NFL Draft 2022 Scouting Report: CB Marcus Jones, Houston

*CB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, Wonderlic test results leaked, etc. We will update info as it becomes available. 


It’s getting pretty late in the pre-Draft scouting process by now. I’ve done scouting previews on 300+ prospects, watched prospects at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine, and I’ve studied about 75-100 prospects in a deeper fashion, and there’s still a summer to go of research and scouting – but of all the prospects I’ve looked at so far, I think Marcus Jones might be my favorite. Not THE BEST prospect, although I do think he is 1st-round worthy -- but I’m saying my ‘favorite’. The guy that if I were a GM…I’m not leaving the draft without this player.

My best description of him today is a phrase I used the first time I previewed his tape/data: ‘Imagine Tyreek Hill playing cornerback’. I think Tyreek Hill is a football deity…one of the rare few players/talents who has skills above most all/all in existence or history.

I’m going to offer up a Marcus Jones highlight tape/video to watch, because words are not always the best way to communicate such things. After you watch this, we’ll discuss his prospect case and future, etc. But please take note of Jones’s obvious return ability (9 special teams/return TDs in his career and an INT return TD…a 100-yard INT return) but more so check out his true corner ability (including gifted hands for picking off passes), and his safety-like tackling ability. It’s hard to believe he’s only 5’8”/177 (which is hurting his draft rankings but shouldn’t).

Get a fresh beverage. Block out the outside world. Sit back, and enjoy:

  1. That’s your best scouting intro/primer to Marcus Jones. Now, let me share his origin story and then we’ll get into more specifics of what I see on tape…

A ‘too skinny’ speedster 3-star recruit out of high school, Jones went to Troy University and was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year/2017 – 3 kick return TDs (in 30 returns) and a 100-yard INT return TD as the starting corner his freshman year.

A very good, but less splashy 2018 sophomore season (just one KR TD) created a desire to transfer to a better, more visible situation…and Jones sat out the 2019 season (before you could just transfer wherever/whenever) to transfer to Houston.

In COVID 2020, he only got to play 7 games for his new school and led the conference in punt return average with one taken to the house. He had an OK/quiet first season with Houston, but then really popped in his 2021 campaign… playing a full schedule and winning the Paul Hornung Award for the nation’s top return man and being named a 1st-team All-American as a returner…two kick return TDs (in only 15 opportunities) + two punt return TDs. He also earned some 1st and 2nd-team all-conference accolades as a corner with five picks and 13 PDs in 13 games. He also worked some as a receiver (10 catches for 109 yards and a TD) and ran a couple sweeps (2 carries for 4 yards).


It's easy to look at Jones’s return game work and claim that he’s a nice NFL prospect because of his return skills, but I think many analysts are missing the boat on just how good a corner he is…even at 5’8”. He plays much bigger than he is. I’ll trademark a Mike Mayockian phrase…he’s bigger than he is tall. I watched Jones suppress a speedster WR his size range/style in Memphis’s Calvin Austin and I watched him totally bully 6’2”/4.3+ runner Alec Pierce, a top WR prospect for Cincinnati.

Jones can run with anyone…out-run anyone. Watch this play, but identify him right away…don’t lose track of Jones (#8) at the top of the screen and where he is and where he comes from to make this play:

Jones has like five or more of those types of end-to-end plays in his career. The speed…is real. But he deploys that speed beautifully in coverage, combined with a high-end agility…Jones will go wherever a WR wants to go and staying in lockstep or even ahead of them most pass plays.

Football people worry Jones is too small, too short a wingspan for a legit corner. I understand playing the measurements game in scouting analytics, but you also have to consider – you can have the longest-ass arms a cornerback could ever want, but if you're burned in coverage by 1-2 yards, you ain‘t reaching the pass with those arms unless it’s underthrown. Jones doesn’t need to have long arms if he is literally one step ahead of you or can make up a few steps faster than anyone in the draft. Jones is going to be an amazing slot corner who can play outside if you need him to.

Also, Jones has ‘A’ grade hands. An NFL team might just wanna work him at WR right away, along with corner…and see if maybe he’s just better at WR than he is at CB (and he has Pro Bowl CB skills). He fields punts like it’s nothing…some of the best, softest, most confident hands I’ve ever seen on a punt returner. Go rewatch his highlight reel tapes…some of his interceptions are breathtaking. Jones’ interception skills are a ‘plus’, a weapon…not just ‘right place, right time for a college QB’s underthrow to fall in his lap’.

