TJ Jones to go Undrafted? Is Mel Kiper Crazy?

TJ Jones - NFL Draft Stock
Abdul Smith (21) attempts to tackle Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver TJ Jones (7) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 28-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper held a conference call with a number of Notre Dame media folks yesterday and in reading the stories from Blue & Gold and Comcast Sports Chicago, one thing jumped off the page at me.  Kiper is currently projecting TJ Jones as a late round pick if he gets draft at all.

Has Kiper been watching much Notre Dame football this season?  If he has, he would have seen a wide receiver who has been the lone consistent weapon on an offense that has struggled to maintain consistency.  He would have seen a wide receiver who can make plays downfield or take a quick hitch and turn it into a big gain.  He would have seen a wide receiver who has developed an extra gear this year we hadn’t seen before.

In short, Kiper would have seen a wide receiver whose resume and pedigree would warrant more than a late round pick whom it would be a travesty if he were to go undrafted.

A player’s draft position is not determined on their stats alone.  Production, potential, measureables, and off the field issues are all taken into account when a team evaluates a player’s pro prospects, so let’s take a look at those for Jones.

TJ Jones is producing at an elite level

Production is not an issue for Jones at all.  Through 10 games this season, Jones has racked up 891 yards on 54 catches with 8 touchdowns through the air.  Recently Jones has added a running element to his repertoire as well running 3 times for 41 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame’s loss to Pitt last weekend.

If we project out Jones’s production over the course of three more games, he will end his senior season with 1,158 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Considering Jones has scored in 7 straight games and eclipsed 100 yards in three straight and 4 out of 5, it would not be surprising if he finished with numbers even better.

Not many receivers have put up numbers like that in their careers for Notre Dame and those who have done so have done so playing with quarterbacks selected pretty highly in the NFL draft themselves.

TJ Jones is still improving

Almost as important as Jones elite production as a senior has been his steady improvement and development since his freshman season showing that he is still improving and far from maxing out his potential. Each year that Jones has suited up for the Irish he has improved his performance.

  • 2010: 23 rec, 306 yards (13.3 yards/rec), 3 TDs
  • 2011: 38 rec, 366 yards (9.6 yards/rec), 3 TDs
  • 2012: 50 rec, 649 yards (13.0 yards/rec), 4 TDs
  • 2013: 54 rec, 891 yards (16.5 yards/rec), 8 TDs

That is steady progression from freshman year to senior year with his best season by far coming this season proving that Jones is still improving and only getting better.  Furthermore, Jones has displayed a burst this year we just haven’t seen from him previously and his yards per catch backs that up with Jones averaging more than three additional yards per catch this season.

Jones’s size shouldn’t be a draft deterrent

While Jones may not have the massive size of the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson or be built like a Mac Truck like the Cincinnati Benagls’ AJ Green, Jones has a solid build at 6’0″, 195 lbs.  Eight wide receivers who were 6’0″ or under were drafted in the first four rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft so it’s not as though being 6’0″ or less has scared teams away from draft wide receivers in the first few rounds of the draft in recent years.

From a speed perspective, Jones will very likely run a more than respectable 40 time at the combine.  He probably won’t run a 4.34 like Tavon Austin last year, but something in the 4.45 range is very possible for Jones in Indianapolis in February.

Jones has been an exemplary player on and off the field

You will be hard pressed to find a wide receiver with a better reputation off the field than Jones in next April’s draft.  Jones has been an exemplary player on and off the field as evidenced by his captaincy for the 2013 Fighting Irish.

Jones has never had any off the field issues or run-ins with the law or anything like that either taking any potential character issues off the table as a reason for Jones not being draft or drafted late.  Any GM that makes an investment in Jones can do so knowing that he doesn’t have to worry about Jones getting in trouble off the field or causing any locker room.

Add that all up and it would appear, at least to me, that you have the draft profile of a pretty good wide receiver.  Jones has decent size, good speed, and is an excellent football player – he runs good routes, scores touchdowns, and has consistency made plays on an offense that at times has lack consistency.   Without running a 4.3 or being 6’4″ tall the first two rounds are probably off the board for him, but third round?  Why not?

Find me a wide receiver with a better profile than Jones available in the third round next April and I will be screaming for my Philadelphia Eagles to draft that player.  As is, I’d be thrilled to see Jones wearing a midnight green jersey catching passes in Chip Kelly’s offense after being selected in the third round next fall.

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  1. Stats and tidbits I did not know.

