This is CHGO’s Chicago Bears 2022 player preview series. Learn more about each player and what to expect from them this year.
Velus Jones Jr. is entering his rookie season after being drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round (71st overall). The former Tennessee wideout was the only receiver that general manager Ryan Poles selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2021 Stats (College)
Advanced Stat to Know: Jones led the entire draft class with 8.32 YAC/REC on his 62 catches.
Best Game of 2021 (College)
Jones’ best game in his senior season at Tennessee came in the Vol’s matchup against South Alabama last November.
Jones had a fine day receiving with six catches for 103 yards. He also added 47 yards on three punt returns.
But that’s not all. Jones also took a kickoff 96 yards to the house on a play that highlights some of his best attributes as a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Having nearly 250 total yards in a single game is an achievement. Doing it against a college that is 20 minutes from where you grew up is special.
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How will the Bears try to set up Velus Jones Jr. to succeed as a rookie?
Despite Chicago having a glaring need at receiver this offseason, the Bears didn’t place any high investments in the position this year. Instead, they went the bargain-bin route with cheap veteran deals in free agency. As mentioned, Jones was the only receiver the team drafted this year.
This leaves a wide-open opportunity for Jones. He can become an impactful piece of the offense. With a new system in place under Luke Getsy, gauging exactly what type of role is in store for Jones is a bit of a mystery. However, it will be exciting to see how the Bears want to utilize his skillset.
Since the scouting combine in February, the team has been adamant they want Justin Fields to get the ball out of his hands quickly and to allow the playmakers to gain additional yards after the catch.
That’s where Jones comes in as he led the draft class in yards after the catch per reception. And he helps the Bears fill a void as the best receiver in this regard. Last season in Chicago, Darnell Mooney ranked 25th in the league (4.8 YAC/REC).
Jones is able to make these sorts of plays with a blend of physical toughness, extraordinary vision, lightning-fast speed and plus-athleticism.
He didn’t showcase a robust route tree in college and it remains to be seen how much he can polish his route running in time for the season.
Getsy does not need to overcomplicate this. Jones is a player that has the home-run speed to take a slant or a screen to the house after making the initial defender miss. Getting the ball into Jones’ hands in space is something Chicago must find ways to do.
It doesn’t matter if he lines up in the slot or outside. They just need to feed him the football.
What about Jones’ role on special teams?
Jones can be effective in the third phase in a few different ways. He’s a proven kick returner. He averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return last season, including that 96-yard touchdown.
He also fielded punts for the first time last season. Despite the lack of experience, Jones found massive success with an average of 15.1 yards per punt return — the second-best mark in the nation.
Plus, he also lined up as a gunner on punt coverage.
Time will tell what exactly the Bears will want out of Jones on special teams. The size of his role on offense will most definitely impact how much they want to have him on special teams.
At the same time, it will be hard to keep the ball out of his hands as he’s proven to be a dynamite returner.
Jones will be a player to watch this season. He’s bound to get plenty of looks on offense as the Bears look for an added spark at receiver.
As one of the most proven returners on the team, Jones should also see himself getting additional touches on kickoff returns, punt returns or perhaps both.
The rookie wideout is poised to make an immediate impact.
Prediction: Shows enough in training camp / presesason to become the Bears’ WR3. Chicago decides to split kickoff return duties between Jones and Khalil Herbert.
Receiving Stats: 45 Catches, 500 Yards, 4 Touchdowns.
Kickoff Return Stats: 15 Returns, 350 Yards.
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