Braxton Jones is by far the most pleasant surprise of the Chicago Bears’ early offseason. Expectations were low when they picked him in the 5th round out of Southern Utah. Maybe he could develop into a solid swing tackle backup for them. Then by the end of Organized Team Activities, he’d replaced Teven Jenkins in the starting lineup. The Bears stuck with him through mandatory minicamps at left tackle.
Head coach Matt Eberflus insisted the team was going through an experimentation period. They’re trying to find the best possible five blockers to protect Justin Fields. Don’t read too much into such things. Except, history has shown that coaches don’t make decisions like this by accident. They promoted Jones for a reason. He was showing them something in drills that impressed them. Some draft experts aren’t surprised. Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports believes the kid is Chicago’s future franchise left tackle. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, four-time Super Bowl champion scout and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy agrees with that assessment.
Jones doesn’t have far to go before he’s ready.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said three members of his staff went to evaluate Jones during his senior season at Southern Utah to confirm what they had seen on film. Some believe Jones’ junior tape was better than last season, which could be why he remained on the board into Day 3.
“The talent is all there,” Nagy said. “He’s a really twitched-up athlete. The pass-set stuff, the redirect, he looked like an NFL left tackle on his junior tape. We were really high on him.
“The biggest thing is just lower body development. He needs to get stronger in his lower half, which will come over time. If that is the one thing you need to improve, NFL teams feel good about that. It’s hard to make a guy longer or twitchier. You can always put some bulk or strength on them.”
Braxton Jones might’ve gone higher if he had come out early.
That is what Nagy is inferring. Evaluators often say specific prospects would’ve benefitted from another year in school. However, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes a player hurts his stock by returning as a senior. If Jones had chosen to declare in 2020, there is a chance he’d have been a Day 2 pick in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. By going back to school, he matured more but didn’t enhance his tape much. As a result, the Bears were able to snag him late in the 5th.
That could be a significant boon for their future. Athletically, Braxton Jones has all the tools. He ran a 4.97 in the 40-yard dash, which is ridiculous for a man who’s 6’5 and over 300 lbs. His feet are quick and smooth. He also boasts 35-inch arms, giving him instant advantage in almost every matchup against pass rushers. The issue, as Nagy said, is his power base. Jones didn’t have premium training staff helping him with lower body work in an FCS program. That is going to change in Chicago.
They’ve put together an impressive strength and conditioning crew filled with a mix of old and new school methods. If the rookie listens to what they say, his model will be remade in no time.
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