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NFL DRAFT RECEIVERS

It may be unwise to pass on ex-QB

Stock rising for athletic Jones

Derrick Johnson, one of the fastest, hardest-hitting linebackers in college football, got his hands on Matt Jones many times in two games against Arkansas.

A few times, he went after him and didn't touch him.

Johnson had one thing to say about Jones: "I don't ever want to see him again."

That was also the general sentiment of coaches and players in the Southeastern Conference, where Jones was one of the most difficult players to prepare for and play against the last few seasons.

"I'm so tired of seeing that guy, and now I am going to see him some more," said Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who as head coach at Louisiana State faced Jones four times. "He's going to be projected probably to another position, but I'll tell you one thing, that guy won more games at Arkansas, with less players, than any other [quarterback] in the SEC during the time that I was in it."

As difficult as Jones was to prepare for in college, he is maybe the most difficult player to slot in Saturday's NFL draft. If the draft were about the best all-around athlete, Jones would be among the top few picks.

But you have to play a position in the NFL, and Jones, who also played basketball at Arkansas, doesn't quite have one.

"I just want to play," he said. "Some teams will want a quarterback and some teams will want a receiver. Maybe it's a receiver and you do some things as far as being an emergency quarterback. Who knows what's going to happen? I just want to be able to play at the next level.

"I think God has blessed me with the athletic ability to do a lot of things. It doesn't seem that unique to me. I've always done a lot of things, whether it was play basketball, play baseball, run track. I was always playing a different sport, so a different position in the same sport isn't that awkward."

Though Jones is 6 feet 6 1/4 inches, 242 pounds, his arm's not good enough to be a top-level pro quarterback. He has great hands and a measure of toughness, but he's too slight to be a tight end. He has ridiculous speed for a player his size (sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash), but he's raw and untrained as a receiver.

To many, Jones is too good an athlete to pass up, so quite likely some team will take a flyer on him as a receiver late in the first round, or early in the second.

Saban told the media at the Dolphins' predraft news conference that he would love to have Jones on his squad.

"You have to make some kind of projection as to what you think your plan would be for this guy," Saban said. "Is he a wide receiver? Is he a tight end? Is he an H-back, Shannon Sharpe-type?

"A little bit wide receiver, a little bit tight end with his size. Then look at his physical abilities. Look at what he did in the Senior Bowl, what he did at his workouts."

What Jones did was wow onlookers with soft hands and nary a drop, according to some, in the practices leading up to the game. But questions remain.

"Does he have that kind of disposition as a competitor to play a position other than quarterback?" Saban said. "When you make projections you heighten the risk, but you also sometimes heighten the reward because if the guy pans out he can be a really outstanding player. I think Matt Jones is a guy who certainly fits in that category."

Jones may be the most intriguing player in the draft, but there are better receivers.

Michigan's Braylon Edwards and Southern Cal's Mike Williams are clearly the top two wideouts, with speedster Troy Williamson of South Carolina, Mark Clayton of Oklahoma, and Reggie Brown of Georgia all possibly going in the first round.

Last year, a record seven receivers were picked in the first round.

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