Once again, the New England Patriots are on the doorstep of the Super Bowl: on Sunday, they will play for their ticket in the AFC Championship Game — all while being led by the greatest quarterback to ever sling it, Mr. Tom Brady. While 41 years of age, Brady is still among the NFL’s best and not showing any signs of slowing down. However, the end is inevitably on the horizon for the future Hall of Famer whenever it might actually come.
Consequently, the Patriots will need to start looking towards the future at one point. For ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr, this point has come as his latest mock draft shows:
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Tom Brady is going to be 42 when the 2019 season begins. Forty-two! It’s unbelievable what he’s continuing to do on the field, but the Patriots have to start thinking about the future ... right? Jones could be the heir apparent. He has learned from quarterback guru David Cutcliffe at Duke, and you see it in his footwork. He excels in the pocket. Jones is athletic too, and he has a big, 6-foot-4 frame. There’s no guarantee that Jones will be the third quarterback off the board, and you can see more of him at the Senior Bowl next week, but this fit makes a lot of sense.
Daniel Jones, who declared for the draft two weeks ago and will not return to Duke for a fifth year, is an interesting prospect — one that is coming off a good but not great third season as the Blue Devils’ starter: appearing in 11 of the team’s 13 games, he completed 60.5% of his pass attempts this year for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Solid numbers, but enough to put him on the Patriots’ radar in the first round?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Jones has an intriguing combination of size — he stands at 6’5, 200 lbs — and footwork to serve as a pocket passer in the offensive scheme New England currently runs. Furthermore, the 21-year old has a natural feel for the pocket and is a smart player capable of going through his progressions and reads. He also has the necessary arm talent and is displaying good touch on intermediate and deep passing attempts
“Jones knows how to arch his back, dip his shoulder and really launch a throw for distance, and due to the fact that he does have such a feel for the football, he’s often quite accurate with throws of long distances,” says The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema about him. Despite all his positives, however, Jones still comes with his fair share of questions as Sikkema also points out.
“I like a lot of Jones’ game, but watching him fail to have the ball velocity I believe is needed in the NFL makes it tough for me to think he’s anything more than a mid-round guy,” Sikkema continues. If the Patriots think that they can work with Jones’ technique to get him to a point at which he can overcome his issues with zip and compete against NFL competition, it would not be a surprise if they at least had him on their draft board.
Still, the team might view him as too big of a project to use their first-round pick. That being said, Jones would enter a perfect environment in New England: he would have time to sit and learn behind an established starter, while also being coached by arguably the best offensive staff in all of football. If there is a team to unlock Jones’ potential, it is the Patriots — and if they feel the same way, he might come to Foxboro early in the draft.