Throws like this one are why Duke QB Daniel Jones’ NFL draft stock is soaring

Oct 27, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones (17) looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Rang

Recent conversations with two-time NFL general manager Scot McCloughan and Senior Bowl chief executive Jim Nagy have confirmed what my own eyes are telling me – this year’s quarterback class is better than advertised.

With five quarterbacks drafted among the top 32 last year – the most since 1983 – the expectation was that the 2019 QB class yield a below average crop.

Breakout performances from passers all over the country, however, scouts re-evaluating the position’s top-end talent and depth.

Take Duke’s Daniel Jones, for example, who showed confidence, accuracy and pillow-soft touch on this fade into the left corner of the end zone – a difficult pass for a right-handed quarterback.

Touchdown passes like this one mean much more than six points to scouts because it demonstrates an ability to attack the entire end zone. This is critical in the evaluation of quarterbacks as in the close quarters of the red zone, the end line essentially operates as a 12th defender, giving quarterbacks significantly less space to operate than at mid-field.

This kind of graduate-level mastery of the position is actually somewhat expected of Jones, the latest protégé of Duke head coach and revered QB-guru David Cutcliffe, who Peyton and Eli Manning credit with much of their success in college.

Like the Mannings, Jones offers a prototypical frame and is at his best in the pocket, showing light feet and good awareness to complete downfield throws even with defenders bearing down on him. Jones has shown improved accuracy on deep passes this year but relies more on trajectory and touch than velocity.

Jones made his Big Board debut this week, joining three other quarterbacks on my list of the Top 32 NFL prospects in college football.

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