A lot of players have to make a big decision on whether they should enter the NFL Draft or go back to college for their final year of eligibility. For some, it is a no-brainer because their stock can’t get any higher and the best decision is to enter the draft. Other players need to fine-tool some of their skills and may need an additional year of development to be ready for the NFL. All prospects have to make a decision, and for some players it’s the biggest decision of their life.
Cardale Jones, quarterback from Ohio State University, had to figure out if heading to the NFL was the right choice for him after leading the Buckeyes to a Nation Championship in 2014. Obviously, his draft stock was at its peak and there were rumblings that he could potentially be a first or second round draft pick. Jones opted to to stay in school to continue his education to become a financial planner. As you may know, last season didn’t go as planned for him and now his draft stock is in jeopardy.
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Jones was a three-star recruit from Glenville High School which is located in Cleveland, Ohio. He was able to lead his team to a 24-3 record as their starting quarterback. For the 2011 recruiting class, Rivals.com had Jones ranked as the twelfth best quarterback in the nation and the twenty-fourth best player from the state of Ohio. After high school he was recruited heavily by Bowling Green, Toledo, Cincinnati and of course Ohio State. He signed his letter of intent with Ohio State and he was then grey shirted which postponed his enrollment until winter term.
After signing with Ohio State, he enrolled in Fork Union Military Academy for six months to elevate his grade point average so he could be eligible to attend classes at OSU. According to Sports Illustrated, Jones found it difficult to conform to the culture in military school by not being able to handle the demands and responsibilities as he couldn’t march in unison, show up to places on time and keep his room tidy which is a big deal in military school. He also broke rules by sneaking in electronics and cell phones; considered contraband by the school.
Jones eventually made his way to Ohio State where he found himself as the third quarterback on the depth chart during his freshman season. The needle didn’t move for Jones during the beginning of his sophomore season as he was still slotted third on the depth chart behind redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. Then the unthinkable happened when starting quarterback Braxton Miller re-injured his throwing shoulder during an off-season practice, which moved Jones up a spot on the roster. During the entire season, Jones sat quietly as the second string quarterback, until Barrett suffered a severe leg injury during the final game of the season against Michigan, giving Jones the opportunity to start in the Big Ten Championship Game. He helped Ohio State steam roll Wisconsin to a Big Ten Championship and from there he led the Buckeyes to a national title. He looked impeccable during his three game run, passing for 742 yards and five touchdowns.
Right before his junior season began he was named the starting quarterback. The train derailed off the tracks quickly as Jones struggled with accuracy and game management. In week seven, Jones was pulled out of the game due to a poor performance against Penn St. and replaced by backup quarterback Barrett, who became the starting quarterback for the following week. Jones finished his career passing for 2,322 yards and 15 touchdowns. Even though he doesn’t have the hyper productive statistics like a lot of quarterback prospects, he still has a national title to hang his hat on.
Let’s take look at Jones’ Mock Draftable Chart which shows his athletic and physical metrics compared to other quarterback prospects:
At 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, Jones has the prototypical size you want in a quarterback. His frame is thick and sturdy and is built to handle the hits he will take while maneuvering in the pocket. His hand size is big enough to not deem as a detriment to his ability to grip the football. He ran a 4.81 40-yard dash which proves he has enough speed to scramble for extra yardage if the pocket collapses.
Let’s take a look at Jones’ player profile from one of my favorite websites: PlayerProfiler.com
His college production metrics prove he wasn’t an efficient passer, ranking in the fourth percentile in college QBR and just above average amongst in his peers in yards per attempt. His breakout age is a major concern because most college quarterbacks who break out past the age of 22 end up becoming “project quarterbacks” that never pan out. He didn’t participate in many of the combine drills and the 40-yard dash is the only workout metric we have to work with.
Below is Jones’ tape from the Allstate Sugar Bowl, where he passed for 243 yards and one touchdown against Alabama. This game gives a good overall view of his skill set because it highlights both the positives and negatives of his game. He set a career high in pass attempts in this game (35) which gives us the largest sample size of passes to examine compared to any other game of his career.
First thing that stands out about him is his size. He stands tall in the pocket and doesn’t face any visibility issues when looking over the defensive linemen, and he also has the build to handle getting hit by defensive linemen while throwing the football. He has an NFL caliber arm and can generate a lot of velocity while throwing the football, which is great for short and intermediate passes. He also displays good touch on his deep throws, making it look it easy when connecting with his receivers on fade routes. Being able to move the chains is very important for a quarterback and by using his athleticism he’s very good at scrambling when the pocket breaks down to gain the necessary yardage for a first down.
Jones has issues with his accuracy and placement on a lot of his intermediate passes. Simple routes like slants and curls are difficult for him to convert. He also has a tendency to overthrow receivers on deeper routes and around the end zone. Jones has a habit of staring down his first read and not going through his progressions, leaving a lot of open wide receivers unnoticed and not targeted. He needs to develop his pocket awareness because he will hold the ball for too long, creating opportunities to take unnecessary hits.
Jones is expected to be a mid-late round pick in the NFL Draft. He needs to go to a team with a patient quarterback coach who is in it for the long-haul when it comes to developing him. Letting a quarterback slowly develop as a backup has became a thing of the past, as teams are very resistant when it comes to spending time developing young quarterbacks.
Jones also has a history of immaturity – Tweeting inappropriate things and not taking his development seriously in military school, making it safe to question his ambition to become a better quarterback. His career could be short-lived if he doesn’t focus on self development, because quarterback coaches do not have the time to keep reiterating the basics to him.
He’s going to be selected in the later rounds of rookie drafts. I’m completely avoiding him in 1QB leagues, and feel I can pick him up cheaper later down the road as a throw in on a trade or as a waiver wire pick up. The odds of him becoming a productive starter during his rookie season are very low. My ears are perked up in 2QB leagues as a possible flier for the end of my bench. I’m still going to target high upside skilled players over him in the later rounds because I feel the odds are stacked against him. He would be a unicorn if he ever turned into being one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Not many quarterbacks have been successful while taking fewer than 300 snaps at the college level.
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