FAB 3. Jones Is A 2019 Draft Sleeper At QB
If you are among those who believe the Bucs should draft a quarterback in 2019 you’ve probably heard the names of Oregon junior Justin Herbert, West Virginia senior Will Grier, Missouri senior Drew Lock and North Carolina State senior Ryan Finley.
Here’s another name to know: Duke junior Daniel Jones.
Jones’ name has been popping up in a few first-round mock drafts and for good reason. He’s super talented.
There are some reports that suggest that Herbert, who is currently regarded as the top NFL draft prospect in college football, may return for his senior year at Oregon. That would weaken what appears to be a less than stellar crop of available quarterbacks in this draft, which does not rival last year’s quarterbacks taken in the first round, including Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson.
One scout told me that Herbert and Jones are the two highest names in the agent community right now with agents flocking to meet with them to discuss future representation.
What has scouts excited about the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones is his intelligence, his big arm and his athleticism, which reminds some of a young Rich Gannon. Jones runs a pro-style, play-action offense under the tutelage of Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss.
Jones is a three-year starter that has shown considerable improvement this year, especially in his touchdown-to-interception ratio.
2018 – 135-of-218 (61.9 percent) passes for 1,587 yards with 13 TDs and 5 INTs
2017 – 257-of-453 (56.7 percent) passes for 2,691 yards with 14 TDs and 11 INTs
2016 – 270-of-430 (62.8 percent) passes for 2,836 yards with 16 TDs and 9 INTs
Jones turned heads as a freshman while beating Notre Dame, 38-35, in his fourth start of the year, completing 75 percent of his passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He ended that season completing 68 percent of his passes for 316 yards with three TDs and no INTs in a 40-21 loss at Miami.
Check out this 2016 highlight video (profanity warning):
There were times when Jones tried to do too much as a sophomore as his number of interceptions rose from nine to 11, but he ended the 2017 campaign with a 7-6 record thanks to three straight victories. That included a 36-14 win over Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl where he completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns and adding 86 yards on the ground and another score.
Jones has showed improved accuracy and a penchant for making better decisions as a junior. The Charlotte native completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-7 win at Northwestern before breaking his collarbone.
Jones showed incredible toughness in only missing two games before returning to the lineup after surgery. In his second game back, Jones completed 63 percent of his passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in a 28-14 victory over Georgia Tech.
Two weeks ago in a 54-45 loss at Pittsburgh, Jones had his most prolific game as a passer, completing 64.3 percent of his throws for 396 yards with four touchdowns and no interception in a game where the Blue Devils defense just didn’t show up. Jones had his worst game last week completing 17-of-35 passes for 130 yards and an interception, but that came in an absolute monsoon in Miami that Duke won in the rain, 20-12.
Jones has also rushed for 1,145 yards and 15 touchdowns in his three years at Duke with his sneaky speed and is capable of ripping off a 20-yard run to pick up a first down and then some. That kind of mobility is what draws some comparisons to Gannon.
With eight games to go, it’s impossible to know where the Bucs will end up drafting and exactly who will be the ones at One Buccaneer Place to actually make the picks. But with 35-year Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract being up in the offseason and Jameis Winston’s long-term future in doubt, Jones will be a quarterback to keep an eye on. Look for his name to shoot up draft boards if he comes out and join the likes of Lock, Grier, Herbert and Findley as a first- or second-round pick.