We are on the cusp of the 2020 NFL Draft, and this will be an unusual year to say the least. Regardless of the manner of the draft, we are still expecting a handful of former Notre Dame Fighting Irish players to be drafted — and another handful to become UDFAs.
We’re going to take a quick look at both handfuls over the next whatever hours, as we get ready for the big weekend ahead.
Tony Jones Jr. — RUNNING BACK
Jones arrived to Notre Dame as a 4-Star running back from Florida and was handed a red-shirt for his freshmen year. With Josh Adams, Tarean Folston, and Dexter Williams on the depth chart, Jones’s services weren’t required and an extra year of eligibility was put on the table.
As a sophomore Jones was able to get in on the rotation and got some meaningful carries and 3 touchdowns. As junior he split time with both Jafar Armstrong and Dexter Williams but was still very productive when given the chance, and his iconic 51 yard touchdown catch and run against the USC Trojans to lock up a 12-0 regular season will never be forgotten. As a senior, Tony finally became more of the main back after a an early injury to Armstrong. Jones had a solid 2019 with 857 yards and 6 touchdowns. Jones was truly a Trojan killer, and in his last game against Southern Cal he racked up 176 yards on 25 carries.
How does he fit in the NFL?
Unless you’re a guy like Saquon Barkley, it’s hard to have a firm grip on an NFL future. It’s why the running back position has turned into less of a coin flip and more of a tea leaf reading session. Jones may not be a feature back, but then again... those are becoming fewer and fewer. Tony is excellent in pass blocking, and does a fine job catching the ball as well. His biggest strength is his north/south running ability, and he gains quite a bit of yards after contact. He puts in the dirty work, so special teams and as a situational runner seem to be in the cards — or tea leafs — for Jones.
Where will he go?
Jones’s chances of being drafted are quite slim. His combine invite was an opportunity to impress the NFL scouts, but it didn’t do much to help his cause. Tony will be an UDFA, but at least in those cases he will be able to help put himself on a team with a better chance of personal success.
I freaking love Tony. I was seriously bummed when he chose to skip his final year at Notre Dame, but I understand what he’s trying to do — and he has his degree. I have a gut feeling that Tony catches on somewhere and whatever happens after that is all gravy baby.