USC Running Back Ronald Jones Has Legitimate Home-Run Ability And Is A Tenacious Runner Through Contact.
Ronald Jones II
Ronald Jones is one of the more interesting running back prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. His size and athletic profile suggests that he might be a scat back, or a pure speed back, but there is much more to his game than his size and athleticism would indicate.
Ronald Jones looks like he would be an excellent fit in a zone-based running scheme, and should excel there at the NFL level. There are certainly questions to his game, and his running style may not be the best fit for his size and athleticism, but he has a lot to offer NFL teams in terms of upside and big play potential.
Ronald Jones Strengths:
Ronald Jones’ best and most evident trait is his burst. His ability to kick it into high gear and get up to his top speed quickly is unmatched among the top running back prospects in this draft class. It allows him to get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry, as well as hit the second level in stride with a full head of steam already propelling him into the secondary.
This burst will help him immensely in a zone running scheme where he can plant his foot and explode up field.
Ronald Jones’ ability to get to his top speed faster than everyone else and with more suddenness makes him a threat to pick up chunk gains on routine runs. He can go from reading his blocks to slashing a defense for ten yards faster than anyone in this class. He gets through the line of scrimmage with more explosiveness than anyone else I’ve watched in this class, and this allows him to pick up chunk gains before the defense has time to converge on him.
On the play below, watch how quickly he gets to his top speed after putting his foot in the ground. He blows past the defensive line and is into the secondary before the defense even has a chance to react.
On shorter yardage plays, Ronald Jones has the burst to catch linebackers off guard and severely limit the defense’s time to react. If you watch the linebacker on the play below, he is a little late on his read, and Ronald Jones makes him pay with a run to the one yard line.
Ronald Jones has a higher floor than some other backs in this class, because his burst is an elite and translatable trait that will help him get the most out of what a defense gives him.
Ronald Jones Is Always Falling Forward
One thing that you notice about Ronald Jones and his “slashing” style of running is that he is always falling forward for extra yards through contact.
When he puts his foot in the ground and gets downhill running, he has a good forward lean and puts his full weight behind his pads. This gives him a strong forward momentum. Combined with his burst and speed, his forward lean helps him to fall forward through contact, even when he doesn’t break the tackle.
In addition to his momentum, Ronald Jones consistently will spin when wrapped up by a defender in order to get every last inch out of a run.
On the run below, pay attention to how Ronald Jones lowers his pads, leans forward, and puts his weight behind him. Despite multiple defenders contacting him over the course of this run, he always maintains his leg drive and forward lean. He finishes off the run with his usual spin for an extra yard.
This forward lean helps him in some ways and hurts him in others. On one hand, it is a trait that pairs very well with the rest of his game and running style. On the other hand, it limits him in some areas that you would expect him to excel in. We will get to that later in the article.
Ronald Jones Has Top End Speed
Speed kills in the NFL, and Ronald Jones has it in abundance. His speed, combined with his burst, makes him a threat to house a run at any time. His burst allows him to catch defenses unprepared, and his speed allows him to take advantage of the daylight that his burst provides. Any NFL team that drafts Jones can expect some long flash plays that involve Jones finding a lane and cruising straight to the endzone.
On the play below, as soon as Jones gets to the open field with the defense backpedaling, the play is over. Once Ronald Jones is off to the races, good luck defenses. He didn’t have a legitimate 40 time at the NFL Combine due to injury, but he was expected to test among the best in the class.
Ronald Jones Doesn’t Quit On Runs
Ronald Jones is an incredibly tough runner for his size. When you first break into his tape, it surprises you. After a couple of drives, broken tackles are almost expected. With the ball in his hands, Ronald Jones is a fighter. He is scrappy and will fight for every inch.
Watch in the run below, Ronald Jones loses balance but, through pure determination crab walks for an extra seven yards.
Effort is something that raises his floor at the NFL level. You can’t teach effort and fire. Jones has it when the ball is in his hands. In the play below, Jones should have been taken down probably three different times. He keeps fighting forward, keeps his legs moving and scraps for every yard.
