Cardale Jones should enter the 2015 NFL draft. Yes, despite playing just three games in his college football career. And it shouldn’t be a difficult decision. Here’s why:
1) Jones is a rarity: a 22-year old redshirt sophomore. He’s a man. He’s older than Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. So what if he only has three college starts? Jay Schroeder only had one, Brad Johnson had six, AJ Feeley had eight and Matt Cassel had zero.
2) Ohio State returns two other quarterbacks next year who beat him out for the job in 2014: Braxton Miller (who opened the 2014 season as a Heisman contender) and JT Barrett (who was so good in 2014, he finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting). Despite how impressive Jones was in wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, it is far from a lock he would win the starting job for next season.
3) Jones saw Miller and Barrett suffer season-ending injuries, which paved the way for him to enter the college football history books as an unknown. You have to factor in injury potential, especially the way Jones tucks-and-runs, often colliding with linebackers.
4) Jones would definitely get drafted in April. One scout said he’d be the 4th quarterback taken after Winston, Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. In a very weak QB class, more than half the league would be willing to take a mid-round flier on an unknown with always-enticing “upside.”
5) Here’s what IS known about Jones: He has a cannon for an arm, and you’ll hear names like Flacco tossed around because of how effortlessly he can fling it. Jones is a very large man (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and incredibly athletic (Cam Newton is nimble; Jones lumbers; Flacco is plodding).
6) I counted five NFL teams with QBs who will be 35 or older at the start of next season:
Tony Romo, Dallas (35 in April)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (36 on Thursday)
Tom Brady, New England (38 in August)
Carson Palmer, Arizona (35)
Peyton Manning, Denver (39 in March)
You’re telling me one of those teams wouldn’t take a chance on Jones in the 3rd/4th round, have him learn for a year or two, and then insert him? Guess how old Brett Favre was when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the 1st round?
Thirty-five. (This is not to say Jones is anything like Rodgers coming out of college. But when a QB turns 35, it’s time to start thinking about the QB to succeed him.)
Jones, right now, won’t be a 1st round pick, or anywhere close to it. Has Jones displayed the ability to read a defense? What is his accuracy like on short routes? Can he audible without looking at the sideline for direction? Can he identify where the blitz is coming from, or when? NFL defenses are vastly more complex than what college football teams can do. If you watch this video, he locks in on most 1st receivers here, and then throws that way, regardless of coverage. Or, he’ll dump it to the checkdown. Count the times he looks off the safety.
But very little is known about Jones – which makes him so attractive. If Jones stays in school and wins the OSU job, his play will be heavily scrutinized. On every possession, “the NFL” will be a topic. And what if he loses the QB job due to ineffectiveness? Worst-case scenario: Jones can’t handle the pressure of being a target now that there’s some film on him, loses his job, and then he’s a 23-year old college backup with a young daughter and NFL lukewarm on his prospects.
Final note: Logan Thomas, who played at Virginia Tech for three years, but his three best games were nowhere near what Jones did in the last six weeks, was drafted in the 4th round by the Arizona Cardinals.