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NFL Draft QB Deep Dive

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: April 21, 2019, 1:01 am ET

3. Daniel Jones (Duke) | 6’5/221 | hand: 9.75

Age: 22.3

SPARQ percentile: 71.7

Comp:  Ryan Tannehill (Kyle Crabbs)

daniel jones

People say Drew Lock is the Josh Allen of this class. Not true, Lock can’t bring it on the ground and that’s the most intriguing part of Allen’s game at this time. Daniel Jones is the Josh Allen of this class — minus the bazooka and plus a world-class tutor.

Like Allen, Jones is a big, imposing athlete who can do damage on the ground. And like Allen, Jones underwhelmed statistically and frustrated on the field. Analytically, Jones is the anti-Kyler Murray. His conventional passing numbers give pause, as Hayden Winks has noted. So do Jones’ advanced stats.

Per PFF, Jones ranked No. 20 in adjusted completion % against pressure, No. 25 in adjusted completion % versus the blitz, and No. 35 in average depth of target.

But three notes on that.

1) Duke’s supporting talent was atrocious (way worse than Drew Lock had at Missouri, it should be noted).

2.) Jones is easily tops among the top-10 QBs in this class in receiver drop rate (11.1%, a full 3.4% higher than No. 2 Lock and 6.1% higher than Kyler), which destroyed his numbers (as did his receiver's inability to do anything after the catch, a metric Haskins and Kyler were on the opposite side of).

3.) Duke’s passing system, in large part because of a lack of outside talent and a poor offensive line, was heavy on quick-hitting short and intermediate passes out of spread sets.

4.) Jones broke his clavicle on Sept. 8 against Northwestern, an injury that was expected to wreck most of his season. He returned to the field three weeks later, on Sept. 29, against Virginia Tech. He played compromise, and Duke labored to keep him out of harm's way to avoid another injury, which would have wrecked its season.

Jones’ deep game was quite poor in college. It was almost non-existent. And that’s a concern. It's "the" concern.

But football isn't a one-man game. There are contextual reasons to explain that which are independent of Jones' skillset. To dismiss him over it would be foolish.

Let's talk about what he is. Daniel Jones is big, athletic, experienced and polished. Credit for that last bit to David Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton and Eli Manning in college. Cutcliffe told the media before Jones had played a game in college that he was going to be a Round 1 pick.

The part outside of running in his statistical profile where he really shines is efficiency in the short game. And his touch and accuracy stretch into the intermediate sector. And for all this arm strength talk, it should be noted that Jones was No. 1 in the top-10 QBs in this class in tight window accuracy, per Benjamin Solak.

Jones was also sacked the most, and he threw the most interception-worthy throws. The latter wasn't really his fault, but the latter was. There are areas he needs to work on. But I think the skillset is there.

To me, his eval comes down to one basic question. Was Jones’ supporting cast so bad that he didn’t have time to throw it deep or the receivers to catch it even when he did? Or was his deep game non-existent because Jones is something of an imposter, a good-looking dual-threat pupil of one of college football’s all-time quarterback gurus who doesn’t have the arm talent to succeed in the NFL?

I’m tentatively bullish. Jones in some ways reminds me of Derek Carr coming out of Fresno State, in that Carr was a big kid with movement skills who had the arm to push it downfield but was always throwing bubble screens. I missed on Carr because of that, and that was a mistake.

I have enough examples of relative success stories to project a fair chance of Jones developing into a starter -- a Ryan Tannehill type, if nothing else. Maybe even a decent one. If he can challenge defenses deep in the NFL, he'll answer the scarlet letter of his evaluation process and, in so doing, play up every other facet of his game as defenses are forced to defend vertically in addition to horizontally.  

4. Will Grier (West Virginia) | 6’2/217 | hand: 9.375

Age: 24.4

SPARQ percentile: 66.4

Comp: Case Keenum (plus?)


Comps are hard. Sometimes we pick a player whose style of play is closest to a given prospect, even if said player has had a much better career than we’re projecting for the prospect.

And sometimes — this is my preference — we do comps where we try to bake into the comp a career projection, so that we’re not, for instance, comping a guy like Jarrett Stidham to Derek Carr and misleading the reader to believe we think Stidham will start more than 75 NFL games in his first five seasons.

I’m willing to skimp on the style element a bit to look for a comp that gives a more accurate depiction of how I project the prospect’s career to play out. Once every blue moon, you get a prospect whose style AND career projection match a current NFL player — a perfect comp.

