Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
(percentile rank among all QBs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.81 seconds (52nd)
Hand Size: 9¾" (61st)
Vertical: 33.5" (76th)
Broad: 120” (91st)
3-cone: 7.00 seconds (69th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.41 seconds (30th)
A late bloomer physically, Jones initially was a walk-on for Duke. Paired with one of the most respected QB tutors in the country — HC David Cutcliffe — Jones grew into a legit pro prospect.
He started 3 years for a Duke program that averaged just 6.3 wins per season. No surprise, then, that Jones regularly worked with a subpar supporting cast. For one, Duke pass catchers combined for a 9.2% drop rate, 2nd highest in this class per Pro Football Focus. PFF also graded their O-line among the worst in the country in 2018.
And here’s another telling nugget: Jones has never played alongside a future NFL draft pick.
So, the 21-year-old has certainly taken some lumps. Cutcliffe called Jones “mentally and physically tough” while appearing on the Move The Sticks Podcast — and it’s true. Jones suffered a broken clavicle last September but missed just 2 games.
PFF’s advanced numbers don’t paint the rosiest picture for Jones. He ranked 20th in the class in adjusted completion % vs. pressure and 25th vs. the blitz. His overall adjusted completion rate (74.3%) was enough to place him a respectable 11th. And it shows how he can beat defenses when given a clean pocket.
Jones is lauded by coaches and observers for his work ethic and football IQ. A special relationship with the Manning family certainly helps; they’ve connected at camps, while Cutcliffe coached both Peyton and Eli.
Let's see just how Manning-like Jones is in the next section...
Games watched: Clemson, Miami, Virginia, Temple, North Carolina
*Each of the games I watched came after Jones' injury. He surely returned on the early end of his timetable, yet he managed to avoid another injury going forward.
The #1 skill you want in any QB is accuracy. You can't really teach it, as many scouts have said. While Jones' numbers weren't elite side, they were solid. And he did make a number of NFL-quality throws -- with NFL-quality ball placement.
This next clip shows Jones in max protect with a 2-man route. Coming off his first read, he fires off a beautiful, in-stride deep ball. But, in what became a theme, the receiver dropped the pass...
Here's a case of Jones manipulating the defense with a quick pump. The defender bites, and Jones capitalizes with another well-placed pass.
The next clip won't "wow" anyone -- but it's the type of throw he'll surely need to make at the pro level when the defenders get home quicker and throwing lanes become messy. Jones not only overcomes the pressure here -- he delivers a sideline strike. While his PFF pressure numbers stunk overall, there are examples to show that he'll improve with time.
Eliminating turnover-worthy plays will be key for Jones going forward. Playing with a better offense ought to help. But as we see in the next clip, pressure gets the best of Jones and forces a risky throw. Jones' arm strength isn't considered elite, but he has more than enough zip to become an eventual starter.
A former basketball player, Jones tested well at the Combine. We see some of his speed and athleticism on this 61-yard run. In total, Jones racked up 186 rushing yards on this day...
Jones’ lack of production would be alarming in most cases. But his supporting cast lacked quality talent, evidenced by frequent drops and zero past draft picks.
The Charlotte native checks boxes for size and accuracy, while his arm strength is more than adequate. It’ll be interesting to see how his mobility translates to the pros after compiling 1,323 career rushing yards. He also tested as a plus athlete at the Combine.
Recently, Round 1 buzz on Jones has accelerated. If he lands in that range, we’re likely looking at a real-life starter by year 2. Supporting cast will go a long way towards projecting fantasy value, but Jones’ skill set says he could eventually become a low-end QB1.