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.”

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons reacts after stopping Alabama's Najee Harris during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo, North offensive tackle Josh Jones of Houston (70) plays during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, Ala. Jones was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the NFL football draft Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) Fourth round (114th overall)

Utah DT Leki Fotu
(Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) Fourth round (131st overall)

LSU DL Rashard Lawrence
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Sixth round (202nd overall)
California ILB Evan Weaver
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin, left, avoids a tackle by Oregon State defensive back Jaydon Grant during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the second quarter against the Carolina Pan...

Wills Rice

ESPN’s Bowen: Best potential landing spots for Budda Baker, DeAndre Hopkins

ESPN's Matt Bowen gave the best potential landing spots for both wideout DeAndre Hopkins and Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

1 day ago

James Conner...

Tyler Drake

No complaints: Cardinals’ James Conner excited to ‘prove people wrong’ with new regime

While outside expectations are some of the lowest they have been in Cardinals history, RB James Conner isn't focused on the external noise.

1 day ago

Kyler Murray...

Arizona Sports

Simms: Cardinals’ Kyler Murray in ‘clock’s ticking’ tier of NFL quarterbacks

After going down with a season-ending knee injury, can Kyler Murray return to form and be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL?

2 days ago

DeAndre Hopkins...

Tyler Drake

Gannon: WR DeAndre Hopkins’ release best thing for Cardinals

No matter how it all shook out, the Arizona Cardinals parting ways with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason was expected.

2 days ago

Kyzir White...

Tyler Drake

Kyzir White already running with role as Cardinals’ defensive general

Kyzir White's role at MIKE linebacker could slide Zaven Collins to the edge for the Arizona Cardinals defense.

3 days ago

Hollywood Brown...

Tyler Drake

Marquise Brown leads Cardinals WRs into life post-DeAndre Hopkins

There's no way around it, the Arizona Cardinals' wide receivers room took a shot Friday morning with the release of DeAndre Hopkins.

3 days ago

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