    BK could become first coach since Devine to win his first 4 senior day games.
    ND has only lost 3 fumbles this season, tied for 5th best in the country.
    ND ranks T4 in the nation for fewest sacks allowed.
    1 more win and BK becomes first ND coach ever to win at least 8 games in each of his first four seasons.
    ND has defeated 3 teams currently in the Top 25. No team in the nation has more.

    **** I did not include the negative stats, of which I’m sure there are plenty.

    1. RB,

      The “tied for 4th for the fewest sacks allowed” is the most amazing stat.

      The possible 8 wins also deserves recognition seeing as how Kelly has only had 1 true duel threat QB to run his desired offense, and that was for just the one year.

      Good stuff!

  2. Agreed, Jack. This team is flawed. All teams have flaws, even Bama. But some teams are less flawed than others and know how to overcome their flaws and win nonetheless. Bottom line, Jack, since you seem to be a bottom line guy, is that ND hasn’t won a damned thing in over 20 years. Could have, should have, would have notwithstanding. I guess we should all throw ND a ticker tape parade for being 7-3.

    1. I hear you brother! We have really nothing to be proud of on the football field. Last year was good but we failed miserably at the end. Even a BCS bowl win would be nice but for 20 years we’ve been mediocre.

      Keep it up SFR, I’m with you 100%. Sorry if some people just don’t demand excellence.

      Notre Dame should always demand excellence. In the classroom and on the field. It’s just who we are!

      1. Thanks, Ron. I try but mediocrity seems to have become the norm for younger ND fans. They’re so excited by stats and playing at what if this or what if that. I guess I can’t really blame them. Crap is all they’ve known. Davie, Willingham, Weis. My God! What a bunch of losers! You see, Ron, I’m old enough to remember the end of Ara’s era. I recall Devine’s fine squads. Then things started going south with the hire of Faust. Lou momentarily righted the ship. But the Faust-like mediocrity returned with Davie and Co.

        ND used to be about winning NCs and Heismans. Today we have people on here talking proudly about moral victories. Are you kidding me?! F-ing moral victories at ND! Since when did the Irish become Northwestern or the service academies? I never thought I’d live to see the day that moral victories and ND would be uttered in the same breath. Moral victories was what other teams clung to after the Irish beat them by only a couple of TDs!

        Ron, this is what happens when people just become used to losing. They make excuses for it. Even the best loser is still nothing but a loser.

  3. He may be a little crazy but as far as TJ going undrafted…that’s not going to happen. He has talent and a team that needs a sure-handed, fast receiver will undoubtedly pick him. Will he be a first rounder, of course not but second possibly. He is too productive to not draft. Go Irish!

    1. HOLY MOLY BATMAN! This guy is huge and he used to be an OL player. Get him in the weight room and see what can developed, especially as a continued RB. Go Tony

      1. Hahaha! Stores, I say that is Mr. Picard! Yes sir we need him, reminds me of Frig!
        Hope those new helmets come soon, we are going to need them! No one will allow him to play RB in college, right??

      2. Wait till Diaco gets him in the weight room. Should be weighing in at about 520lbs by his junior year. Future looks bright.

      3. Jeff,

        Just think, we could call him ND-Dozier! Think of all the fine art photograpy this kid could collect on royalties! Picture 5 guys being dragged into the end zone! What a photographic adventure every time this guy touches the football!

  4. It appears Firefox will protect my computer from blue screening while on the site. Yes – I was able to repeat a blue screening issue linked to this site. Hopefully Frankie V. fixed it.

    Now to some painful thoughts. The ND players play their hearts out. At least to the best of their knowledge and experience. I am not sure if the coaches are getting the best out of the players, which is to develop the players and teach them to be better than they thought they could be. So when I get frustrated with the team performance, it is a frustration with how the coaches and players relate. Something isn’t working as well as it should.

    This has lead to the inconsistency, turnovers at critical times, game plans that sometimes seem ill conceived, and mostly a lack of trust by the coaches toward the potential of the players.

    The inconsistency has led to losses which could have been avoided. Someone said Michigan owned us. Michigan doesn’t own us. It’s our own doing. Michigan doesn’t own anyone. They are too busy thinking they are national champs. University of Legends in Their Own Mind. Oklahoma was gifted 14 points in a truly bizarre sequence. And Pitt was a total let down.

    Let’s assess a few painful realities. ND is not in the top 25, while MSU, ASU, and USC are, teams we beat. ND doesn’t even make the top 30 in the coaches poll. Look at some other teams ahead of the Irish.

    Michigan had had negative rushing yards in two games. They took 3 OTs to beat Northwestern, a team that is 0-6 in conference. They almost got beat by Akron and UCONN, teams that have been throttled by almost everyone else, including some truly weak opponents.

