Who would've ever thought three-star prospect Derrick Jones would be selected ahead of Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly in the 2017 NFL Draft? That was the case on Saturday when the New York Jets chose Jones with the 20th pick in the sixth round, just six spots behind teammate, D.J. Jones, who landed with the 49ers. Teammate Evan Engram was the first Rebel drafted with the 23rd overall pick by the New York Giants.
Spending most of his collegiate career playing on both sides of the ball, Jones bounced in between defensive back and receiver as he never played a solid position.
In 2013, Jones arrived in Oxford with hopes and aspirations of finding a spot on the Rebels' depth chart as Ole Miss already had a numerous amount of talented pass catchers. Due to his athleticism, things worked in his favor as the coaches placed him at defensive back.
The following season we watched him suit up as a receiver again before going back to the defensive side of the house halfway through his senior year. This instability may have resulted in him not having much production when it comes to statistics, but his versatility is the reason why he's heading to the NFL.
Having only seven career starts and two interceptions at cornerback, Jones showcased his skills before many scouts and teams during Ole Miss' Pro Day where he posted a 41-inch vertical and 11 feet, eight inch broad jump. With his height at 6'2 and his size, he became an interest as a future prospect for the Jets early on in the year.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Derrick Jones to discuss the draft and his future plans with the New York Jets.
Jaleesa: Thank you for taking the time out to allow me to interview you. Congrats on being selected. Projected to be an undrafted free agent by many NFL scouts and analysts, did you expect to go before former teammate Chad Kelly in the draft? Were you surprised at all?
Derrick: I definitely did not expect to be drafted before Chad! I knew that the Jets were very interested in me and if any team would pull the trigger, it would be them. When my phone actually rang, I was definitely surprised.
Jaleesa: That's awesome. I can only imagine the feeling. Speaking of, what feelings came over you when you found out the Jets selected you?
Derrick: I instantly thank the Lord for blessing me with this opportunity and allowing my son to be there to share this moment with me! I was just so thankful that the Jets had enough faith in me to draft me.
Jaleesa: I'm happy for you. As a Mississippi native myself, our state is very underrated and often overlooked when it comes to talent. How does it feel to be the first player from Eupora to be drafted?
Derrick: It feels great to know that I can inspire kids not only from Eupora, but surrounding areas as well to help them realize that a dream is never too big to go get. You just have to be willing to trust the process and keep faith in the Lord!
Jaleesa: Now, I watched you play during your tenure at Ole Miss. Your versatility had you playing various positions. What position do you expect to play for the Jets? Do you think your ability to play on both sides of the ball affected your stability and comfort on the field at a set position?
Derrick: I will be playing corner for the Jets. And I definitely think the position swaps held me back in college because I never really got as comfortable as I could, but I do not regret it one bit because it showed how versatile I was and maybe showed people just how athletic I am.
Jaleesa: Your size and length shows off your skills and athleticism very well. These are valuable assets at your position. How do you plan to contribute to the Jets from a defensive stance?
Derrick: I first want to dominate special teams and get stronger in the weight room which will allow me to become more comfortable at the cornerback position.
Jaleesa: What about your game and style of play causes you to stand out amongst others who play the same position as you?
Derrick: I'm a long corner who can run and don't mind coming up and tackling. Because I've played receiver and understand that they line up to get a certain job done, I can recognize where they line up on the field and eliminate certain routes.
Jaleesa: In this year's draft, Ole Miss had four Rebels, including yourself, to get selected. Many others to go as undrafted free agents. What does that say about the football program and coaching staff at Mississippi?
Derrick: It says that they are very capable of recruiting future NFL prospects. Not only just recruiting them, but preparing and getting them to the next level as well.
Jaleesa: Well thank you Derrick. I appreciate you taking a moment out of your busy schedule to sit down and let reinterview you. Congratulations on being drafted. Good luck with the Jets. I look forward to seeing you play on Sundays. Thanks again.