Following an impressive career as the starting left tackle for Southern Utah University football since the fall of 2018, Braxton Jones has his sights set on going pro. Jones has accepted an invitation to participate in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl which takes place on Saturday, Feb. 5.
“I am excited for what this great opportunity brings,” said Jones. “This will be a chance for me to show I can play at the next level with great players.”
Jones has been the leader of SUU’s offensive line over his career and his play has caught national attention. To go along with being named to the All-Big Sky Conference First Team twice, Jones was also named as a First Team All-American in the spring of 2021 by analyst Phil Steele.
What is the Senior Bowl?
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is essentially an all-star game for elite prospects who have completed their NCAA eligibility. It serves as an opportunity for these players to showcase their skills in front of hundreds of scouts from the NFL. In the 2021 NFL draft, 106 of that year’s 130 Senior Bowl participants were drafted.
“The Reese’s Senior Bowl is very appreciative of the long standing relationship it enjoys with the NFL,” said Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy. “In 2019, we credentialed over 900 club personnel from all 32 teams.”
The bowl also allows the players to experience professional coaching, as the two participating teams are each coached by an NFL coaching staff. This year’s National Team is coached by Robert Saleh and the New York Jets’ staff, facing off against Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions’ American Team. Jones will be a part of the American Team.
Jones looks to add his name to the short list of Thunderbirds that have been drafted by an NFL team. In 2013, quarterback Brad Sorensen was drafted in the seventh round of the draft by the San Diego Chargers. In 2016, safety Miles Killlebrew was selected in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions and corner Leshaun Sims was taken by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round. Of the above players, only Killebrew is still active — now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On paper, Jones has a very good chance at garnering interest. He will be a hard man to overlook, listed at 6’7” and 310 pounds. Jones dominated competition at FCS level, frequently mauling opposing defensive linemen.
Scouts love the size and length that Jones presents as his long arms allow him to control defenders. Jones excels in run blocking and has proven to be very aggressive and physical while also being surprisingly quick given his size.
“If he can get stronger and keep refining his game, Jones has definite starter potential,” said Ian Cummings of Profootballnetwork.com. “Thus, he’s worth an early-to-mid Day 3 pick at the least. He can be a great swing tackle early on, and the tools are there to morph into a solid starter down the line.”
As far as negatives, most scouts agree that Jones needs to work on lowering his pad level against competition when pass blocking and run blocking. Given his height, it can be easy for talented defensive lineman to get lower than him and knock him off balance.
While Jones was dominant at the FCS level, it is fair to wonder whether or not he will hold up at the professional level. He had good enough strength to dominate the Big Sky, but 310 pounds is a little light given his height. Bleacher Report also points out that Jones would need to improve his all-around technique and footwork if he wants a chance to play in the NFL, as is common with any lineman that competed at a small school.
Nevertheless, the Senior Bowl should be the perfect opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to compete against higher competition.
How to watch
The 73rd annual Reese’s Senior Bowl is set for kickoff on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 12:30 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcasted on NFL Network. In the week leading up to the game, each team’s practices can also be live-streamed on ESPN with NFL Network doing a daily recap.
Story By: Christian Esparza
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics