Clearly stated, our computer "thinks" that the only WR on the Buffalo Bills with a potential elite talent level -- is Donald Jones...not Stevie Johnson, and not David Nelson. Stevie has thrown our computer for a loop for parts of two seasons...we have projected Johnson as more a "bust", impossible to sustain the high level of output he had for a few weeks in 2010. Johnson has been very good, but has been fading of late. One of the reasons that the Bills haven't made Stevie a long-term offer is...I think the Bills visually know, what our computer scouting analysis shows us internally -- Johnson is OK, but not elite. Our computer analysis does "think" Jones could be elite...
Our Week-11 computer analysis really is revving up on Jones, partially because of the talent...but also because Johnson is banged up, and Nelson has a tweaked ankle and is coming off a sickness. However, also hidden in all the Bills WR discussions is the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick (we feel) also has a growing trust in Jones (much like early 2011 Antonio Brown)...an upswing on Jones-Fitzpatrick that no one in the Fantasy Football media is noticing. We think the signs of an emerging good/great WR is there if you look. However, you first have to possess the belief that Jones might be an elite NFL possession/slot WR...and we do.
It's easy for us to claim Jones as something special on "feelings," but let us break this down in further analytical detail...and you can decide if we are "seeing ghosts" or not.
Donald Jones, the Youngstown State years
Jones started his college career at Lackawanna Community College, but played well enough to get noticed by the big boys...and looked on his way to a transfer to Ole Miss. Ultimately, Ole Miss backed out and Jones went onto Youngstown State. Jones had two productive seasons at YSU, posting 77 catches for 790 yards with 6 TDs (11 games) in his senior season.
Jones was a solid enough performer to gain an invite to the NFL Combine, where he tested at a top-level athletically...producing numbers which should have earned him a 4th-6th Round draft pick status (to us). Instead, Jones went undrafted...and that left many of us wondering if there was a red-flag behind the scenes.
Opportunity with the Buffalo Bills
We had our doubts about his "make-up" erased when Jones fought his way through the Buffalo Bills 2010 training camp as a UDFA WR, making the team while some other more known/higher touted WRs got the boot. Jones played on special teams right away, and then found himself in the lineup when starter Roscoe Parrish was lost for the season in Week-9. In Week-10, Jones posted 5 catches for 70 yards; and his first career TD. Jones had sporadic output the rest of the 2010 season, but to go from UDFA to roster is an accomplishment enough...but also becoming a productive WR as a rookie UDFA, is a very nice statement about Jones as well.
Jones entered the 2011 garnering a lot of preseason chatter as a potential starter, then he was named one...but got hurt late in camp and missed the last few weeks. Jones played opening day and scored a TD. Two weeks later, Jones posted a 5 catch for 101 yard game (a yardage high for any Bills WR in 2011 to-date). Jones appeared to be blossoming, but had a set-back again in Week-5 with a mild injury.
There have been several "tells" in the 2011 season, that Jones is a very valued piece of this offense, and a favorite target of Fitzpatrick (along with Stevie Johnson). Here are a couple of Bills WR stats to ponder:
Targets per game in Weeks 3-10:
- 7.3 = Johnson
- 6.8 = Jones
- 5.1 = Nelson
Yards per game in Weeks 3-10:
- 52.7 = Johnson
- 40.8 = Jones
- 40.6 = Nelson
Red-Zone targets per game for all 2011:
- 1.14 = Jones
- 1.11 = Nelson
- 1.00 = Johnson
Last two games (Weeks 9-10) reception totals:
- 8 = Nelson
- 7 = Jones
- 5 = Johnson
The reason that Jones is/will grow in importance in the Bills offense, and the reason why Fitzpatrick has been glowing about him -- Jones possesses most all the traits that we look for in an elite slot/possession WR. Jones has very good speed and agility metrics...but he's not just fast, he also is a physical rock at 6'0 and 215 pounds, with a great bench-press for someone his size (or any WR). He's fast, agile, strong...and has one of the best vertical leaps of any NFL WR (or player from any position).
When you think of Donald Jones, conjure up a mix of Pierre Garcon and a better version of Victor Cruz. Jones is a true NFL weapon -- he plays a role that is usually held by a smaller-thinner-slower type WR...however, Jones is like a big tailback on the loose when he gets the ball. We see from last game's tape that the Bills are trying to get the ball to Jones on quick passes and bubble screen type plays...which is an excellent sign of an outbreak upcoming. We think Jones will be a star, and that big step forward may be in Week-11 with the Bills other main WR core being banged up. Jones plays a different style than Johnson or Nelson, so they are not a threat to him -- only staying healthy and proper pass-targets are all that stands in the way. Look for Jones (if healthy) to lead the Bills in receptions the rest of 2011.
Even if Jones doesn't break-out this week, don't despair...because it's coming.
...and if you're are digging Donald Jones after this research, keep a 2012 eye on Kealoha Pilares (Panthers rookie WR), but that's for another day.
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