To say "Zay" grew up in a football family would be an understatement. His father, Robert, played linebacker in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990's. His uncle, Jeff Blake, played quarterback in the NFL for 14 years, most notably with the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones' brother, Cayleb was a receiver at Texas and Arizona, as well. Both his father and uncle played at East Carolina. Jones has made his own name with the Pirates, though, setting the NCAA record for most receptions in a career (399) and the single-season record with 158 catches in 2016 (for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns). He was a first or second-team All-American by most media outlets this fall, along with first-team All-American Athletic Conference. Jones was a second-team All-ACC choice in 2015 with 98 catches for 1,099 yards and five scores. His football IQ and athletic genes helped him start in his first two seasons, as well (62-604, five TD in 2013; 81-830, five TD, also 24-447 on kick returns in 2014).
All-time FBS receptions leader. Hands catcher outside the hashes and snatches it away from his frame. Swallows ball into his frame to protect it when working over the middle. Tape shows a willingness to run head-first into traffic and make the tough catch when hit is imminent. Can win all day when it comes to finishing catches at the high point. Extremely driven to succeed. Plays with good focus and footwork on catches near the sideline. Has experience working from outside and the slot. Returned kicks as a junior. Has posted impressive numbers in Pirates' strength-and-conditioning program. Well respected in the program and scouts rave about his character. Father, Robert, was a Super Bowl winner with Dallas Cowboys.
Play speed is very average. Lacks vertical push to force cornerbacks to open and run early and doesn't have second gear to separate from coverage down the field. Thin frame. Struggles to find clean releases against press coverage due to play strength and foot quickness. High-volume production helped by high percentage of short throws and wide receiver screens. Sticky out of breaks and unable to shake tight coverage. Limited amount of burst and wiggle after the catch and won't create much more than is there. Not overly-committed as a run blocker.
Possesses high football character and a desire to push himself forward. Record-breaking receptions totals in 2016 were due more to scheme and excessive targets than separation ability or top-end speed. As a one-on-one receiver on the pro level, he will have to prove he has the speed and quickness to uncover against man coverage if he is to become more than just wide receiver depth.