Zay Jones: Time to Buy
With the 37th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected Zay Jones out of East Carolina. At the time of the draft Zay had set a pair of new FBS records with 399 career receptions, and most receptions in a season with 158 in his senior season. Heading into the 2017 draft season Zay was coveted as a Day 2 player with a few scouts believing it were possible he could slip into the end of Day 1. Zay’s stock rose considerably after the Senior Bowl where he led the North with 6 receptions and 68 yards, then followed this up with running a 4.45 at the NFL Combine.
Landing in Buffalo with the 37th pick wasn’t an ideal spot for Zay. With no other real slot receiver on the roster plus, nobody of note but Jordan Matthews, Charles Clay there seemed like no reason Tyrod Taylor and Zay Jones couldn’t become an early season connection. However it seemed as though Zay couldn’t comprehend the offense, wasn’t running at a 4.45 speed and some people were already using the “bust” nickname for him. Let me try to convince you otherwise.
After the conclusion of the 2017 season we learned Zay had been playing though a labral tear for the majority of the season, and kept pushing through while the Bills were in the playoff hunt. As a Zay supporter, I couldn’t understand what had suddenly happened to the quick slot receiver coming out of East Carolina. When this news came up, it all clicked. With a torn labrum, it’s going to be both much more difficult and painful to push off of a slot corner or linebacker at the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Tyrod didn’t have chemistry with him since he was a rookie plus when Kelvin Benjamin was traded to the Bills at the 2017 trading deadline it was less necessary to force feed Zay.
The more news came rolling in about his injury the past season the better all of my shares started to look like a 2018 breakout candidate. Then, the TMZ video came out. Now I’m not going to get into what happened as it isn’t my business but I’m glad Zay is okay. With the video going viral there were questions whether he would ever see an NFL field again forget about the 2018 season. Luckily to this point, it seems the he’s put his life back together and has stayed out of trouble. I’d just like to say it here, I wish the best for him and his family.
After Buffalo had a surprising 2017 playoff season, the Bills ownership decided to blow up the roster again. Tyrod Taylor was traded to Cleveland, Jordan Matthews walked after another injury ridden season in 2017, Eric Wood retired, Richie Incognito walked, and Cordy Glenn was traded to to Cincinnati. That’s a ton of turnover for a team that just made the playoffs while playing in one of the weakest divisions in football. The 2018 Draft came with controversy with Josh Allen bring selected at 7th overall putting the Bills in a difficult position to begin the season. Now I’m an Allen believer but there’s no way he was ready to play this season, he needed at least a year to sit and learn. I’ll get to that another day, but Allen’s development probably has already been stunted massively by forcing him to play week 1 after the Nathan Peterman experience.
Although Buffalo has the worst offense the NFL has seen in years. Well, it’s potentially the worst offense the NFL has ever seen, there are still signs of hope for Zay. He leads the team in receptions, with 29 though 9 weeks. Wow that’s even worse when it’s written out. The bright side is the Zay is getting open, looks healthy, and his value can literally only go up from here. Any time a player with the skill set that he possesses is at a price of a mid 3rd round rookie pick you have to pull the trigger on it. The Buffalo offense literally can’t be worse than this in 2019 and next year could be Zay’s 3rd year breakout that we’ve seen among so many other wide receivers. I’m not saying Jones will be a top 15 asset in Buffalo, but could he put together a solid WR3 campaign and be the next receiver to leave Buffalo then flourish? We’ve seen Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Chris Hogan do it the past few seasons. If I were to bet on it, Zay Jones is the next name in that line of receivers. Believe me, while he’s at the price most owners are asking, you can’t go wrong with giving up a late 2nd or later for Zay Jones.