Depending on what stopwatch you trust, the fastest running back in the NFL draft held his pro day at Los Medanos Junior College in Pittsburg this morning.
Before representatives from 27 NFL teams, including 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble and running backs coach Tom Rathman, Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones pronounced himself recovered from a broken left foot he suffered in December.
Jones, perhaps the draft’s most tantalizing running-back prospect, clocked 40-yard dash times that ranged anywhere from 4.28 to 4.35 seconds, according to the figures from the phalanx of scouts on hand. Perspective: On a different surface, Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott had the fastest 40 (4.34) among running backs at the NFL Combine and Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had the fastest time overall (4.28).
Jones also registered some other eye-opening measurables, including a 40-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot broad jump, five inches shy of the all-time combine record.
The numbers were particularly impressive considering Jones, who had a pin inserted in his fifth metatarsal in his left foot, said he ditched his walking boot three weeks ago. Today marked the first time he performed all the various drills he was put through in one day. His agent, Doug Hendrickson, said his client was still only 90 percent recovered from his injury.
“If there was a game tomorrow,” Hendrickson said, “they would hold him back.”
The Raiders, who have a famously insatiable appetite for speed, were, of course, present today. But so was every NFL team besides the Vikings, Jets, Jaguars, Chargers and Ravens. The large contingent was a nod to the fact that you can’t, as they say, coach speed.
And Jones, who attended nearby Deer Valley High in Antioch, didn’t disappoint anyone in that area except for perhaps himself. He said he wasn’t thrilled when his first 40 was clocked in the 4.3s.
“I was really disappointed because I was shooting for a faster time than that,” he said.
Jones answered questions about his health. But the questions about his durability likely aren’t going away.
Jones, who measured in at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, also had a fractured fibula, an abdominal bruise and surgery for a sports hernia during his three years at Eastern Washington. His upright running style suggests he won’t be an every-down NFL back, regardless of how much he continues to bulk up. Jones has added nearly 20 pounds since January while training at Athletes Performance in Los Angeles.
“As a running back you’re going to get bumps and bruises,” he said. “It’s just how you bounce back from that. In my case, I’ve had bumps and bruises. But I’ve also been just as productive … after those (injuries).”
Jones rushed for 1,319 yards averaged 7.9 yards per carry this past season at Eastern Washington. He had 14 plays of at least 60 yards in his final two years in college. CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang has said he could see a team selecting Jones as high as the second round.
Jones has met with the Eagles and has visits with the Cardinals, Dolphins and Chiefs scheduled, according to National Football Post. He will attend the 49ers local pro day on April 20, but will not work out at the event.