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The Big Blue-Print: Duke’s Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are looking to extend their winning streak to three games, as they face off against a team who has had their number in recent memory: the Philadelphia Eagles.

Eli Manning was near-perfect last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completing 17-of-18 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line has played exceptionally well, as Manning is seeing extra time in the pocket and in turn, can see plays develop downfield. But as mentioned in last week’s column, his recent upswing in production shouldn’t deter Dave Gettleman and Co. from finding Manning’s successor. In fact, he was present in Morgantown, W.Va. to scout Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier in person, as he faced off against the Oklahoma Sooners.

This week, I look at a prospect that has risen like no other quarterback in this year’s draft class and could create a debate between himself and Oregon’s Justin Herbert (who suffered an undisclosed shoulder injury on Friday against Oregon State) for who should be the first signal caller taken off the board in the NFL Draft. That quarterback is Duke’s Daniel Jones.

Who is Daniel Jones?

Jones stands at 6-5 and weighs 220-pounds and is a dual-threat quarterback. Interestingly, Jones was a two-star prospect out of Charlotte, N.C. on 247 Sports Composite. He originally committed to Princeton, before switching over to Duke as a “grayshirt,” meaning he would pay his own way for his first year at college before being added to the scholarship roster. Jones had also received interest from Wake Forest and Harvard.

The now-Junior started in all three seasons in Durham, N.C. and has developed tremendously through each year. This season he has been truly exceptional, as he’s completed 190-of-301 pass attempts for 2,106 yards, 16 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. On the ground, he has carried the ball 92 times for 334 yards and two scores. Not to mention, he broke his collarbone in the second game of the season, and he only missed two weeks. If that’s not toughness, we don’t know what is.’

A lot of credit to Jones’ development goes to head coach Daniel Cutcliffe, who made a name for himself as the mentor of Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning’s head coach at Ole Miss.

What the Game Film Shows

Jones has caught the attention of many for his deep passes. His arm is among the strongest in college football, as it has such a velocirty when zipping out of his hand. Not only that, but it hits his targets right on the hands.

While you can look at his accuracy rating and scoff at it, Jones has a similar situation as Drew Lock has in Missouri. The receiving corps is not completely up to snuff. As you can see in most of his games, Jones’ passes are on the money, it’s just that the receiver can’t bring it in on their own. Too many drops, which in turn, affect Jones’ accuracy numbers.

Many will point to Jones’ recent performance against the No. 2 ranked Clemson Tigers. He completed 24-of-43 pass attempts for 158 yards against the Tigers. Scouts are going to look at this performance, as Jones and Cutcliffe opted for the dink-and-dunk approach. Clemson’s defense is tough, and are the equivalent of a NFL defense. The fact that Jones didn’t step up in this game will deter some scouts, but it should not be indicative of his overall skill set.

Now onto his ability on the ground. Jones possesses sneaky speed, not anything that will blow you away. Rather, just enough to break away from defensive pressure. In fact, against the North Carolina Tar Heels this year, he had two rushing touchdowns, both for over 60 yards.

Jones relied heavily on his rushing abilities throughout his first two seasons at Duke. However, under Cutcliffe’s tutelage, he has become more comfortable in the pocket and does not run when sensing oncoming pressure. As a result, Jones’s numbers have increased, and so has his draft stock.

What Draft Experts Are Saying

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. recently ranked him the 18th-best 2019 draft prospect, and boldly predicted that he will be the first quarterback taken off the board next April.

“The most impressive trait I’ve seen from Jones this season is his ability to buy time in the pocket and use his feet to get square and make a throw,” says Kiper. “He has thrown 26 interceptions in his three seasons as the starter, and he forces passes at times, but he has mostly cut down on the poor throws this season, as he has only six picks.”

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report spoke with an anonymous NFC evaluator, who said he’d take a Jones, who is more pro-ready, than a trait-based quarterback, such as Herbert and Lock. Miller continued his praise of Jones, saying the fact that he has such a renowned QB whisperer like Cutcliffe only helps his chances of a high selection.

“Jones, who school sources say is on track to graduate early and could be a participant in the upcoming Senior Bowl if he does choose to leave Duke, has been impressive this season as he’s showed off his accuracy and athleticism in a diverse offensive scheme,” wirtes Miller. “Playing under well-renowned head coach David Cutcliffe only boosts Jones’ stock for pro evaluators.”

Back in October, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports projected Jones to be selected by the Giants at the No. 9 spot. Trapasso was particularly fond of Jones’, “serious NFL signal-caller skills from within the pocket.” Not only that, but Jones being, “comfortable drifting away from pressure inside the pocket.”

The Big Blue Devil?

Jones rise up the draft board didn’t happen for no reason. He is perhaps one of the more pro-ready quarterbacks that in this year’s class.

The deep arm is there. The accuracy is there, despite the numerous drops from his receivers. He can run sufficiently enough to escape oncoming pressure, but doesn’t rely on running up the field too often. What helps Jones’ case is that he has a mentor in Cutcliffe, who have developed the Manning brothers into mainstays in the NFL.

Jones would be a good fit for the Giants, as won’t have to worry about drops in the NFL, as he would have Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram, and Sterlin Shepard to target. Not only that, but if the Giants manage to lock in Jamon Brown in the offseason, the offensive line will be stable enough for Jones to pick apart the opposing defense.

If the Giants are to take a signal caller next April, it will likely be between Jones and Herbert (if they both declare). Both are great choices for the future of the New York franchise. If Herbert were to return to college or get selected by another team, Jones is a good 1B option for the Giants.


Important Note: Jones’ final game of the regular season is Saturday, Nov. 24 against Wake Forest.  The game will air at 12:30 p.m. ET on the YES Network in the New York Metropolitan area. It will not be Jones’ last game of the year, as Duke has already clinched a bowl-game spot for December.

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General Editor and New York Giants Lead Writer.
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