Zay Jones Has Fascinating Comparables And Can Help the Bills' Offense

Jones, a small-school receiver, has an intriguing athletic profile. What does he bring to the table for Buffalo?

Small-school players aren't the secret they used to be.

While the 6'2", 201-pound Zay Jones didn't get his name called on Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft, he didn't last too long into Day 2, as the Buffalo Bills took him 37th overall after trading up.

Jones, from East Carolina, has a strong track record and is the NCAA's all-time leading reception leader with 399.

In 2016, he led the nation in catches (158), targets (221), and yards per game (145.5), but he wasn't just a product of volume. Jones caught 82.58% of his targets, third-best in the class, and evidenced reliable hands, reeling in 158 of 164 catchable balls, according to ProFootballFocus.

And he's got the athleticism to make waves at the next level, too.

Here are his 10 closest comparisons based on his workout numbers, according to our algorithms, if we look at players selected within the first two rounds.

Zay Jones ComparablesPlayerPickSimilarity
2007Anthony GonzalezRound 1, Pick 3290.55%
2003Andre JohnsonRound 1, Pick 389.48%
2008Donnie AveryRound 2, Pick 289.32%
2002Javon WalkerRound 1, Pick 2088.28%
2009Darrius Heyward-BeyRound 1, Pick 787.53%
2011Torrey SmithRound 2, Pick 2687.04%
2014Sammy WatkinsRound 1, Pick 486.79%
2011A.J. GreenRound 1, Pick 486.53%
2012A.J. JenkinsRound 1, Pick 3086.48%
2011Julio JonesRound 1, Pick 686.40%

That'll work.

With production and profile aplenty, Jones should be able to make an impact for the receiver-needy Bills.

Filling a Need

The Bills have long needed a secondary option to play alongside Sammy Watkins and to draw attention from the stellar running game.

By our expected points model -- Net Expected Points (NEP) -- the Bills had the 19th-best passing offense in 2016 after adjusting for opponent. In 2015, they ranked 12th by that measure.

The rushing offense ranked first in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play in 2015 and was second in 2016.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor added 0.12 expected points on a per-drop-back basis in 2016, which was right in line with the NFL average rate. In terms of Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs that led to positive expected point gains -- Taylor (43.84%) lagged behind the quarterback average (47.02%). That suggests he relied on big plays to maintain efficiency, something that Jones should help with.

Watkins, limited to just 28 catches, continued his elite efficiency of 1.34 expected points per reception, and Marquise Goodwin (1.39 on 29 catches) also has big-play potential, though he needed 68 targets to get there compared to 52 for Watkins.

Robert Woods, now with the Los Angeles Rams, has long been the volume receiver and caught 51 passes in 2016. He has never really fared much better than a league-average option in terms of efficiency, though. Jones, significantly more athletic than Woods, should bring more to the table.

Jones has the hands to eat up volume in the passing attack and the athleticism to bring a needed element to the Bills' passing game.