Summary: Duke's head coach, David Cutcliffe, is one of the most valued and respected quarterback gurus in football. He was the coaching mentor to both Peyton and Eli Manning, and at Duke, Cutcliffe provided Jones very good preparation for the NFL over his three years as the Blue Devils' starting quarterback.
As a freshman, Jones connected on 63 percent of his passes for 2,836 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In 2017, he completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,439 yards with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Jones had his best season in 2018, despite dealing with some injuries. He completed 61 percent of his passes on the year for 2,674 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Many around the league thought Jones would return for his redshirt senior year, but he decided to jump to the next level and declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.
There is a lot to like about Jones, and he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback with his ability to be a pro-style pocket passer. Jones has a strong arm and can really spin the ball. That was clearly seen by area scouts and the rest of the league at the Senior Bowl. Jones has the ability to make all the throws needed for the NFL. He can loft in touch passes downfield and throw some fastballs into tight windows. Jones is very good at putting air underneath his touch passes to drop them in the bucket and throws a very catchable ball.
Jones has been well prepared for the NFL, as he is an intelligent signal-caller. In speaking to one NFC general manager, they really liked how Jones knew where all of his receivers would be and was able to move to them when he had to throw under duress. Jones has quality field vision and works beyond his primary read. He does a decent job of dissecting the coverage the defense is employing, and is able to manipulate coverage with his eyes.
In the face of a rush, Jones stands tall and keeps his eyes downfield while the rush closes in on him. While Jones is not a dynamic runner for the NFL, he does move around pretty well and can pick up some yards on the ground while also being able to buy time through scrambling. Additionally, Jones can make some nice throws on the run. Given the speed of pro defenders, Jones is not a true rushing threat, but he can be functional enough to dodge some sacks and pick up some yards on the ground when nothing is open downfield.
As a passer, Jones does have things to work on for the NFL. He can hold the ball too long and not pull the trigger fast enough. With the speed of pro defenses, Jones has to be more decisive and get the ball out faster when he has an open receiver. Jones' timing should improve with more experience and coaching. There were also too many times when Jones would force some throws into coverage. He can trust his arm too much and sometimes throws passes that he shouldn't. It also wouldn't hurt Jones to shorten his delivery, which will help him to be effective for the faster pro game with its smaller windows of time to complete passes. It would also help him by reducing the time for pass-rushers to get to him.
For the 2019 NFL Draft, Jones looks like a consensus first-round pick from speaking with team sources. He could become a franchise quarterback and be a good pro starter. Three general managers told me they thought that Jones would rise in the leadup to the draft and be the first quarterback taken. Regardless of if he is the initial signal-caller to go off the board, Jones should be a top-20 pick.
Player Comparison: Eli Manning. Jones has the look of a Manning with his strong arm, pocket presence, field vision, and passing polish. In terms of his flaws, Jones is more similar to Eli Manning than Peyton Manning.
NFL Matches: New York Giants, Jacksonville, Denver, Cincinnati, Miami, Washington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Chargers, New England
Obviously, free agency will have a big impact on the quarterback market because some teams will acquire veterans and won't consider taking a signal-caller with a first-round pick. The first quarterback-needy team selecting in Round 1 is the New York Giants. They have an aging and declining Eli Manning, but passed on a potential franchise quarterback last year. They can't continue doing that. Jones could be their quarterback of the future.
The Jaguars could move on from the inept Blake Bortles and get a new franchise quarterback this offseason. With the seventh-overall pick, they could take a trigger man if they don't add a veteran starter in free agency.
Denver needs a quarterback of the future due to Case Keenum just being a stop-gap veteran. Jones' arm and pocket passing could intrigue John Elway.
Cincinnati could decide to move on from Andy Dalton with its new head coach. Ditto for Miami with Ryan Tannehill. Thus, Jones could go in the early teens to the Bengals or the Dolphins.
The Redskins could consider taking a quarterback in the first round because Alex Smith may miss the 2019 season due to his leg injury. Even if he comes back, he is aging and limited, so Washington could select a quarterback on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Steelers, Chargers and Patriots are all teams that could consider a quarterback as their aging signal-callers have a limited number of years left.