Ohio State redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft class. At 6’5”, 253 lbs. with 9 ¾” hands, Jones possesses excellent size for the position. He will be a 24-year old rookie.
The first thing that stands out when watching Jones is his elite arm strength. Few quarterbacks throw with the same type of velocity that he can and he shows no fear throwing down the field. He is willing to test any window on the field at any point in the game without being careless with the ball. Jones displays a willingness to stand in the face of pressure and make difficult throws down the field. He shows the ability to stand tall in the pocket and make throws with bodies around him in a muddy pocket.
Jones’ ball placement to the short to intermediate levels of the field is inconsistent as there are times when he will throw behind receivers on in-breaking routes. Timing on deep throws must become much more consistent. While Jones gets the ball out on time and hits receivers in stride down the field on occasion, this must take place more often as he shows a tendency to hold the ball a second too late much too often. This leads to underthrows and contested catches.
There are times when Jones does a good job of looking to a side of the field to hold a safety on the hash or in the middle of the field prior to throwing the ball deep down the sideline, but he must show more consistency in this area. Although he was able to get away with some stare downs on deep throws in college, defensive backs will make him pay for this at the next level.
Jones displays flashes where he reads through full field progressions, but he was not expected to do so consistently. He does a good job of utilizing pump fakes and using his eyes to move underneath defenders and widen throwing windows. He shows comfort anticipating windows in zones and throwing the ball just before receivers come open. When receivers do not create separation, Jones must do a better job of avoiding making bad plays worse and forcing the ball into traffic. With this being said, Jones does a good job of making things happen when plays break down as he displays the ability to thrive within and out of structure.
Jones is a very good athlete for his size with rare power for the position. He is extremely difficult to bring down and shows surprising elusiveness. He consistently lowers his shoulder in an attempt to fall forward and gain yardage rather than protecting himself as a runner. Unlike many athletic quarterbacks, he does a good job of being patient in the pocket and reading the field before scrambling. Jones shows comfort throwing on the run to either side.
Cardale Jones played very well during the 2014 national title run and showed all of the traits of a very good NFL quarterback. However, during the 2015 season he seemed to lose his confidence and he began pressing. This resulted in missed throws, hesitation at times when he would have previously thrown the ball, and trying to do too much at the wrong times. While he was benched during the 2015 season, flashes of the high-level traits were still on display when he was given chances to show what he could do.
During his 2014 starts, Jones played in a system that was more tailored to his strengths as he played in a drop-back passing game and made deeper progression reads. In 2015, the offense asked him to play a completely different game as a passer. There was less commitment to attack the defense vertically and many of the route concepts they ran were shorter and more predictable.
If a good position coach and offensive coordinator get their hands on Cardale Jones, he has the potential to develop into an excellent NFL quarterback. While he must become a more consistent player, he displays all of the traits necessary to play the position at a high level and he should continue to get better with experience. It will take patience, stability, and support from the organization that selects him, but over time, selecting Jones could pay big dividends.
Assuming Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns choose against selecting a quarterback with the 2nd pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, they should absolutely consider Cardale Jones with their second round pick and any pick thereafter. Jackson’s track record leads me to believe he would build his offense around Jones and accentuate his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.
What do you think of Cardale Jones at the NFL Level?