Can Zay Jones Make an Impact for the Raiders?

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 Draft came at an odd time for the Buffalo Bills. Just over three months after being hired to clean up the mess left behind by Rex Ryan, Sean McDermott was tasked with his first Draft as a head coach. Assembling his coaching staff, navigating free agency and preparing for a Draft is a tall order for a first-year head coach to handle in just over 100 days since being hired. McDermott collaborated on the 2017 Draft class with general manager Doug Whaley who was fired the day after the draft concluded. Buffalo hired Brandon Beane to be its general manager a few weeks later. 

Buffalo’s 2017 haul yielded some impressive hits. Tre White was Buffalo’s first-round pick who is the No. 1 cornerback for an elite Bills’ pass defense that has kept 13 consecutive opponents under 250 passing yards, the longest such streak in the league. Buffalo’s starting left tackle and team captain Dion Dawkins was picked in the second round and the Bills’ secured Matt Milano in the fifth round who is an impact starter at linebacker. 

Then there was wide receiver Zay Jones, who Buffalo traded up from No. 44 to No. 37 to select while also parting with No. 91 and getting back No. 149. Just over two seasons later, the Bills are sending Zay Jones to the Oakland Raiders for a 2021 fifth round pick as first reported by Chris Mortensen. 

Despite leading Buffalo in receiving in 2018, Zay Jones struggled to establish consistent chemistry with either Tyrod Taylor in 2017 or Josh Allen in 2018 and the early portions of 2019. When considering Jones’ tenure in Buffalo, not enough positive things happened when he was given chances to make plays. 

In 36 career games for the Bills, Jones was targeted 194 times and he caught 90 passes (46.4 reception percentage) for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 11.5 yards per reception while Bills’ quarterbacks were intercepted eight times and posted a passer rating of 65.9 when targeting Jones. He was charged with eight drops. So far through five games in 2019, Jones was targeted 18 times and caught seven passes for 69 yards. 

Impact For Buffalo

With the development of wide receiver Duke Williams, Jones was phased out of the offense and only played one offensive snap on Sunday’s win over Tennessee. Jones offers little upside on special teams as a depth receiver and Buffalo’s overall depth at the position created a logjam on the roster. He was expendable and while a fifth round pick in 2021 doesn’t make anyone forget about the top-40 selection Buffalo used to acquire Jones, general manager Brandon Beane has an impressive resume of putting mid Day Three picks to good use. 

Whether it was packaging picks to move up for Dawson Knox in 2019 or grabbing key contributors in Taron Johnson and Siran Neal in that range in 2018, this is the type of flexibility/draft capital Beane knows how to maximize. Beane also made promising late Day Three picks in 2019 in Jaquan Johnson, Darryl Johnson and Tommy Sweeney who already fill important depth roles for Buffalo.

Impact For Oakland

Jones obviously has talent and he’s a much better fit for Jon Gruden’s offense with Derek Carr than Brian Daboll’s system with Josh Allen. Remember, Jones was drafted when Rick Dennison was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator who ran a west coast, timing-based offense that more resembles what Guden employs with the Raiders. Carr is much more of a rhythm passer than Allen or Taylor are and the fit is much more natural. Jones is an excellent underneath route runner, but he isn’t a threat to win vertically or in contested situations. 

In the aftermath of the AB saga with the Raiders is a massive hole at wide receiver for Oakland and Jones is a low-cost, potentially high-upside move to add help. It’s difficult to improve weaknesses on the roster midseason and this was a reasonable move for the Raiders to make in an effort to add a playmaker to its wide receiver corps. 

Written By:

Joe Marino

Director of Administration

Director of Administration & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.

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