Giving quality effort on every play is something that I value in a player probably more than most people. To me, it indicates a player’s passion for the game, a person’s dedication to their craft, and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Those are things that you want in your players. Ronald Jones has the effort and, to me, that say that indicates that he has the rest of it.
Ronald Jones is Physical and Welcomes Contact
You wouldn’t guess it from his size, but Ronald Jones is a very physical runner. Strangely, at his size, he is much more of a physical runner than a finesse runner. It has worked well for him. His effort, balance, leg drive, and the momentum he gathers from his elite burst all help him make up for his 205 pound frame.
Jones slashes defenses, attacks defenders around the line of scrimmage and uses his balance, leg drive, and forward lean to stay on his feet, continue moving forward, and break poor tackling attempts.
In the run below, Jones shows off some of his best traits. First, his burst. Watch him explode into contact, attack the defender and get the first down. Second, he shows good situational awareness here. He knows where the first down marker is. When he finds a crease, he gets to the marker as quickly as possible. Finally, the physicality. He doesn’t bowl over the defender, but he certainly got the job done.
This is among my favorite runs to watch from Ronald Jones. He absolutely embarrasses Western Michigan’s defense. The first two defenders don’t wrap him up. The third one does, but it doesn’t matter. Jones carries the defender for another nine yards. This is pure tenacity from Ronald Jones.
To sum up his strengths, Ronald Jones is a fast, explosive runner that doesn’t shy away from contact, attacks defenders and plays with maximum effort every time he touches the ball. This gives him game-breaking ability when he finds daylight.
Ronald Jones Weaknesses:
This appears to be the biggest problem for Ronald Jones in the NFL. It isn’t just his size, but how his size affects how his strengths will translate and how his size may be a liability in other areas when he makes the transition to the NFL.
Ronald Jones 5’11 205 pound frame causes multiple concerns for him at the next level. Specifically, Jones has to have excellent pass protection technique in order to succeed in that area at the next level and Jones has to have ungodly leg strength to be able to have the same success moving defenders and breaking tackles that he has had so far.
The play below illustrates that Jones does not have excellent technique as a pass blocker. Even in college, he has had problems with getting driven back into the quarterback’s lap. That is when he has had good technique. Here, he doesn’t anticipate the defender’s outside path and makes contact on the inside shoulder of the defender. He should have been a step outside in a support role. Instead he attacks the inside shoulder and is beaten along with the left tackle. Additionally, Ronald Jones lunges at the defender and is unable to adjust his position. By the time he recovers from his lunge, the defender has hands on Sam Darnold.
Now to the power part of this. Ronald Jones has the success he has because he is able to break tackles and get yards. He is able to shed defenders, run through them, and maintain his balance through contact. How is that going to fair against the bigger and stronger defenders that he will face in the NFL?
On the play below, Ronald Jones clearly has momentum into the defender. He keeps his legs driving, but the Ohio State defender is simply stronger than him. He gains ground for a moment due to his forward momentum, but when the momentum dies, and it comes down to size and strength, Rondal Jones is pushed backward.
Another example below. Jones has only inches to go. He gets a full head of steam. He gets his forward lean. He attacks the defense, lowers his head and hits the pile. Jones fails to move the pile the inch that he needs. Despite his top-end effort, second effort and third effort, Jones can’t move the pile and fails to get into the endzone. He has often succeeded in this position when he gets a little space, but he doesn’t have the size and strength to create that space on his own.
The play below is what Ronald Jones looks like without forward momentum. First and foremost, he should have broken this run to the left where there was plenty of open field. His situational awareness dictates that he should keep downhill. I’m alright with that, simply because staying north-south is usually the right decision in short yardage situations. The more concerning part is that, on initial contact, he goes nowhere. His leg drive does nothing for him. This really makes me worry about his power at the next level.
Ronald Jones excels with his ability to break tackles, maintain forward momentum, fall forward, and get yards after contact. The question I raise is: How well can Ronald Jones do this against stronger and faster defenders in the NFL?
Along with the power concerns, comes durability concerns. The smaller frame, combined with the often violent running style raises concerns about how well his body will hold up against NFL level defenders. Can Ronald Jones handle a full workload in the NFL? Can he remain healthy and available for a full season?
