Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, many observers around the league expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to address their running back situation, given their release of Doug Martin this offseason, and the patchwork group of runners they had on the roster behind Martin.
With the 38th overall pick in the draft, which was the sixth pick in the second round, the Buccaneers selected running back Ronald Jones from the University of Southern California. In doing so, we could look back at Tampa Bay and say they drafted one of the most explosive offensive players in the entire draft.
Coming from a school with perhaps the most decorated history of collegiate and professional running backs, Jones leaves USC a as the school’s fifth all-time leading rusher, and with the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in school history. Jones ran for more yards than Reggie Bush and LenDale White did (in the same amount of time) while at USC, and averaged almost the same amount of rushing yards per year as Marcus Allen.
The first word that comes to mind every time you watch Jones is “explosive.” He is a threat to blast off a huge run the very second he gets the ball in his hands. What I love about him is his lightning-fast first step, and how he uses that burst through the hole. Frankly, the way he presses and hits the hole is simply special. The speed in which he attacks the hole, while still giving it time to develop (more often than not), is beautiful.
Once Jones hits the hole, using his elite burst, he can get to the second level of a defense in the blink of an eye. If he’s able to plant his foot and hit the crease, he is going to gash opposing defenses. Every game you watch, he gashes defenses for enormous chunks of yardage, getting his team downfield before you even realize what just happened. That’s in large part because of absolutely stupid-fast acceleration; he hits fifth gear so damn fast, and once he hits that top speed, defenses might as well say good night.
That being said, Jones is also a deceptively tough and spirited player who brings a level of physicality you wouldn’t expect from someone who looks like him. In short yardage situations, he’s not afraid to lower his head, get compact, and slam his shoulders into the opposing defense. He’s also show the ability to lower his shoulders and slither through less-than-clean holes as well. In pass protection, he’s a feisty and competitive blocker who’s more than willing to mix it up with oncoming blitzers.
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The big concern with him will be teaching him the patience to run between the tackles, instead of trying to bounce every run outside and force the big play. Further, because of the fact that he weighs right around 200lbs, there is some concern as to whether he can hold up for more than 15-20 carries per game.
But the comparisons of Jones to former NFL stars like Jamaal Charles or Chris Johnson, made by various analysts, is more than valid. If Tampa Bay can continue to improve its blocking up front, we could be looking at the next star running back in the NFL in Ronald Jones.