Prospect to Watch: Zay Jones

This is likely the first of several articles that I’m going to write about my second favorite prospect in this draft, Isaiah (Zay) Jones.

Zay Jones enters the 2017 NFL Drafts as one of the most productive WRs in all of college football, and until the last few weeks, most non-hardcore college followers hadn’t even heard his name. If his athleticism proves to match his production, he appears to be one of the best under the radar picks in this year’s rookie draft. 


Kevin Cole showed us that for WR prospects, production matters most. Using the Wide Receiver Market Share Database, we can see Jones was a standout. Jones finished his final season second in the nation in MS receiving yards with 43 percent as well as first in the nation in receptions and receiving yards. His eight TDs also accounted for 31 percent of his team’s total passing TDs, giving him a dominator rating of 0.37.

WR Regression Tree

Jones’ career MS Receiving yards is 26 percent which places him on the left side of the tree, but the rest of his production metrics place him in the cohort that historically had at least one top-24 PPR season in their first three years in the NFL 32 percent of the time. Jones’ propensity for consistently catching passes knocked him from the 50 percent cohort down to the 32 percent cohort because the model prefers field stretching WRs. At just 11.1 yards per reception, Jones doesn’t project as a field stretching WR prospect, but his overall production points to a prospect that will translate to the NFL in some role. And while 11.1 YPR may appear to be undesirable for a fantasy WR, five players finished within the top 24 WRs during 2016 with a YPR under 12.

Prospect Comparables

From a pure usage standpoint, Zay Jones has no obvious comparable. His 158 receptions during his senior year ranks as the most ever by a player during a single season and is 16 percent more than any other receiver during the 2016 season. While looking for an efficiency comparable, I limited my comparison to receivers from 2000 through 2016 with over 90 receptions for that season and similar yards per reception (between 11 and 12 YPR).

PlayerYearSchoolGamesReceptionsReceiving YdsYards Per ReceptionsReceiving TDs
Isaiah Jones2016East Carolina12158174611.18
Freddie Barnes2009Bowling Green State13155177011.419
Nate Burleson2002Nevada12138162911.812
Tavon Austin2012West Virginia13114128911.312
Justin Hardy2013East Carolina13114128411.38
Casey Fitzgerald2007North Texas12111132211.912
Tajae Sharpe2015Massachusetts12111131911.95
Robert Woods2011Southern California12111129211.615
Danny Amendola2007Texas Tech13109124511.46
Davone Bess2007Hawaii13108126611.712
Tommy Shuler2013Marshall14106116511.010
Nelson Spruce2014Colorado12106119811.312
James Cleveland2009Houston12104121411.714
Gabe Marks2015Washington State13104119211.515
Lance Moore2003Toledo12103119411.69
Tavon Austin2011West Virginia13101118611.78
Dwayne Harris2010East Carolina13101112311.110
Michael Floyd2011Notre Dame13100114711.59
Noel Thomas2016Connecticut12100117911.83
Cole Magner2003Bowling Green State1499113811.510
Eric Page2010Toledo1399110511.28
Linell Bonner2016Houston1298111811.43
Isaiah Jones2015East Carolina1298109911.25
Wes Welker2003Texas Tech1397109911.39
Kamar Jorden2010Bowling Green State1296110911.64
Ryan Switzer2016North Carolina1396111211.66
Gehrig Dieter2015Bowling Green State1494103311.010
Armand Robinson2010Miami (OH)1494106211.36
T.J. Moe2010Missouri1392104511.46
Darrin Moore2012Texas Tech1292103211.213
Tyron Carrier2009Houston1491102911.37
Juan Nunez2010Western Michigan1291103211.310
James Rodgers2009Oregon State1391103411.49
Chase Coffman2008Missouri129098711.010

Jones’ most successful efficiency comparisons appear to be Lance Moore, Davone BessWes Welker, Tavon Austin, Danny Amendola, and Michael Floyd. That group of receivers accounts for ten top 24 finishes with Welker accounting for seven. From a physical and projected athleticism comparison, Jones appears to be a shorter Michael Floyd. Floyd has largely been considered an annual disappointment, but his 2013 season resulted in a WR25 finish.


Entering the combine, Jones has cemented his status as my favorite non-first round rookie pick in 2017. After receiving high praise for his efforts during Senior Bowl Week, it appears that NFL scouts may be taking notice as well. Some early draft analysts have projected Jones as a second round pick. If an NFL team sees Jones as a second round value, he may be poised for early success. And if you’re a believer in the college production regression tree (you should be), Jones’ success points to a historic 32 percent chance for fantasy success. If Jones flies under the radar in your rookie draft and is available in late round two, he could be a nice steal.

Matt Wispe

Learned how to write letters in 1992. Learned how to coherently write in 2016.
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