Not only is Jones an ace in coverage, but he tackles/hits like a safety. He could be a free safety, if needed. He tackles better than 95% of the corners in this draft, and he’s smaller than 90%+ of the corners that will be drafted.

Let’s see… Jones could be a Pro Bowl corner or safety…or he might be a shock WR talent in the NFL…but at a minimum he’s an elite weapon in the return game. #6 all-time in the NCAA’s with six kick return TDs…one away from the single best all-time. Oh, and if you combine kick and punt return TDs, no one in D1 NCAA history has more return TDs (9) combined than Jones (since they tracked such things from the 70s).

Jones is the proverbial chip on his shoulder player…he’s working every snap. He was named team captain in 2021. He is an R&B musician, but it’s not what dominates his time…it’s his side hustle. If not for offseason shoulder surgery holding him out of pre-Draft testing, he might be one of the talks of the Combine or Pro Days, etc.

How he’s not in every draft ranking as a top 20-40 player is beyond me. There is NO ONE like him in this draft. There are a couple better corners…maybe 1-2-3 of them but Jones provides the added bonus of everything else he brings – he’s what the draft is all about. Finding difference makers…playmakers. 



Marcus Jones, Through the Lens of Our CB Scouting Algorithm:

 -- 2021 Special Teams All-American 1st-team. 2021 Paul Hornung Award.

 -- 2021 Led the American conference in INTs, Punt return TDs (#1 nationally) and PR average return (#5 nationally).

Was #2 in the conference in 2021 in KR TDs (#2 nationally), kick return avg. (#3 nationally), and #3 in passes defended (#8 nationally)

#2 all-time in punt return TDs (6).

#15 all-time in kick return average (28.4).

#24 all-time in punt return average (14.4).

 -- Four or more tackles in a game in 11 out his last 19 games…very nice for a corner they don’t throw at if they can help it.

 -- 13 PDs in his final nine college games.



2022 Measurables Estimates:

5’8”/177 at the Combine with 8.8” hands, 29” arms

4.30 40-time estimate, sub 1.50 10-yard

sub-6.75 three-cone estimate

40” vertical estimate



The Historical CB Prospects to Whom Marcus Jones Most Compares Within Our System:

Adoree’ Jackson was one of the top college return men of his time as well and was only 5’10”…but was the #17 overall pick in the draft (but Jones is two inches shorter than him).

Some combination of Tyreek Hill, Adoree’, PacMan Jones, and Avonte Maddox is how to try and even figure out comping Marcus Jones.


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Agility Metric

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*The ratings are based on a 1–10 rating scale, but a prospect can score over 10.0+ and less than 0.0

OVERALL RATING -- We merge the data from physical measurables, skill times/counts from the NFL Combine/Pro Days, with college performance data available on pass coverage/tackles, etc. and grade it compared to our database history of all college CBs, with a focus on which CBs went on to be good-great-elite in the NFL. We found characteristics/data points that the successful NFL CBs had in common in college, that most other CB prospects could not match/achieve.

Scoring with a rating over a 7.00+ in our system is where we start to take a CB prospect more seriously. Most of the future NFL successful college CBs scored 8.00+, and most of the NFL superior CBs pushed scores more in the 9.00+ levels...and future NFL busts will sneak in there from time to time. 10.00+ is where most of the elite NFL CBs tend to score in our system analysis.

COVERAGE -- A combination of on-field data/performance and physical profile data

SPEED -- Measurables from a perspective of straight-line speed, burst, etc.

AGILITY -- Measurables for lateral movements, quick cuts, body type, speed, etc. 

POWER -- A look at physical size, tackling productivity in college, other physical measurables. One of the side benefits/intentions here, is to see which CBs may be more of a model for a conversion to playing safety successfully in the NFL. Also denotes CBs who are more physical/will have higher tackle totals...over pure speed/coverage CBs.



2022 NFL Draft Outlook:

Because Jones couldn’t compete at the Senior Bowl or at the Combine/Pro Days, and because of his size…he’s forgotten and being ranked as a day three draft pick mostly. I bet he finds his way into the top 100…and probably into the 2nd-round because he’s just too good…and that’s still under-drafting him.

Refer to my first paragraph: If I’m an NFL GM, I am not leaving this draft without Marcus Jones. Period.


NFL Outlook:   

He’s going to be a difference maker, a possible trailblazer in the ways that he can be used…and a Pro Bowl level player at any of the positions the NFL would consider…return man, CB, SAF or WR.