Ronald Jones Has A Tendency To Bounce Runs Outside
Ronald Jones is fast and explosive. This helps him get away with some things that other running backs can’t. Jones has a tendency to bounce runs outside when there is space to get up field. If the edge is sealed, this can lead to him having to run backward to get around defenders. This results in losses more often than you want to see in a player’s film.
Jones should have made the cutback here. This run is well defended, but rather than take the yards that were available to him, Ronald Jones tries to get around the edge. He has to run backward to beat the defenders to the corner, and this results in a a bigger loss than what he should have had.
In the play below, Jones eventually gets north-south. When he does, he gets back to the line and picks up a few yards. Point remains that he should have gotten up field in the first place. Instead, he tries to bounce outside, runs into his blocker and has to come to a full stop. Jones was lucky to not take a loss of yards here.
The defensive tackle on the play below was leaning inside and definitely would have gotten a hand on Jones if he had kept moving up field. Unfortunately for Jones, the alternative didn’t work out for him. He should have recognized the defender crashing the edge and taken the yards that the defense allowed, rather than trying to bounce the run outside and take a loss.
Ronald Jones Is Not As Elusive In Open Field As You’d Hope
Given Jones’ athleticism, I expected to see Ronald Jones breaking ankles in open field, making defenders miss in the secondary and capitalizing on his explosiveness. I just didn’t see it. Jones creates a lot of distance between himself and the defender when he isn’t in his top gear. His cuts behind the line of scrimmage and when picking his way through traffic are electric. His jump cuts around the line of scrimmage are explosive and leave defenders grasping at the air.
When Jones gets a head of steam, he doesn’t show the same lateral agility. Whether he is misjudging his cuts, or just can’t create distance with his cuts at higher speeds, Jones doesn’t show the elusiveness in open field that I’d like to see. His forward lean gets him moving in a hurry, but it also makes him a little out of control when he gets into the secondary. I think his forward momentum and lean prevent him from being able to make solid cuts to beat defenders in the open field.
The play below illustrates what I mean. He has plenty of time to set up the defender, but Ronald Jones creates very little lateral distance with his move here and the defender is able to get enough of him to take him down. Given his explosiveness that he has shown in other areas, I would have expected that Jones would be able to beat the defender here.
Ronald Jones makes a very good initial cut on this play to create space and get to the corner. When he gets to the open field though, his momentum works as a disservice and he is unable to make a move on the defender. One on one in the open field is where I hoped I would see Ronald Jones dominate. This play had the potential to be a big gain, but instead the defender wins in open field.
In the instance below, a better move and better lateral agility in the open field probably wouldn’t have resulted in a much longer run. The defense was converging on him pretty well. Regardless, this is embarrassing for Jones in the open field. Ronald Jones tries to put a move on the defender and the defender doesn’t bite. Jones move resulted in almost no lateral distance and he gets upended by a defender that probably didn’t have to move to make the tackle.
Jones has the explosiveness to be electric in the open field, but he has to run with more control at the second level. That leads me to question whether having more control in his game would detriment some of the other areas of his game. This is a flaw that is manageable, because generally any play that ends up in the open field was a successful play, but it is still something that I would have expected to be one of his strengths that instead leaves me disappointed.
Ronald Jones Summary
Jones is one of the most explosive runners in this class. His acceleration and top end speed are unmatched among the top running back prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. He combines his speed and explosiveness with top effort and compliments it with surprising physicality. His size is a legitimate concern for durability, pass protection and how well his power translates against better NFL athletes. He has room to grow in the open field and needs to run with more control in space to beat defenders more consistently. Something I didn’t want to go too far into since I obviously don’t know the guy, but this tweets might be worth noting as well.
Now heard from more than one team who has been turned off by how "dismissive" Ronald Jones has been during their discussions with him. Caught both teams way off guard.
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) March 22, 2018
Trust me when I tell you that I would never even put that out there if this were just about someone who was shy or didn’t care to speak. These are teams saying that this has been an issue with him getting on his phone or just checking out of conversations.
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) March 23, 2018
Previous RB Profiles:
Click HERE For the Comprehensive 2018 NFL Draft Database.