Early yesterday, Matt Barrows unveiled his draft crush for 2012, going with a relatively easy pick in Stanford tight end Coby Fleener. There are plenty of people focused in on Fleener and with good reason. He is an extremely talented tight end that invites all sorts of thoughts about three tight end sets blowing up the passing game.
And yet, over the last few years, Barrows has focused his draft crush list on first round talent. When I consider my draft crushes, I generally view them as guys that might not be day one talent. My original draft crush was former 49ers outside linebacker Jay Moore. It all developed because I stumbled across him in the Senior Bowl, wrote a pre-draft scouting report on him, and then watched as the 49ers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He didn't quite work out, but such is life.
We are now two weeks away from the 2012 NFL Draft, and I'd like to reveal my own draft crush. I've mentioned it before so this is not a stunning surprise, but I'm all in for Marvin Jones. He does not necessarily appear to be a guy with monster number one upside, but he could prove to develop into a very consistent, solid wide receiver. He was not the top guy at Cal this past year as Keenan Allen is turning into an electric receiver, but Jones put together a solid year nonetheless.
While I watched a decent amount of Cal football, I wanted to get a Cal fan's perspective on Jones. I emailed Avinash Kunnath who runs Pacific Takes (our Pac-12 blog), and is a regular contributor at California Golden Blogs and SB Nation Bay Area. Head after the jump to check out what Avi had to say. I'd also recommend checking out this great "Remembering The Cal Seniors" post at CGB. If you're looking for slightly more neutral scouting reports, head over to Mocking The Draft and National Football Post.
In any other four years, Marvin Jones could've contended to be one of Cal's best wideouts. DeSean Jackson was a one of a kind playmaking talent, but Jones could arguably have been more productive at Cal if the rest of the offense could've matched up with his talents. He was an every down receiver who could do multiple things and do them all excellently.
He was very athletically gifted. He had a 33 inch vertical leap, allowing him to jump up and leap for big grabs. Many times he'd have to adjust to underthrown deep balls and come back for the football, and he managed to haul in 30-40 yard gains that way to really open up the offense. When the football was thrown too far to the sidelines, Jones maintained his awareness of where he was on the field and got one foot down, keeping a number of overthrown balls inbounds.
He ran polished routes. He did a good job driving his defender back in zone coverage to get an open spot for his quarterback to find him. If playing against man coverage he'd utilize strong footwork to make sure defenders were doubling back rather than getting close on him. Jones would never launch for any real open field touchdowns, but his excellent technique ensured that he'd get his fair share of catches and make his QB feel comfortable out there, regardless of where that throw was going (post down the middle, go route straight down the line, corner route to the sideline/end zone).
Jones was a solid blocker, so he provided a nice seal for the screen. He could run an end-around pretty effectively as well to provide a nice change-of-pace from the standard options. However, he still needs some work on his blocking, which might discourage the Niners from taking him. Harbaugh loves receivers who commit fully to engaging defensive backs, and Jones probably still doesn't quite yet know all the tricks.
Unfortunately, Cal's quarterbacks couldn't match Jones's natural talents. Kevin Riley could uncork that deep throw but other than the post route, struggled with short and intermediate, Zach Maynard had an up and down time controlling his accuracy, commanding the pocket, lacked a deep throw, and favored his brother Keenan Allen, limiting Jones's touches in his senior season. Jones still had some great moments and provided his pro credentials by making great adjustments to mediocre throws, helping to keep Cal's offense functioning even against the toughest of opponents.
Main weakness: He drops the football a bit. So he could afford to learn to catch the football better. Hear that's the most important thing a wide receiver can do.