Taking a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospect Daniel Jones, quarterback out of Duke University.
Daniel Jones – QB
Duke University – Junior (RS)
Career Passing Stats: 8201 Yards/52 TD/29 INT
Career Rushing Stats:1323 Yards/17 TD
This year’s draft class is not loaded with top-end talent like the Class of 2018. In fact, it lacks a lot in the way of star power on the offensive side of the ball. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evaluate for fantasy purposes. Over the next few months I will be evaluating players and looking at how they fit in the NFL.
A three-year starter at Duke under QB-savant David Cutcliffe, Daniel Jones enters the NFL draft after an outstanding junior season where he threw for over 2600 yards and 22 TDs. In a normal year, Jones might be getting more attention but with the Kyler Murray-effect he has slipped through the cracks as an intriguing prospect.
Jones’s career at Duke included a freshmen season where he had a 16:0 (!) touchdown to interception ratio. Unfortunately, it was followed by a sophomore campaign where he had nearly as many interceptions as he did touchdowns. To add to the intrigue, he also rushed for over 1300 yards, exhibiting the ability to extend plays with his feet and escape pressure in the pocket.
I looked at every throw Jones made against Northwestern from 2018 and saw some things I liked as well as a few red flags. You can check out the film here and I will look at four plays that stood out – two of them are in short form here:
Jones is very good at staying on schedule and hitting receivers in stride on these slants. This is a big part of Duke's passing game. pic.twitter.com/xdE0cnq4RP
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) November 9, 2018
3:22 1st Quarter – 3rd and 10 – Duke 43
This play is simple in terms of design but sometimes simplicity is beautiful. Northwestern is showing pre-snap pressure so Jones knows the ball is going to have to get out quickly. The two middle linebackers blitz in the A-gap but are picked up well and the pocket is clean with the exception of some pressure from the right side. While I would prefer to see Jones do more to climb the pocket on the play, he does slide left just enough to avoid the defense. He then drills a perfect pass outside the hash giving his receiver a chance to get up field for an extra two yards and the first down. Great pocket presence and throw on the play.
14:05 2nd Quarter – 2nd and Goal – Northwestern 9
I’ve watched this play a dozen times and each time I chuckle at the middle linebacker’s reaction to Jones holding his eyes to the middle of the field. At the snap there is play-action on a jet sweep; Jones does a terrific job of looking off the defender for just a second prior to hitting his slot receiver on a slant for the touchdown. The linebacker is actually caught turning his head and looking for a receiver (who isn’t there) because of the play-fake. Jones used his eyes just enough to keep him from dropping into the vacated spot in coverage to help the DB in the slot.
I don’t think based on his pre-snap positioning the LB could have got into position to give adequate help either way. Regardless, because of Jones’s ability to look him off, the play was never in doubt. The throw was a bullet right on the money for an easy touchdown.
10:57 2nd Quarter – 4th and 3 – Northwestern 38
This was a poor job by Jones on a play that cost Duke a 1st down. This is a throw he has to make and a coverage that he needs to do a better job of recognizing. Duke is in a flex-bunch to the right side of the formation with two receivers and a tight end all lined up within three yards of the tackle. Northwestern shows man coverage which means the tight end is going to have an advantage at the snap of getting out in the flat with his defender having to do two things: Trail him and fight through two defenders and two receivers to get there.
The Y and Z receivers run short slants to clear out for the tight end. This creates a lot of traffic for the defender to get through in order to try and cover the tight end. However, Jones is slow to recognize the outside DB isn’t going to switch off his man and go with the tight end. The result is the pass being broken up and a turnover on downs on what should have been an easy conversion.
This is the exact type of play in the exact type of formation NFL offenses will expect him to make in order to keep drives moving. My guess is the TE wasn’t the first option on the play since Jones looked inside before realizing the DBs weren’t going to switch and pass off their man. Still, this is a play he absolutely has to make and the type of coverage he has to do a better job to recognize. It might help explain some of his struggles at the Senior Bowl to diagnose coverages even during 7-on-7’s.
8:49 2nd Quarter – 1st and 10 – Duke 47
This is by far my favorite throw of the day and it showcases the immense upside Jones has as a passer. This is a three-receiver set with two backs flanking Jones. Once again, we have play action (sensing a theme here) and the two receivers to the left of the formation run a high-low concept. The slot man runs a 13-yard curl and the outside man runs a deep post. This forces the safety to make a decision and, unfortunately for him, he chooses poorly. The reason for this is that Jones sells the underneath route with his eyes so well that the safety tries to jump the route. This leaves single coverage on the outside and Jones drops an absolute dime 53 yards in the air to hit his man in stride.
My word, this was a beautiful play design and even better throw. It was easily his best one of the day and it gave Duke a lead they would never relinquish.
Daniel Jones has skills that will translate well to the NFL and physically he checks all the boxes. He also gets the ball out quickly (2.21 seconds per drop back last year per Pro Football Focus) which is something NFL teams covet. He also has a long release and his coverage recognition needs to be refined so there are certainly areas for improvement. I have seen questions about his arm strength and that is an area you can’t necessarily improve. That said, the 53-yard throw he made makes me think his arm might be better than people think.
In short, I don’t see him getting much playing time as a rookie unless something goes horrifically wrong for the franchise who drafts him. That is a good thing for him as a player because he isn’t anywhere near ready. Taking him in the top-10 (or anywhere in the first round) is a mistake. That said, I think for a team like the Chargers or Packers he would make a lot of sense on Day Two.
For fantasy purposes Jones won’t be usable in re-draft next year but in dynasty he could be an asset. He probably won’t cost much as the masses will flock to Dwayne Haskins, Murray, and possibly Drew Lock. While I don’t think he has Kyler Murray’s massive ceiling, I do believe that he could be a better value than Lock. He might even be a better investment than Murray given the latter’s situation with the Oakland A’s. If Jones ends up in the right scenario, we could be looking at a productive fantasy QB two or three years down the road.
Thanks for reading – you can find me on Twitter @JasonKamlowsky to talk about anything with fantasy football or baseball. Also be sure to follow @F3Pod and @IDPGuys and check out the content on theffranchise.com and idpguys.org for everything fantasy football related.