With the 71st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected Velus Jones Jr, WR, Tennessee. This pick surprised many, including me. After diving into what exactly Jones does on the grass, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. First, let’s rewind and recall what Matt Eberflus had to say about the type of receiver he valued. Eberflus stated at the scouting combine, “You want explosive athletes there that can produce chunk plays.” He also added, “So if you throw a screen, you want a guy that can take it and go for 15 or all the way.” Sure, does sound like Velus, doesn’t it? Now let’s take a look at what makes Velus so special.
This is what makes Velus so great! His ability to take a negative play and turn it into a positive gain is truly special. In 2021, Jones averaged 8.32 yards after the catch. Now, in comparison, the next closest wide receiver from this class would be Erik Ezukanma from Texas Tech at 7.79 yards after the catch. For instance, take that 8.32 and compare it to the rest of the NFL last year, and Velus would rank 3rd in the league. Now, why does all this matter? Well, the Chicago Bears last season ranked 31st in yards after the catch with 1609 total yards.
In addition to his great abilities after the catch, Velus was sensational when it came to separating. He ran a fairly simple route tree at Tennessee but consistently showed the ability to get open. Per Football Focus, Velus was in the 99th percentile in separation percentage. Adding him to a revamped group that already includes guys like Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle will make Justin Fields’ life easier. When Velus got his shot to show his abilities at the senior bowl, he showed out. The executive director of the Senior Bowl, Jim Nagy, came away very impressed with his route-running ability.
Using his speed and creating after contact
First-time play-caller Luke Getsy had to have been jumping out of his seat when he turned out the tape and saw the athletic specimen Velus was. Last season, Velus was 3rd in the SEC in yards after contact with 286 yards. Now, add in that he runs a 4.3 40-yard dash. dangerous. I fully expect him to be used a ton in the screen game, and also in mesh concepts to get him in open space. His ability to create should only open up more downfield opportunities for guys like Mooney and Pringle.
Once this kid steps onto the field for his first preseason game this August, I truly believe he will instantly become a fan favorite. However, do not expect his volume this season to be huge due to the fact that the Bears are going to pound the rock. However, he should see 40-60 targets and produce as a solid wide receiver three for Justin Fields in his crucial second season.