    Oklahoma was beat soundly by Baylor, and the Texas game wasn’t close either Oklahoma has one quality win.

    Pitt just lost to UNC. Pitt is 5-5. Not a power at all.

    Purdue – a win, but close. Really??? Purdue is 1-9…REALLY????

    And Navy, while I respect the team and the institution, are we back to worrying about Navy?

    Some don’t want a history lesson, but it’s clear. At no time when the Notre Dame program has been healthy have the Irish had to deal with these sorts of issues. In the good years, maybe one of these would pop up but not even two and certainly not six.

    As long as we are debating these issues, making excuses, or sniping at each other over causes and remedies, then the Irish haven’t gotten back to where they once were. We who are older witnessed the great years first hand. But we are getting older and fewer.

    1. I couldn’t agree more that Michigan is pitiful, but unfortunately that doesn’t prove they don’t own us. Even when Michigan turned the ball over SIX TIMES last year, ND was still fortunate to win. This year’s game was never close. Devin Gardner has not been able to stroll around the corner against ANY other defense as easily as he did vs ND. If you want to blame coaching, fine. I’m just sick of making excuses.

      The amazing thing about the ND defense this year is the extremely wide spectrum of talent (or lack thereof). For every Tuitt there is a Dan Fox. For every Nix there is a Farley. For every Shembo there is a Bennett Jackson. For every Jaylon Smith there is a Carlo. It’s really quite uncanny.

      1. I get confused about the “pitiful” characterization.

        Where would YOU, George, rank Michigan among all college football teams. A number only, please.

        I’m further intrigued as to where, NUMERICALLY, you would rank Michigan State, Pitt, ASU, Stanford and SC.

        Thank you.

      2. I’m not going to assign a number. That’s a ridiculous request. I’ll say that Mich is 11 points better than an ND team that lost to Pitt and easily could have lost to Navy. If Mich played UConn again, I would expect another close game. There are 4 teams with a record worse than Michigan’s in the lowly Big Ten. IL and NW haven’t won conference games in years. The other two are Indiana (who put up 47 vs them) and Purdue. You can read between the lines there. How about that?

      3. ND could very easily be 2-8 right now. This team plays bad enough to lose every week. Depressing. Seems like the best players on this team the last three years are Weiss’ recruits. Teo, Kappy, and motta all Weiss’ guys left a huge void in the defense. Even when we win were left shaking our heads thinking WTF was that.

      4. Could of, would of, should of! Enough with this ND could be 10-0 or ND could have been 2-8, they are what they are. They are a flaud team and on any given day they can lose as well as win. They are in every game the play. Could they beat Alabama, no, but 98% of the country can’t. You are witnessing history right now with this Alabama team. It centers around their great QB. So, lets get off of the rank teams ND has played and all of that other BS. If they beat them the beat them, if they lost they lost. Get over it.

        This team plays as well as Tommy plays. If Tommy has a bad game ND has a bad game. It’s just the way it is.

    2. Very thought provoking post you old C-Dog, haha. In all seriousness, I think you make some valid observations. Something is just not clicking as well as it should. I still think there is some resentment by current players about BK investigating a NFL move during preparation of a very important game last January instead of focusing totally on that game. I speculate also that he did not give a very good accounting behind his reasons either. Hey, for some, CHATACTER matters, and definitely BK’s looking into the NFL at the same time the team was preparing for a NC game is ALL ABOUT CHARACTER. What do I know, I am just a fan posting on a blog side.

      Play like a champion

      1. Storespook , you may be right. For me I. Am not looking for an answer as to the cause. I feel like it is just an Irish lament. It might be how our ancestors felt when half of their countrymen left Ireland or died. You feel like something amazing could be lost forever.
        I hope I am wrong. But all the marketing hype by the university around something so long ago now, has me wondering if they care about the reality if the fantasy is so profitable.

      2. I hope you’re wrong, too. Other than 3 horrific plays vs. Pitt ( Day’s brain-fart, Farley’s missed tackle, and Jackson’s questionable INT in the end zone) on D negated us forcing 9 punts, something our D hasn’t forced all year, despite it’s depleted lineup vs. Pitt. That’s 21 points right there

        Two critical INTs vs. Pitt turned 14 points against us. Do the math.

        What discourages me is the inability to scheme some pressure against a team that couldn’t protect their QB all year (including 7 sacks yielded against No. Caro. last week!), and not much pressure any other saturday, either.
        Why can’t we pressure QBs?
        Why can’t we run the ball?
        We don’t solve that, and we lose our next two for sure, and more to come next season.

