The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had quite the haul during the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting eight players after general manager Jason Licht traded down twice – once in the first round and again in the second round. Now it’s time for PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds to review the 2018 Bucs draft class and assign some initial grades based on the players’ attributes and value based on the round they were selected.
Running back Ronald Jones II the team’s first of three second-round picks, is up next, followed by cornerback M.J. Stewart, who was the second of Tampa Bay’s three second-round picks.
Round 2: USC RB Ronald Jones II – 5-11, 205 – Junior
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Tampa Bay needed a feature running back to replace Doug Martin, and Jones has proven that he can carry the load at USC. Jones nearly rushed for 1,000 yards (987) as a true freshman, and his production improved every year from 1,082 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore to 1,550 yards and 19 TDs as a junior.
USC RB Ronald Jones II – Photo courtesy of USC
Jones is capable of making big plays with his electric speed and instant acceleration. The USC Trojan had 14 100-yard games and 13 explosive plays (12 runs, one catch) of 40 yards or more in college. Seven of those explosive plays traveled 60 yards or more.
His pro comparable is former Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, who was identically built at 5-foot-11, 199 pounds. Jones has a similar up-right running style as Charles, a former third-round pick that became a four-time Pro Bowler with the Chiefs.
Jones, who has 4.5 speed, is more than a slashing runner. He’s got a physical edge to him and has an aggressive running style that allows him to break more tackles than you think a slashing-running back would. Jones is a very good scheme fit into Dirk Koetter’s offense, which needs more explosive runs of 20-plus yards or more.
The Question Marks
Like most rookie running backs, Jones is not where he needs to be in pass protection. He wasn’t asked to do it a lot at USC, and he had some moments where he was effective, and some where he allowed some sacks. In order to be able to play on third downs Jones will need to improve as a pass protector and also in his ability to run routes in the passing game. Jones was limited to catching screen passes and swing passes in the flat at U, but has good hands and the ability to learn how to be a much more accomplished receiver out of the backfield.
The Rookie Season Expectations
Jones will pair with Peyton Barber, who was last year’s leading rusher, to give the Bucs a “slash and bash” backfield. Jones has more talent and speed, and will eventually become the starting running back in Tampa Bay sooner rather than later, but his frame may not allow him to get more than 20 touches per game to be able to hold up over the long haul. A 1,000-yard rushing year isn’t out of the question for Jones in 2018, but with Barber expected to split the workload, if Jones rushed for 700 yards and half a dozen scores in 2018 it would be considered a very successful rookie season.
The Grade: B+
The Bucs – and other teams – passed over a very talented running back in LSU’s Derrius Guice for Jones. Did they make the right call? Jones has speed and playmaking ability not found on Tampa Bay’s roster and is one of the more underrated running backs in this draft class. In the end, he could be even better than Guice at the next level.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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