Photo via Ivan Pierre Aguirre, USA Today Images
With the usual depth of running backs entering the draft, Aaron Jones is pegged as a third to fifth round selection. However, there are murmurs in the sports community that his name may be called higher – an accomplished UTEP runner whose stock could ascend with an impressive combine showing.
Let’s dig deeper into the all-time leading Miners rusher:
Aaron Jones played three years of varsity at Burges high school where he totaled 1,800 yards of offense for 30 touchdowns his senior season, leading his team to a 10-3 record and a playoff victory.
After receiving a medical redshirt in his junior campaign with UTEP in 2015, Jones overcame a torn ligament in his ankle and set the single-season program record by compiling 1,773 yards on 229 carries and 17 touchdowns (third most in UTEP history). The large numbers accounted for 47% of the Miners total offense — a larger sum than the 38% tallied by highly regarded FSU back Dalvin Cook.
The all-time leading Miners rusher (4,114 yards) ranks seventh on the Conference USA all-time rushing list and has tallied nearly twenty awards since his high school playing days.
At 5’10” and 215 pounds, Jones possesses the ability to break tackles for extra yardage, and is fast after posting similar impressive stats on the Burges high school track team, winning a state title in the 1600 meter relay.
The UTEP standouts is excellent at threading the seem in the defense; his jump cuts and bursts of speed show agile footwork that could translate well into the professional level. Ball security is the backs’ underrated quality; the way that he grips the pigskin tightly and securely has produced zero turnovers in three years. The Miners running back was a freshman the last time he lost the ball, choking it up twice in his first season. Anytime he tallied over 1,300 yards and found a flow to the offense, Jones has never lost the ball.
Around his sophomore campaign, Jones packed on 10 pounds of muscle, investing in a nasty stiff arm that plopped defenders on their behinds — a vicious assist on running in between tackles.
Additionally, Jones has the ability to be an excellent three-down back, totaling 71 receptions and 646 receiving yards. He is reliable with running perfect routes and shielding defenders off the ball.
Injury and personality issues will always derail NFL aspiration. The ankle tear and a drunk driving arrest last summer bumped his value down a couple of rounds — twin red flags that no scout wants to deal with.
Jones history with previous physical ailments may limit the longevity of his playing career. Already, unblemished backs total less than three years lifespan in the NFL; an additional rib injury may warn off teams in the earlier rounds.
Jones does run higher than is advisable, exposing his body to more physical punishment — an unnecessary risk considering his injured past.
Considering the amount of running backs in the draft, Jones is currently ranked in the 20s. The speed he will exhibit in the combine should increase his value, but a third round selection is not out of the realm of possibility.
In a recent interview with Texas HS Football, Jones had this to say about his draft prospects:
“I want teams to know how hard I work and how dedicated I am, but I also want to show them how humble I am.”
“They’ve told me I could go anywhere from the third to fifth round. That’s what I’ve been told so far but once I get to the combine, I feel like that can really help me out as well.”
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