      3. Michael,

        Sh sh sh! Don’t let BYU know our coaching staff has a severe case of ostrich like mentality! Maybe we can just sneak up on them! OK?!

    3. C’mon C-Dog! Old? They say I’m the new 40! Hahaha! Like I tell my son: The older you become, the smarter I become! Same thing with football, if it looks like the Titanic it is the TITANIC!

      If we finish 10-3 maybe we won’t hit the iceberg. If we finish 8-5 or less, Mr. supernumerary duranko will have some explaining to do! Especially, when we put him incharge of the poop deck! Indubitably though, I’ll bet he can rearrange the chairs on the Titanic as good as Obama! No worries whatsoever!

      Team PASSION definitely died vs Pitt! Albeit, like our new messiah says triumphantly: “WE ARE WHO WE ARE!” An ineffable return to glory right? Hahaha! Sounds more like BK’s personal brand of dementia! Only the positive test of time will tell.

      GooooooooIrish! Smash BYU!

    4. @CDog:
      Alot of good points made by you.

      I am on record for all to see by saying that I believe we will lose to BYU and Stanford.

      I believe the BYU game will be close, but BYU’s desire to win this game will far outweigh ND’s desire. Given Kelly’s penchant for never meeting a a passing opportunity he didn’t like and that constant, pesky, total lack of leadership, I think BYU will pull out the win.

      And I think Stanford will win by 17 or more points.

      Call me a defeatist if you want, but I’m not coming from a place of pessimism. Of course I hope I am DEAD WRONG. And I’ll certainly admit my failed calls if I am wrong.

      I just haven’t seen any sign that Kelly/Martin/Diaco are learning important lessons week to week or a leader(s) emerging.

  5. Stores,

    We devolved, not evolved. BK was supposed to be the O genius. We were supposed to look like Oregon. He has a few years to get us there. Let’s see.

  6. I’d be surprised if TJ does not get taken by someone for Sunday play. So we have BYU and Stanford left for the schedule. 50-50 to beat BYU. Stanford at Palo Alto, I am not optimistic we will be any type of juggernaut. I think we wii get some low level bowl at the end of the season. Good to have an extra game and probably important to win it. However, not much of a “woo hoo” factor for me. Then watching a perennial doormat for many years now look like an offensive monster (I am referring to Baylor) just makes me shake my head about how we have evolved in the last 15+ years and it just sucks.

    Go Irish

  7. No, not really. Michigan OWNS us (this years game wasn’t even close and Mich is terrible), and NOBODY was surprised we struggled with Pitt, and only slightly fewer were surprised we actually lost. What’s that tell you? Just be happy I’m not talking about the Navy game

  8. Just a flat out inconsistent season. 3 quality wins versus Mich St, ASU and USC. 2 dreadful losses versus Pitt and Michigan. I watched some of that Mich game yesterday, how they scored 40 on us I’ll never know.

    Bye week observations:
    Bama’s D is filthy, Baylor’s O is sick but I think FSU has the best combined team in the country. Bama would probably still beat them because well they are Bama.

    Bottom line, you need a good QB to compete. They overcome and hide a lot of deficiencies on a team.

    Good luck seniors this week.

    1. All that was necessary was a few more Rees to TJ Jones deep ball passes two or three additional times with 8 plus minutes to go in the 4rth quarter and IMHO ND prevails.

    1. That hurts us. Although at this point it’s just about winning out. ND should take a lesson from the Trojans. Play every game like it’s the big one.

      1. C-Dog,

        Orgeron definitely had USC emotionally pumped. Cody Kessler had a pretty good game. A 47 yard USC field goal sealed the deal. However, USC’s depth is still questionable! Howbeit, their talent is excellent when healthy. Sound familiar? Further, I don’t think Orgeron has sealed an automatic offer with the win to take over the reigns at USC. A great emotional win for Orgeron, however, it does not erase a problematic 72% losing record at Ole Miss . On your point, YES, ND needs a super injection of passion to close 10-3! We must save the recruiting process moving forward.


      2. Stanford now must make their case to secure a worthy bowl; we play Stanford
        on “their” Senior day! It will likely get ugly. ND must sell out against the run,
        because Stanford will definitely run the ball. And minus Grace, Councell,
        and probably without Ishaq and Kona, with a gimpy Day, and Nix, don’t let your pets
        or any children under 12 watch that one;
        it will cause nightmares.

        Stanford punishes teams that can’t (and can, see:Oregon) run the ball.
        $C had 8 yards total rushing into the third quarter, and was able to finally
        get some yards rushing because of the threats of Lee and Aghlor.
        Stanford stunts and blitzes when they find an immobile QB.

