PHOENIX – Josh Jones sat in his house Friday night, wondering why he hadn’t been selected as the NFL Draft moved into the third round.
Despite a late-first round to late-second round projection, Jones was still on the board early into the third. Shortly afterward, the Arizona Cardinals drafted the offensive tackle from Houston with the No. 72 pick in the virtual NFL Draft.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Jones said in a Zoom meeting with the media, adding that “sometimes things don’t work out in your favor.
“Sometimes you just have to play with the cards that you are dealt. I am happy that I landed with the Arizona Cardinals. What a great and rising team.”
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim and second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury were surprised Jones was available.
“I was shocked,” Keim said. “It was certainly not a player that I anticipated seeing at that No. 72 spot.”
This wasn’t the first time Kingsbury had his eye on Jones. When he coached at Texas Tech, he recruited him.
Synergy and relationships are involved with this selection, Kingsbury said. After Kingsbury recruited Jones, the player had a successful career with the Cougars and during his senior season, was guided by coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive line coach Brandon Jones.
Kingsbury knows each well.
Holgorsen – who was the offensive coordinator at Houston – helped push Kingsbury into coaching with his first position as offensive quality control coach for the Cougars in 2008. When Kingsbury was at Texas Tech, Brandon Jones was his offensive line coach in 2017 and 2018 before he headed to Houston last season.
“I am just really happy to get to work with (Josh Jones) after he turned me down (at Texas Tech) initially,” Kingsbury said.
When asked about a starting role next season, Jones quickly answered that he believes that he is ready to play immediately in the NFL.
Kingsbury didn’t convey whether Jones might start as a rookie, but he stated that the Cardinals have the benefit of not having to rush Jones into a starting role.
Keim was impressed with the versatility that Jones has for a 6-foot-5, 319-pound offensive lineman.
“We projected him as a player that could play (right tackle or left tackle),” Keim said. “Whether it is right or left, he is a player that has enough athletic tools to play on the left side yet have some traits that you look for in a right tackle.”
Jones said he looks forward to playing alongside Rookie of the Year quarterback Kyler Murray – who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft last season – and he doesn’t feel major adjustments will be necessary.
Houston played an uptempo system as well, and Kingsbury said that Jones should benefit from the comfort level that “will allow him to hopefully play at a high level sooner rather than later.”
“I had a lot of mobile quarterbacks (at Houston) that have the same play style as him, that can make plays with his feet,” Jones said. “You always have to stay locked in and stay on your guy, so that you can give him an opportunity to make plays. (Murray) is a playmaker. That is what he does, and I have experience with that type of player (with Greg Ward Jr. and D’Eriq King).”
Keim said he received texts from other head coaches and general managers, who said they were shocked Jones fell to the Cardinals at No. 72.
Throughout the process, Jones said he or his agent “didn’t hear anything negative” about his game, combine or character, but he vows to prove any team wrong that passed on him.
“I did not know and my agent did not know that this was going to happen. We thought that we were going to go (in the first or second round),” Jones said, adding that it’s “a chip that I have on my shoulder for every team that passed on me.”
Despite the Zoom and quarantine aspects because of the coronavirus, Jones enjoyed the process.
Except his wait, sitting on the couch.
“It was tough, man,” Jones said. “It was tough, watching the picks go by. The room is quiet and it is eerie in there. Everybody is ready to celebrate, but you don’t know where you are going to go.”
After Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons fell to the Cardinals with the No. 8 pick and Jones with the No. 72 pick, Keim was pleased with Day 1 and Day 2 in the NFL Draft.
When an organization trusts its process and NFL Draft board, Keim said that usually leads to success.
He then mused that he hadn’t even talked about the No. 40 pick, which turned into four-time All-Pro wide receiver De’Andre Hopkins.
“2020 is our year, I guess,” Keim said.