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4th Round - Charlie Jones - WR

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BACKGROUND: Charlie Jones, who is one of six children, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and played multiple sports throughout his childhood, primarily baseball and football. He attended Deerfield High School, where he was a three-year varsity starter. Primarily an offensive player, Jones moved to defensive back as a sophomore to get on the field. As a junior, he was a three-way starter at wide receiver, cornerback and return man and earned All-Conference honors. In Deerfield’s triple-option offense, Jones didn’t see a high volume of targets, but he averaged 21 yards per catch in 2015 and scored 12 touchdowns four different ways (four rushing, three receiving, three interception returns, two kick returns). As a senior, he again earned All-Conference honors and was named the 2016 team MVP despite missing time due to injuries. A two-star recruit, Jones was the No. 442 wide receiver in the 2017 recruiting class and the No. 86 recruit in Illinois. He grew up with dreams of playing at Notre Dame but had a tough time getting noticed by bigger schools despite attending numerous football camps. His first offer was from Wyoming followed by North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green and several other MAC schools. Jones ultimately committed to Buffalo, where he redshirted in 2017 and played a reserve role in 2018 (he played with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver KJ Osborn there). Hoping to play closer to home, Jones entered the transfer portal and transferred to Iowa as a walk-on. After sitting out the 2019 season, Jones became the Hawkeyes’ punt returner in 2020 and was put on scholarship. He was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Year in 2021 but finished fifth on the team in receptions. Looking for a bigger role on offense for his sixth and final college season, Jones entered the transfer portal again in May 2022 and quickly signed with Purdue, reuniting with childhood friend Aidan O’Connell (Jones and O’Connell played on the same baseball and football youth-level teams). His older brother (Matt Jr.) was diagnosed with cancer when he was in high school. Jones opted out of the 2022 bowl game and accepted his invitation to the 2023 Senior Bowl.


STRENGTHS: Explosive driving off the line with the “see-ya” speed to stretch the field vertically … sharp route runner, and stems defensive backs with one-step quickness … shows a second-gear to climb over coverage when tracking downfield (four catches of 50-plus yards in 2022) … strong hands and comfortably secures throws away from his body (only three drops on 154 targets in 2022) … finds voids in the defense and sits down … innately motivated and bet on himself multiple times until he found the right fit with Purdue … puts his head down and works, and that preparation shows on game day … extensive return experience in his career: averaged 8.1 yards per punt return (77/620/1) with a 54-yard return touchdown; averaged 21.3 yards per kick return (47/1,002/1) with a 100-yard return touchdown … one of only two FBS receivers in 2022 to rank top five in the country in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.


WEAKNESSES: Light, slight frame with questionable play strength … can get bumped off balance in press and at the top of routes … eyes and body lean will give indicators to coverage when working on the outside … needs to better square his numbers to protect the catch point … inconsistent finishing skills through hightrafficked areas … shows tightness through hips and won’t consistently shake single tacklers in space … limited YAC skills because of his inability to break tackles won’t threaten NFL defenses … medical reports will be important because of past injuries with his hip; underwent shoulder surgery to repair a tear after the 2018 season.


SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Purdue, Jones joined the Boilermakers in June 2022 and immediately became the top target in former head coach Jeff Brohm’s spread scheme, lining up primarily on the outside. After years of attempting to break through on offense, Jones announced himself as a legitimate NFL prospect in his final season, leading the FBS in receptions (110) and setting a Purdue record for single-season receiving yards (1,361). With his one-step acceleration, Jones quickly eats cushion and shows supreme confidence in his focus and hands. Though he flashes a vertical burst, he isn’t a tackle breaker and lacks elusive qualities before and after the catch. Overall, Jones doesn’t have the twitch or play strength to easily uncover outside the numbers, but his crafty speed and ball skills will help find him a role in the NFL. He also has the skills to readily factor in the return game.

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Hobs' notes on Jones pick:



FOURTH ROUND: Purdue WR/Returner Charlie Jones: One might look at Jones' three stops and wonder. Buffalo, Iowa. West Lafayette. Area scout Christian Sarkisian looked and came away impressed, believing it shows they're getting a guy with that ever-elusive right stuff.

"He left Buffalo, bet on himself and went to Iowa as a walk-on and won a scholarship," Sarkisian says. "At Iowa, that offense is not a very friendly offense for wide receivers and he bet on himself again when he hooked up with his childhood friend."

That would be Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell and both benefitted by the move. On Saturday, after the Bengals took Jones, the nation's leading receiver with 110 catches, O'Connell went two picks later to the Raiders.

"They were roommates and in their free time they put a big white board in the family room and went through the playbook drawing up plays and talking about different route concepts and finding out exactly what the quarterback wanted and what the receiver expected," Sarkisian says. "Then Charlie Jones triples his career production by week three at Purdue."

Sarkisian saw Jones early in the season, when Purdue hosted Penn State on a Thursday night. He and Potts went to that game and then Sarkisian took off for a Friday night game in Champaign, Ill. So on back-to-back nights he ended up scouting the Bengals' fourth- and fifth-round picks.

"At both places (Iowa and Purdue) they loved the person," Sarkisian says of Jones. "A unique athlete with excellent speed, great hands. Go back and look at his return numbers from Iowa (a kick return TD and a punt return TD and the 2021 Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Year) because they didn't use him a lot there at Purdue. But put on his special teams tape at Iowa you see a guy that can be a starting NFL returner."



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