        Poor TR. As if the blogs haven’t blasted him enough already;
        no public media for Tommy over the holidays.

        Had the staff developed a change of pace option at QB . . .
        excuse my playing “what if” so late in the year. Mi dispiace.

      3. Hahaha! Now now Michael you digress on the close! Damn I agree though, but gee whiz, we don’t dare spend the sacrireligious RED SHIRT do we? I wonder who the unexpendable RED SHIRT guy will play for next year?? Whoops my bad, all the tin hat data jocks here are not remotely worried about any QB problems next year, WHATSOEVER! Our practice QB’s will be fully developed with ZERO! Hahaha! Kinda like signing up for Obamacare, painless!

    2. Just shows what they have access to talent wise. With the right coach, they will compete with and beat anyone pretty fast.

  9. I just saw a Bama player basically decapitate a Miss. St. player. NO penalty much less ejection. This hit made the Tuitt play look like tag football. This is BS!

    1. I saw that hit and agree with you. He was a defensless ball carrier. I think it was on a punt.

      That’s the difference between SEC officials and the shitty ACC officials. ACC officials are the worst in the country.

  10. On a lighter note, good to see the Tar Heels could somehow manage to do that which we could not against the mighty Panthers.

    1. Lock pick of the week. I read Pitt celebrated last week as if they won the Super Bowl! Back to the mediocrity they truly are this week against NC.

      “North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer returned two punts for touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 4:46 remaining as the Tar Heels held off Pittsburgh 34-27 on Saturday.”

      “North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams ran for two touchdowns to overcome a shaky day passing and the Tar Heels sacked Pitt’s Tom Savage seven times.”

      NC also had two fumbles lost, but they too forced two fumbles, and sacked Pitt QB 7 TIMES !

      Ah! Pressuring their QB, mobility from your QB, and big special teams’ plays can overcome even two TOs!

      1. fxm,

        About half of those came in one game, against ASU. He’s been one of the many disappointments on D this season. I guess Ishaq Williams will never live up to his recruiting hype. We need some big time D recruits to make up for the ones we’ve lost.

      2. I wasn’t clear, the 7 sacks is what the Tar heels did to Pitt. I don’t think Shembo has more than 3. Seems like lately we have been offering some guys with Bowling Green as the comp for their services.

      1. My system has crashed 5 straight times trying to get on here. I can’t believe C-Dog and I are the only ones having this problem. This is a pain.

  11. There is still so much time left before the draft. So much scouting has yet to be done. There is still the Senior Bowl, Combine, pro-day and all the countless team interviews. GMs draft boards are constantly changing; players move up, players move down.

    What Jones brings to the table what you don’t see many WRs have coming out is his route running ability. He’s so smooth coming out of his breaks, and doesn’t lose any acceleration. Even if he runs 4.5, which I think he will, which is still respectable, the fact that he can seperate cleanly from most DBs he’s lined up across on film, will make him a respected and appreciated prospect come draft time.

    IMO, I am in agreement with Frank on this one, I project him to go in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He looks like another Mario Manningham, who was a solid No.2 with the New York Giants before his knee injuries.

  12. I’m sure the Vikings will eventually grab him. And it does not help that TJ plays on a team that is worse than Pitt and Michigan

    1. Surely you mean the game plan? Play scheme(s)? Or to the student athletic talent pool which I consider of a high quality standard personally.

      1. No, not really. Michigan OWNS us (this years game wasn’t even close and Mich is terrible), and NOBODY was surprised we struggled with Pitt, and only slightly fewer were surprised we actually lost. What’s that tell you? Just be happy I’m not talking about the Navy game

  13. Mel kipper is on tv because of his hair and a weird looking mouth, not because he is a fountain of knowledge.

    1. The fact that he knows who the left tackle at Hofstra is and how many times he can bench 225, what his 40 time is and what he likes to snack on after practice is why he is on tv. Who knows where TJ gets drafted, he’s had a heck of a year, but Kiper gets most of his intel from GM’s so it must be close to accurate.

    2. Mel Kipper… This is the same guy who insisted that in the 2012 NFL draft that WR Justin Blackwell was the better first round choice than ND’s Micheal Floyd.

  14. TJ Jones is a bona-fide NFL prospect.

    As for going in the third round, a guy named Montana went that round, too, and how’d that work out for SF?

  15. Absolutely, the guy is definitely crazy! Anyone who can survive the all time great ‘BK purple face attack’ deserves to be a 1st rounder!

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