Cyrus Jones brings a lot of versatility to the table. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — On the surface, Cyrus Jones checks off a lot of the boxes when you’re looking for a Bill Belichick type of draft pick.
He comes from a program (Alabama) run by a former Belichick assistant in Nick Saban. He’s versatile, in that he’s played wide receiver and defensive back as a collegian. And he brings considerable special teams value to the table in that he’s worked as a punt and kick returner.
All major reasons why he was appealing to the Patriots with the 60th overall pick in the draft Friday night. New England added the defensive back at the back end of the second round, likely with an eye toward shoring up their nickel corner spot in 2016.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Jones said on a conference call with the media shortly after his name was called by the Patriots. “I worked so hard. … I can’t explain how I feel right now. I’m just overwhelmed.”
The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder played two years with Alabama, and came away with five picks and 69 tackles in his college career. He also finished first in the SEC in 2014 in passes defensed with 13.
“I played nickel a good deal in practice, but coach Saban always wanted me on the outside, so that’s where I was predominantly during the season in games,” he said, “I was always pretty much trailing the top receiver for the opposite team, and they would line up on the outside the majority of the time. I can definitely play nickel. There’s no problem if I have to slide inside.”
He added: “I don’t think there’s (anywhere) I can’t line up on the field and can’t be successful on the football field. I played outside most of my career at Alabama and I had success. I don’t think there’s any reason I can’t line up on Sunday’s and do the same thing.”
He also has special teams value, having worked as a kick returner and a punt returner — in 2012 and 2014, he returned a combined 14 kicks and averaged 23.4 yards per return. He also spent some time as a wide receiver as a freshman, finished with four catches for 51 yards.
“I returned punts in high school and I was pretty good at it,” Jones said. “I just had a knack for finding creases and being able to see where to cut. I had good vision always. That ability just increased in college. As I got more comfortable I started to have more success over time. I had my best year my senior year. That’s going to be a big thing for me to get on the field early next season.”
He started his college career as a wide receiver, but flipped to the other side of the ball relatively early at Alabama.
“We were losing a couple of DBs after my freshman year, and he asked me would I be willing to try it out for the springtime, and I bought in,” he explained. “I just wanted to help the team in any way possible. It worked out for me and the team.”
The Belichick/Saban connection is an easy one to make, and one Jones is pretty familiar with. Jones said the only time he met with Belichick was during a meeting the day before Alabama’s pro day.
“The meeting before pro day went great,” recalled Jones. “It was me and couple of other players. We sat in and watched some film from our season and pretty much just talked football. The meeting went great. But prior to that, I hadn’t had much contact (with Belichick).
“Our program is run similar to the Patriots. I feel like I’m greatly prepared for the next level thanks to coach Saban and the people I had around me for four years.”
Jones does have an arrest in his past, but on Friday, he said he’s ready to move on from the incident.
“I learned a lot from it — it’s in the past,” he said. “It was just an unfortunate situation — a misunderstanding. I’ve moved on and I’ve learned you just have to choose who you are around and make the right decisions at all times.”