In drafting Josh Jones, Kliff Kingsbury’s college roots pay off again

Apr 24, 2020, 9:23 PM | Updated: Apr 25, 2020, 11:07 am
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines in the first half of the game ...
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines in the first half of the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

For the second year in a row, Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals drafted a player who he once whiffed on while recruiting as a head coach at Texas Tech.

The Cardinals made Houston Cougars offensive tackle Josh Jones their third-round pick after he surprisingly fell to their slot at 72nd overall.

Jones once shunned Kingsbury and Texas Tech for Houston when he came out of George Bush High School in Richmond, Texas — just as Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray did when he was choosing a college destination.

“Just really happy to get to work with him after he turned me down initially,” Kingsbury said after Arizona selected Jones on Friday.

It “shocked” Arizona general manager Steve Keim that Jones was available in the third round despite being a top-30 player on the team’s big board. It made the pick easy that Jones already knows Kingsbury and played left tackle in Dana Holgorsen’s version of the Air Raid offense at Houston.

Kingsbury’s former Texas Tech offensive line coach, Brandon Jones, coached Jones at Houston this past year.

Those relationships between Kingsbury and his fellow Air Raid disciples played a big role in the Cardinals trusting in the evaluation process.

“It provides a lot of confidence in us and in our decision when we have that kind of intel,” Keim said.

The tape looked good, too.

Pro Football Focus graded Jones out as an elite player. He allowed 18 quarterback pressures in 1,282 pass plays over the past three seasons, PFF said.

Holgorsen and Jones told the Cardinals that Jones’ professional approach through the coaching staff’s rough first season in Houston stood out. They told Kingsbury and Keim the tackle took a mental leap with his technique.

“Just it appeared that he had a consistent plan each and every play this year,” Kingsbury said.

But the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Jones still fell in the draft.

“Yeah, I was a little bit surprised,” Jones said. “Not something me and my agent talked about. We were getting feedback, you know, one or two, that’s what we were getting this whole draft process.

“Sometimes you got to play with the cards you’re dealt. I’m happy I landed with the Cardinals, man — a great team, a rising team.”

Arizona is confident it can develop Jones, who many believed had potential to go in the first round.

Keim admitted he feels lucky so far in the draft. A clear top-five player on the Cardinals’ board in Isaiah Simmons fell to Arizona at No. 8 before a top-30 player in Jones landed at 72nd overall.

“I’ll defer to my partner in crime, who has been teaching me about manifestation,” Keim said.

Said Kingsbury: “Yeah, it’s good karma I think.”

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