Ronald Jones II has been a star since he set on foot on the field at USC. As a freshman, he put up 987 yards and eight touchdowns. As a sophomore Jones ran for 1,082 and 11 touchdowns and 1,550 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Jones is a big play producer and averaged over 6.1 yards per carry in his career. Can that continue into the NFL?
School: USC Trojans
Jones makes this big gashes in the defense with vision, burst, elusiveness and power built from speed. Put together it is a package that can move onto the NFL.
Jones uses his vision into the second level to suck the linebackers in. He gets the linebacker close enough to the line of scrimmage by stepping up to the middle before exploding past him as 77, the left guard gets to the second level and forces him to flail at Jones as he runs by.
Jones sees and uses the entire field. His ability to set up runs in the second level and explode into the open field is impressive.
That speed while cutting back, or exploding into the hole comes from precise footwork and an ability to plant and burst into the open field. Jones has that, and has the ability to wiggle while maintaining or changing speeds to hit holes. In the play below it is a three step jog before a hard step and explosion into the hole and into the open field.
That hard plant and footwork allows him to be a dangerous runner laterally while maintaining speed into the second level. Jukes, spin moves, cut backs, everything is in play with Jones and it is followed by a plant and a burst into space.
With as much speed and elusiveness as Jones has, the question has to be how he can last in the NFL between the tackles. and on the goal line. Jones has actually been in a lot of short yardage and goal line situations, and for the most part, has been excellent. There are times where he is not strong enough to break tackles.
However, when he can get a step or two to build up momentum, there is no slowing him down.
He is spun around, but his momentum is still moving forward. He is just too fast for that disruption in his path to affect him.
Defenders can fall off of Jones in the open field when he is going at full momentum. His vision gets him through the whole clean. His burst explodes him into the second level, and his power and speed make him hard to bring down from there.
When Jones is not able to get that burst behind the line of scrimmage, his power is marginal. It makes zone blocking and outside running the best option for him, even with short yardage situations. He is also adequate and functional in the passing game, but is nowhere near refined. That is both as a blocker and a pass catcher. His hands are not completely trustworthy, and his route tree is unrefined and limited. He has shown effort and has improved as a pass blocker, but that is still an area where he can get better in.
Pro Comparison: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
It is a very awkward comparison to put Ronald Jones II name next to a player who just declared for the NFL draft last season as a comparison. However, you are taken back to one year ago watching Dalvin Cook when seeing Jones burst into the open field.
They both have the sudden burst that comes from a lower leg burst. That is where they can both shed tackles in the open field and excel with foot quickness. Both have great vision to set themselves up with clear running lanes, and while neither is a refined pass catcher, both can do damage with the ball in their hands on some pass attempts.
Cook fell into the second round due to some off of the field question marks. Jones does not quite have those issues, and may see himself being a first round pick due to the burst onto the scene that Cook originally had last season.
A Fit for Pittsburgh Steelers?
So now the question is would the Pittsburgh Steelers invest a first round pick in a running back, and would it be Ronald Jones II. The answer is that if there were a back take at their first round position, it is Jones and Derrius Guice. The team will have the opportunity to negotiate a longterm contract for a few months by the time of the draft. If either of those two are on the board, the team could revoke their franchise tag and move on with five years of team control on a younger running back with a large sum of talent.
Jones vision and ability to set up blocks would make him a great addition. The burst into the hole may be a step quicker than Bell, and with this offensive line, may end up in a season with more long runs. It would be a great fit, and is an interesting decision that team may end up facing.