The Chicago Bears selected Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Jones enjoyed a career-best 62 catches for 807 yards and seven touchdowns for the Volunteers last season and will bring a good combination of size and speed to the Bears’ receiving corps.
Jones measured 6-foot, 204 pounds, and blazed a 4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. To put Jones’ speed in perspective, he outweighs wide receiver Darnell Mooney by nearly 30 pounds and clocked a faster 40-time.
The Bears entered the 2022 NFL draft with wide receiver ranked high on their list of needs, but General Manager Ryan Poles decided to focus on the secondary with his first two choices. Cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker will become instant starters in the defensive backfield, and now Jones enters a wide receiver rotation that includes Mooney, Byron Pringle, David Moore, and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote of Jones ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft:
“Special-teams specialist with good size. Despite spending six seasons in college between his time at USC and Tennessee, Jones has very modest production as a wideout, but flashed potential in that area in 2021. He’s fearless with the ball in his hands after the catch and as a kick returner. He’s not a very fundamentally sound route-runner but might not need to be if teams view him as a catch-and-run specialist in the quick game underneath. Jones has a chance to ride his special teams versatility into a specialist spot on a roster.”
Despite Jones’ obvious explosive traits, this selection is a bit of a reach. Jones ranked No. 195 on Pro Football Focus’ NFL draft rankings, and The Draft Network had him 134th. Poles chose Jones with the 71st pick.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, and for Poles and his scouting department, Jones is the kind of weapon the Bears offense needed.
Jones’ value on special teams and rare straight-line speed make him a good selection that warrants a C+ grade. His final mark is hurt because Poles had a chance to select players like Georgia’s George Pickens and Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce in the second round. That decision, and the slight reach on Jones in round three, is a tough combination to overcome.