Rookie Rundown: QB Daniel Jones, Duke

Rookie Rundown: QB Daniel Jones, Duke

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: QB Daniel Jones, Duke

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(Joshua S. Kelly, USA TODAY Sports)

Redshirt junior Duke quarterback Daniel Jones offers NFL teams an intriguing, three-year starter whose ceiling is high, but proper coaching and surrounding talent will dictate his success more so than typical signal-callers.

A disciple of famed quarterback whisperer David Cutcliffe, Jones has NFL-ready mechanics and is among the most polished prospects of this class. He will be system-dependent in the pros, which limits his list of potential suitors, and Jones could struggle to fit into conventional pro-style offenses.

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 221 pounds
40 time: 4.81

Jones relies on his mobility and raw athleticism to make plays in the running game, a nice bonus for prospective coaches. He draws a fair NFL comparison of Ryan Tannehill from a physical perspective, although Jones is better groomed for the pros than Tannehill was entering the league.

Table: QB Daniel Jones, Duke — statistics (2016-18)

Year
Comp
Att
Comp%
Yards
Avg.
TD
INT
Long
Rush att
Rush yds
Avg.
TD
LNG
2016
270
430
62.8
2,836
6.6
16
9
64
141
486
3.4
7
29
2017
257
453
56.7
2,691
5.9
14
11
58
161
518
3.2
7
33
2018
237
392
60.5
2,674
6.8
22
9
85
104
319
3.1
3
68

A 59.9 percent completion rate over his three seasons as a starter doesn’t bode well, but Jones was hampered by a shaky receiving corps, as evidenced by 38 dropped passes in 2018 alone.

The long-striding Jones is capable of busting off big runs, and he was a force in the red zone, as well. Playing in a zone-read/RPO system showed the heady quarterback capable of making the correct decision in a split second. Conversely, it also hinders his ability to immediately transition into a pro-style offense.

Pros

  • Quite accurate at all three levels and throws with natural touch
  • Has enough arm strength to make most NFL throws without concern
  • Highly intelligent and sees the field extremely well — makes pre-snap reads and adjust plays
  • Quick to run through the progressions
  • Working with David Cutcliffe positions Jones well ahead of the learning curve
  • Stands tall in the pocket against the blitz
  • Quality NFL height at 6-foot-5
  • Tends to keep his eyes down the field while on the move and has shown the ability to look off safeties

Cons

  • Makes more throws into tight or impossible windows than one would like to see
  • Needs to do a better job of protecting himself while on the move
  • Could tighten up his throwing motion, but plenty of QBs have thrived with stranger and slower deliveries
  • Scrawny lower-body build — only 221 pounds at 6-foot-5 could be problematic in the NFL, and adding substantial weight will impair his mobility
  • Missed two games in 2018 with a broken collarbone
  • Can be sluggish to get rid of the ball at times — needs a faster mental clock, which can be improved through experience and timing drills

Fantasy football outlook

As with any system-driven player, especially one who is dependent on having a strong nucleus of talent to lift him, Jones will need to be in the right fit. He could greatly benefit from a year on the bench behind a proven starter.

Creative play-callers can adjust their systems to fit Jones, although that tends to be a scenario reserved for elite talent. He’s unlikely to play for a vertical passing offense and find optimal success. Jones also won’t be the best fit in any system that emphasizes the quarterback or requires the position to make up for a lack of supporting talent.

Zac Taylor’s system in Cincinnati could be a nice fit, and just about any offense that utilizes run-pass options could work for him. It’s tough to see Miami going this route again after the Tannehill failure. The Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants are all reasonable places for him. The Oakland Raiders and New England could be in play, too, depending on where Jones comes off of the board.

Based on the totality of Jones as a player, he should be a Day 2 selection, but the premium teams place on his position may thrust him into the second half of Round 1. It really comes down to how teams collectively balance this defensive-heavy draft in relation to a limited crop of realistic starting quarterbacks.

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