Back Daniel Jones’ NFL Expectations

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Daniel Jones’ NFL Expectations

By Dave Holcomb
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The bowl performance will likely lead to a lot more money in Jones’ bank account, but it also raises the level of expectations for his NFL career to practically unrealistic heights.

Not many college players get to end their careers with the best game of their life. It doesn’t usually happen for a variety of reasons -- either the player doesn’t performance as well as they’d like in their last game, or it could come in a losing effort. Perhaps it didn’t occur in the championship game like they wanted it to at the beginning of the season too.

For Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, though, the finish to his college career couldn’t have been much better, as he absolutely ripped to shreds the Temple defense in a 56-27 victory. The performance single-handedly could make Jones a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

However, that’s both good and bad. The bowl performance will likely lead to a lot more money in Jones’ bank account, but it also raises the level of expectations for his NFL career to practically unrealistic heights.

In the Independence Bowl, Jones passed for career-bests across the board with 423 passing yards, 10.3 yards per attempt, and five touchdowns. Prior to facing Temple, he had never passed for 400 yards or five touchdowns in any single game let alone accomplished both the same day.

It was an absolutely terrific, dominating performance, and luckily for Jones, it’s the last piece of film scouts and NFL teams will be watching this spring. Even though he reached these numbers just once in three years of college football, desperate NFL squads will convince themselves this performance showcases Jones’ full potential.

Maybe it does, but just 40 days prior to annihilating Temple, Jones went 24 of 43 with 158 passing yards and no touchdowns against Clemson. Granted, the Tigers went 15-0 and won the National Championship. They even made Tua Tagovailoa look mortal.

But if Jones displayed his potential to be great against Temple, couldn’t one look at his dismal day against Clemson in the same fashion? No disrespect to Temple, but the Tigers are also much closer to an NFL caliber defense than the Owls, who played that bowl game without their head coach Geoff Collins.

Outside of the incredible day against Temple, Jones posted two other 300-yard passing games this season. He only averaged more than 8.0 yards per attempt two other times too.

Even including the bowl game, Jones completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 6.8 yards per attempt. In his final four ACC games, which is half the conference season, he recorded about a 52.9 completion percentage and 4.7 yards per attempt.

That doesn’t exactly scream NFL caliber quarterback.

But with Oregon signal caller Justin Herbert returning for his senior season, quarterback is extremely thin in the 2019 class. No matter how thin a class may be behind center, though, teams always take quarterbacks early in the first round. After a terrific finish to his career, Jones is rising the draft boards and may go second at the position behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

Although it certainly called attention to his name, Jones’ final game isn’t the only thing he has going for him in the minds of NFL executives. Standing at 6-foot-5, he has the prototypical height of an NFL quarterback, and Jones spent four years under coach David Cutcliffe, who also mentored Peyton and Eli Manning.

Judging a quarterback off those things, though, is even more ridiculous than his stock significantly rising because of a bowl performance against Temple.

Seemingly every single year, NFL executives make the mistake of overrating a big, tall quarterback with giant hands. Last year, it was Josh Allen, who went seventh overall to the Buffalo Bills. He promptly threw 10 touchdowns versus 12 interceptions during his rookie season.

Granted, there’s a long way to go until we can deem Allen a bust, but the most successful rookie quarterbacks of 2018 were Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. Neither of them are taller than 6-foot-2.

For every Carson Wentz and Ben Roethlisberger (6-foot-5 quarterbacks), there is a JaMarcus Russell and Paxton Lynch (both taller than 6-foot-5). NFL teams love tall quarterbacks, but there isn’t a correlation between height and performance. Just ask Russell Wilson.

The Cutcliffe mention is even more laughable. Sure, he helped develop the Manning brothers, but those guys would have been NFL signal callers anyway.

Cutcliffe playing a small part in their careers doesn’t mean Duke is an NFL quarterback factory. After all, Cutcliffe also mentored Anthony Boone, who is a free agent … in the Canadian Football League.

The best comparison to Jones’ potential NFL first-round trajectory may very well be Blake Bortles. Also standing at 6-foot-5, Bortles had a much better final college season -- 3,581 yards, 9.4 yards per attempt, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions -- than Jones, but nobody took notice until after he and UCF beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

All the sudden, he was the hottest quarterback name that spring -- ahead of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- and went at No. 3 overall. Bortles has played well at times during his NFL career. Behind an elite defense, he managed to lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game last season, but he has been widely inconsistent, and failed to live up to the expectations of a Top 5 pick.

If Jones goes in the Top 10 of the 2019 NFL Draft, he will face the same difficulty, living up to the lofty expectations set unfairly by the best game of his life.