Folks, Will Grier is Case KeenumCase Keenum is Will Grier. Grier might be a tick better due to a better processor upstairs and a tick more arm talent. But we've got his doppelganger. Similar skillsets and builds, similar college production coming out of similar systems. They even had the same coach! Prior to becoming West Virginia’s HC, Dana Holgorsen was OC under our buddy Kevin Sumlin at Houston.

Back in the good ol’ days for all three, Sumlin/Holgo/Keenum teamed up for two years to create one of the most efficient and devastating passing offenses in G5 history. Holgo skipped to West Virginia after Keenum’s junior season (in sum, Keenum threw for over 5k yards three times in school!).

Keenum graduated and in 2012 entered the NFL, which most unfortunately at that time still fetishized large unathletic white quarterbacks from the South who couldn't throw a ball through a tire 10 yards away.

Keenum went undrafted. Ryan Lindley, BJ Coleman and Chandler Harnish did not. Brandon Weeden was a Round 1 pick, and Ryan Tannehill was a top-10 pick. Keenum ended up having a better career than 1.2 Robert Griffin III.

It took some doing. In 2015, his fourth NFL season, Keenum was considered a fungible journeyman. That turned out to be the last time Keenum didn’t attempt at least 320 passes in a season. That same year, in October 2015, Grier, a star redshirt freshman at Florida who was considered the future face the program, was popped for PED use and suspended for a calendar year.

Grier postulated that this would be a great time to transfer. Holgo now had a shot to turn back the clock. He may have lucked out, as Grier chose West Virginia despite telling the media at the time that Ohio State’s Urban Meyer had recruited him hardest.

Grier at Ohio State would have been a sight to behold, and it would have spun Dwayne Haskins’ career into yet another post-Maryland-flip alternate reality. But it would have deprived us of Holgo reenacting his redneck JK Simmons WHIPLASH routine on another Case Keenum. So the universe did everybody a solid by steering Grier down those John Denver old country olds.

Grier became eligible in 2017 and ended up posting a 71/20 TD/INT on better than 65% completions with a YPA near 9.5 over two seasons under Holgo. Keenum put up an 88/26 TD/INT with a completion percentage not far south of 70% but a YPA under 8.5 in 2008-2009 under the same guy in a weaker conference.

Keenum’s game wasn't given just credit coming out. In my opinion, Grier is getting more. But perhaps not completely his just do. He's a better player than Drew Lock. And Lock is going to have to work hard to close that gap. If I got decent odds on Grier starting more career NFL games than Lock, I’d drop the cash.

Keenum blurs the good QB2/bad QB1 line, existing in that qualitative QB28-40 quagmire. Grier is a lock to at the very least exist in the same range, but he could push the ceiling a tick higher because of his trump card as a rhythm thrower.

Grier has an extremely high floor, with one caveat: The only difference between he and Keenum is that at Houston with Keenum, Holgo stressed efficiency over explosion, whereas at West Virginia, with Grier and his fleet of future NFL receivers, he prioritized explosion over efficiency.

Grier is more NFL-ready in the sense that he played with and against plenty more NFL players in college. But the quick-hitter Air Raid that Keenum operated at least didn’t imbed swashbuckler bugs that could bite him in the NFL, where he needed to be a game manager. Grier has that swashbuckler in him with a similar skillset.

But that's also why his ceiling is a bit higher: Grier is always testing defenses. He's always composed, he's always looking to do damage downfield, and he's extremely accurate to all three sectors of the field. He also has a deep bag of quarterbacking tricks, like his sick pump fake that turns safety's legs into Jell-O.

This is strange to type but it’s true: The most important thing for Will Grier’s career outlook is for him to realize that his destiny isn’t to become an NFL superstar. He must instead be a Ricky Rubio-like point guard, firing passes confidently whenever he sees an open window, deeking out defenders to open those windows, but never trying to take over a game by playing hero (as he sometimes did in the Red Zone in college).

All the tools are there for Grier to turn into a serviceable NFL starter. He's a natural rhythm thrower who causes all kinds of problems for defenses when he’s on, a full-field reader with plus accuracy (as long as he isn’t moved off his spot) who’s polished and comfortable in the pocket. He’s also lauded as a great leader.

The only way Grier fritters away the most valuable aspect of his evaluation —that he’s an extremely high-floor quarterback amid an awful QB class — is if he thinks he’s Drew Brees and is unwilling to change.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!