Coming out of high school, Daniel Jones was a tall, lanky kid that, despite racking up nearly 7,000 yards and 98 touchdowns throughout his high school career, was an unranked prospect with just one Division-I scholarship offer. That one offer was from Princeton, a school Jones originally committed to play at until choosing another route.
Jones decided to stay in-state and walk on at Duke University. Jones would redshirt in his freshman year (2015) as he was behind junior Thomas Sirk and sophomore Parker Boehme on the depth chart.
The following year, Sirk would suffer a season-ending injury and Daniel Jones would beat out Boehme to become the Blue Devils’ starting quarterback.
Although Duke would go from 8-5 in 2015 to 4-8 in 2016, Jones would have a solid statistical season as redshirt freshman. The former unranked prospect threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding 486 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
With Jones at the helm, Duke would once again become a winning program in the following two years. After a down junior season, Jones would truly breakout as a redshirt senior in 2018 as he tossed a career-high 22 touchdowns.
For his career, Daniel Jones totaled 52 passing touchdowns and 29 interceptions on a 59.9 completion percentage — decent numbers but hardly worth the No. 6 pick in the draft. A lot of Jones’ appeal came in his size and dual-threat ability. Jones had gained 25 pounds of muscle in college and was no longer the lanky quarterback we had seen coming out of high school.
At 6-foot-5, Jones was able to overpower and elude ACC defenders. Jones totaled 1,323 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in his three years as the starter.
Despite his appealing size and intriguing ability as a scrambler, Jones still wasn’t seen as a top prospect. That changed in Jones’ last two games. The future New York Giant would lead Duke to a blowout win in the 2018 Independence Bowl over the Temple Owls. In that game, Jones completed 30 of his 41 passes for 423 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
A month later, Daniel Jones would earn MVP honors in the 2019 Senior Bowl. The game featured talents such as 2018 All-American safety Jonathan Abram, quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Will Grier, and future Washington Redskins star Terry McLaurin. However, after completing eight of his 11 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, Jones would be the games top honoree.
At this time, NFL hype for Jones began picking up and picking up fast. Still, if you looked at mock drafts made at the time, most had Jones as a mid-to-late first-rounder. At the NFL combine, Jones’ performance was a mixed bag. He gave out middling results in many drills, but ranked towards the top at his position in athleticism drills like the broad jump and 20-yard shuffle.
Perhaps the biggest boost to Jones’ stock was the fact that his coach at Duke was David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe had been known as a bit of a QB-whisperer in his three-plus decades as a college coach. Cutcliffe helped coach both Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss and had made a historically bad Duke program competitive.
Likely as a result of Cutcliffe’s coaching, Jones possessed impressive throwing mechanics. Paired with strong athleticism and size, the Giants took a chance on Jones with the sixth pick. At the time, the pick was widely criticized and seen as a bit of a reach.
Nonetheless, while far from perfect, Daniel Jones has shown a ton of potential in his rookie season with New York and it’s unlikely the franchise regrets their selection at this time.