The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Southern California running back Ronald Jones II, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
For more on all the other backs in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft running back rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 3.
Junior | 5’11″ and 205 Pounds | Born August 3, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Rounds 1-2
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.65 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 36.5 in | broad: DNP
An All-American high-schooler from Texas, Jones in 2015 led the Trojans as a true freshman with 987 yards and eight touchdowns rushing as the second timeshare back in an offense led by quarterback Cody Kessler. After that Jones played as the lead back, rushing for 2,632 yards and 31 touchdowns over his 26 games as a sophomore and junior. Last year in particular he was dominant, averaging 20.1 carries for 119.2 yards and 1.46 touchdowns per game. Jones wasn’t prolific as a pass catcher (39 career receptions), but he was adequate with 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air over his two final years. With three straight seasons of 1,000 scrimmage yards and an average of 14 touchdowns per year, Jones was one of the steadiest college running backs in his time at USC.
A Pro Football Focus All-American in 2017 with his position-best overall grade of 92.4, Jones is a Day 2 prospect with Day 1 upside — as long as he is able to mitigate his hamstring-tweaked 4.65-second 40 time at the combine with a strong showing at his pro day. One of the factors working against him is his size. Although Jones produced in college, he isn’t built like a prototypical NFL lead back, but he does have the frame to add good weight and could emerge as a reliable runner if given the opportunity.
Even with his subpar combine, RoJo is unlikely to fall any further than the third round, and his young age gives him a lot of upside as a theoretical top-100 selection, but the history of guys who lack above-average athleticism and are built like Jamaal Charles is not good. At best, Jones is a cheaper Christian McCaffrey, except with more ability as a runner and less ability as a receiver. At worst, he’s this decade’s version of Felix Jones.