 2017 NFL Draft, 36 players were selected before Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver Zay Jones; Seven defensive ends, six cornerbacks, four linebackers, four safeties, three offensive tackles, three tight ends, three quarterbacks, three wide receivers, two running backs, and one defensive tackle heard their names called prior to Jones.

All three wide receivers selected ahead of Zay Jones were not only first-rounders, but top-10 picks. Corey Davis was taken No. 5 overall by the Tennessee Titans, Mike Williams went No. 7 to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals selected John Ross with the No. 9 overall pick.

Zay Jones stats vs. 2017 NFL draft peers

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Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Zay Jones was the first wide receiver taken in the second round, as the Buffalo Bills used the No. 37 overall pick on the NCAA all-time leader in receptions. Despite being a Day Two selection, the East Carolina standout was able to do something that the three wideouts taken ahead of him accomplished – score a pair of touchdowns. In Jones’ 15 games (10 starts), he caught 27 passes for 316 receiving yards and two touchdowns. A modest stat line, sure, but Davis, Ross and Williams combined for zero scores.

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Say what you want about Jones’ struggles during his rookie campaign, but at least he crossed the pylons a couple of times.

Davis, the Titans’ first-round pick, played in 11 regular season games as a rookie. In those contests he hauled in 34 receptions for 375 yards and zero scores. While he didn’t find the endzone in the regular season, he scored twice in two playoff games.

Williams, a 6-4, 220-pound WR out of Clemson, struggled to stay on the field. In 10 games (one start), he had 11 catches for 95 yards and no touchdowns. That’s a tough stat line for the seventh-overall pick from two drafts ago.

If you think Williams had a horrendous first year, John Ross might want to go into hiding. er. The speedster out of Washington was sidelined for most of the season, only suiting up in three games. It’s obviously a very small sample size, but Ross was only targeted two times and failed to record a single reception last season.

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After reviewing the numbers of the first-round receivers from 2017, it should make Bills fans breathe a big sigh of relief. In my opinion, Jones’ rookie season really wasn’t that subpar. Clearly, it could’ve been a lot worse.

Why Zay Jones criticism may be premature

Sure, Zay Jones’ statistics don’t jump off the page, but at least he posted some numbers and most importantly was on the field come Sundays. You know what they say, the best ability is availability.

Many Bills fans were calling for Jones’ head throughout last season and prematurely calling him a bust. One of the main reasons was due to a string of games in which he was plagued by drops. The narrative followed him all year and really, was blown out of proportion. Jones was targeted 71 times, but according to Pro Football Focus, just 47 were deemed catchable. That 66.2-percent rate was the lowest among Buffalo’s 10 qualifying pass-catchers

Of those 47 catchable targets only three slipped through Jones’ hands; giving him a drop rate of just over six percent. The following Bills players had a higher percentage of drops than Jones last season: Kelvin Benjamin (13.6%), Charles Clay (8.1%), Andre Holmes (6.7%), Jordan Matthews (10%), LeSean McCoy (7.7%), and Mike Tolbert (12.5%).

As fans focused on a few drops, they overlooked Jones’ ability to keep the chains moving. He was first on the team with a 60.7 first-down percentage. The Bills receiver racked up 17 first downs a year ago, while Ross and Williams only combined for 11 catches.

The backlash that Jones received after his performances was unfair. If anything, he should’ve been commended for playing through a severe shoulder injury. He was a second-round talent that outperformed the first-rounders taken at the same position. The future still is bright for Zay Jones, who is looking to prove that his collegiate success wasn’t a fluke.