Nate Geary’s Top Five QBs: #4 Daniel Jones

02/20/2019
DB+

4. Daniel Jones (RS-Jr.) – Duke

Height: 6’5 Weight: 220

Career Stats: 36 GP, 8,202 passing yards, 52 TDs, 29 INTs, 59.9 completion %

Player Comparison: Nick Foles

Projected Round: 1-2 

The Lowdown:

 The 2019 quarterback draft class is nowhere near the level the 2018 class was in terms of polarizing figures. I don’t see many draft analysts doing everything they can to dismantle any positive narratives about a player like we saw in Josh Allen. No one seems to have the “late surge” prospectus that Baker Mayfield had. I think most notably, there isn’t a guy people think should consider a switch to receiver, like Lamar Jackson. Other than Drew Lock from Missouri, I think you could make the case that Daniel Jones is the most interesting of the group this year. It’s likely the prototypical size and adequate arm strength, but his experience with quarterback whisperer David Cutcliffe is a factor I think a lot of folks are putting a lot of stock into, so much so, in fact, that Jones may make a legitimate case come April that he’s this year’s top quarterback. I just don’t know if I’m buying it yet.

Evaluators will undoubtedly point to Jones’s preparation for the NFL, mostly thanks to his head coach, Cutcliffe. In a piece early this month, Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler spoke to that exact point, ”One scout in Mobile said that Cutcliffe’s reputation will help Jones because teams want to eliminate risk when drafting a player. Knowing that Jones was coached by Cutcliffe will help eliminate any concern that he won’t be prepared, or won’t pick up an NFL offense quickly enough.”

Jones is an interesting case study; just use 2018 as a litmus test. Of his 22 touchdowns last season, 18 came in just five games for the Blue Devils against the likes of Temple (5), Pittsburgh (4), Georgia Tech (3), North Carolina (3), and Northwestern (3). In the other six games combined, Jones managed only four touchdowns to five interceptions – not a great mark for a potential first-round pick. Against the best competition, Jones clearly struggled. When he faced a defense full of NFL players in Clemson, Jones showed an unwillingness to push the ball downfield and often held the ball for far too long, completing 24 passes on 43 attempts for just 158 yards, just 3.67 yards per attempt. I think it’s also prudent to note that at times (you might argue often), Jones was left out to dry by his offensive weapons and was the victim of some horrific drops.

What They’re Saying:

 “At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Jones has the size and the arm that NFL scouts covet, and with a fairly weak quarterback class, Jones could slip into the first round. Dane Brugler of The Athletic notes that Jones has already received a first-round grade from multiple teams, which is typically a strong indicator that a player will depart for the NFL early.”

 -Ben Kercheval (CBS Sports)

“Outside of Kyler Murray, Jones (6’5/220) is the most debated quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. On tape, Jones shows occasional perfect touch and sneaky rushing ability, but some analysts are concerned with his arm strength and lack of on-field production. Against the Power 5 in his career, Jones only averaged 6.1 yards per pass attempt while completing 59% of his passes, despite playing under touted offensive mind David Cutcliffe. Two potential explanations for the lack of production are his teammates — both the offensive line and receivers — and his collarbone injury. Many scouts see through these concerns and label Jones as a first-rounder.”

Daniel Jeremiah (NFL Network)

My Take:

Jones will probably find himself coming off the board late in round one due to the league’s demand for top-tier quarterbacks, but I’m not sure whether they’ll find one in Daniel Jones. The fact that my rankings are how I believe the draft will probably play out doesn’t necessarily mean Jones is who I believe to be the fourth-best quarterback available in this draft. I had an incredibly difficult time putting him in front of Boise State’s Brett Rypien, but I do believe NFL teams have legitimate interest in taking him earlier than I would.

He’s not overly athletic but has shown the ability to throw the ball accurately on the run. He’s a very solid deep ball thrower and has a knack for putting the perfect loft on his nine routes that allow his receivers to run under it. He’s got some ups in his ability to throw the short passing game with a high level of anticipation, something seriously lacking from a few of the top quarterbacks in this draft. Several folks have brought up his lack of elite arm strength as a negative, and this was on display quite a few times on his game film, especially when he can’t get his feet under him. There are a couple of systems I think Jones would thrive in and, as Mel Kiper predicts, the perfect team for me is the New England Patriots. We’ll see if he falls far enough for the Pats to find Brady’s potential replacement, but I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t make it to 32.

Game Film:

 

[video src="https://media.giphy.com/media/8mgSJvVP97rBvFghS7/source.mp4" /]

Here is a perfect example of what I believe to be Jones’s best throw: the fade route. I love how Jones uses the subtle pump fake left to manipulate the safety long enough to create the space for his receiver. It was a beautifully run route by his receiver that created separation from the linebacker, but the ball placement here is A+ material. Even if the safety were in better position, the throw was damn near impossible to defend. This is a great example of a perfect throw being nearly impossible to defend.

 

[video src="https://media.giphy.com/media/5QKsVzlajDOPFWEIAg/source.mp4" /]

Here’s another picture-perfect throw from Jones that simply cannot be defended. Even as the corner bails back to help his teammate, Jones places the ball in the only spot the defenders can’t make a play. One of the more difficult throws to make in football – the slot red zone fade – and Jones makes it look easy. This is a big-time throw that I assume finds its way onto every one of Jones’s highlight compilations.

 

[video src="https://media.giphy.com/media/8vL3dFqmIqbkhm2xIm/source.mp4" /]

Here’s a good example here of Jones’s ability to escape the pocket and deliver an accurate throw on the move to the sideline. Although I partially believe Jones bailed out of the pocket prematurely, I’m not sure there’s a positive play to be made here without breaking the pocket. This is just another example of film that NFL teams will watch and come away from impressed.

 

[video src="https://media.giphy.com/media/1yT8QXrQdEKJenqnEC/source.mp4" /]

What I love about this play is his ability to read the coverage and find the hole. In what appears to be a Cover 2 look by Virginia, Jones goes to the vertical route on the left sideline right from the snap of the ball. What I love about this play is the timing. When the tight end broke on his out route and occupied the flat defender (cornerback at the top of the screen), the vertical route had a limited window for success. Instead of waiting and hoping the receiver would run past the safety, Jones took the safety out of the play by throwing directly into the hole in the coverage. A well-orchestrated play here goes for six.

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