Bills snare a catch king in WR Zay Jones

Posted Apr 28, 2017

The Bills nabbed a receiver they were wholly familiar in Zay Jones, who has perhaps the most impressive body of work in the entire draft class.

No player in college football history has ever caught more passes than the newest member of the Buffalo Bills.

In the team’s second big trade in as many days, the Bills moved up to pick 37 and selected Zay Jones from East Carolina. Jones shattered multiple records with the Pirates, including the FBS record for career receptions with 399, as well as the single-season reception mark.

Along with Jones’ undeniable on field talents, Sean McDermott reinforced everything he’s said since taking over as head coach in January with his emphasis on character. Jones was a multi-year captain at East Carolina and was recognized by several national organizations for the work he put forth in the classroom.

“You look at the track record and being able to stay out of trouble anymore is becoming a little bit unique,” McDermott said. “That’s an important part of it – that you can balance the academics and the athletics and all that goes into that in the college setting and perform at a high level on the field. And then remain humble enough and carry yourself with class to do the right thing. That’s important to us in this organization.”

Back on the field, Jones lists his strongest attribute as the one most necessary to being a quality receiver in the NFL: his hands. According to, Jones dropped only six of 164 catchable passes in 2016.


“I have natural instincts for the game,” Jones said. “I have the best hands in this draft class. I’m a pass catcher, I can create separation and go score. Besides that, I’m a great teammate. I play for my team and I’m an all-around hard worker.”

The 22-year-old worked closely with current Bills wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan at East Carolina in 2016, where Jones moved from strictly a slot target to the outside and exploded for 158 receptions. Their relationship flourished, and the two will once again be working together in Buffalo.

“Just a great mentor,” Jones said of McGeoghan. “Like a father-figure, he reminds me a lot of my father. Just the way he teaches, the way that he commands the room I have a lot of respect for him. He likes to tell me that you can have fun and be cool but at the end of the day it’s business and he has to get his job done because he has a family to feed and I do too. It’s a great balance of friendship, love and respect.”

That versatility to play wherever is needed was the finishing touch on McDermott’s decision that the Bills needed to trade up and get their guy.

“When you look at his position flexibility, he can move inside, he can play outside and that was also a big part of it as well,” McDermott said. “You’re not just talking about a guy that can play one position, so he does have position-flex. That said, as a young player, we’ve got to progress him at the right pace. He’s going to come in and learn the system then go from there and I’m sure he’s already on the phone with Phil at this point.”

Jones’ mentors go much further than just McGeoghan. His father, Robert, was an NFL linebacker from 1992-2001, winning two Super Bowls against the Bills as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. His NFL bloodline continues with his uncle, Jeff Blake, who played quarterback in the league from 1992 to 2005. All three played at East Carolina.

The next step for Jones is to come to Buffalo and compete for the available starting wide receiver spot opposite Sammy Watkins. When asked if he was ready to battle for that starting role, Jones didn’t mince words.

“I am ready to go,” Jones said. “That is all I am going to say, I am ready to go.”

McDermott added some more detail on what’s he looking for from Jones—and all of his draft picks—as he finalizes his roster and depth chart going forward.

“We’re all going to have to battle and that’s where it starts, it starts with me, and I’m going to battle every day and I’m going to ask these players to battle every day,” McDermott said. “And no different with Zay. He’s coming in to earn the right to be on this football team and this roster and we’ll see where it goes from there. When you look at the players with Tre’ (Tre’Davious White) last night and Zay, they’re wired that way. They have that type of DNA over the course of their careers in college where they’ve earned everything that they’ve gotten. I’m sure they wouldn’t expect anything but that.”