Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots secured their sixth Super Bowl title — proving that their dynasty is alive and well. And while the defense took center stage against the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Tom Brady once again delivered in crunch time by leading a fourth quarter touchdown drive that ultimately proved to be the key difference in New England’s 13-3 victory.
In general, Brady showed in 2018 that he is still among the NFL’s best quarterbacks and capable of putting the Patriots in a position to be successful. With the future Hall of Famer turning 42 in August, however, the club might want to take a look at the long-term prospects of Brady’s career and as a result invest in a young quarterback in the draft. According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Duke’s Daniel Jones appears to be a candidate.
In his latest mock draft, Kiper has the Patriots pick Jones with the 32nd overall selection:
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
I continue to believe Bill Belichick and the Patriots will use some of their draft capital on a quarterback. It could be here, or it could be with one of their two second-round picks. There could be several QBs go in the first three rounds. Jones is an athletic 6-foot-4 signal-caller who can be an erratic thrower at times but is already advanced in his footwork. He’d benefit from sitting and learning behind Tom Brady. The Super Bowl champs have several prominent free agents who could leave, so we’ll know much more in a month about which positions they could target.
Daniel Jones is an interesting prospect that is coming off a good but not great third season as Duke’s starter: appearing in 11 of the Blue Devils’ 13 games, he completed 60.5% of his pass attempts this year for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Solid numbers, no doubt about it, but enough to put him on the Patriots’ radar especially at the end of the first round? Let’s dig a little deeper to find an answer.
Jones has an intriguing combination of size — he stands at 6’5, 200 lbs — and footwork to serve as a pocket passer in New England’s offensive scheme. Furthermore, the 21-year old has a solid 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 to work at the next level.
“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. “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.”
“Jones projects as a potential starter, but he’s not going to be a universal prospect,” said The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs about Jones. “[He] needs to work in an offense that is predicated on dispersing the football quickly out of his hands and allows for a lot of rhythm work. Jones’ work under pressure is also of concern, so he’ll need to work behind an established, effective offensive line if he’s going to reach his ceiling, which projects as an average starting quarterback in the NFL.”
From the Patriots perspective, selecting Jones will come down to whether or not they evaluate his issues as correctable. Will his technique develop to a point at which he can overcome his issues with zip and compete against NFL competition? Can he improve his anticipation and turn out to be more than a player dependent on the scheme surrounding him (think Jared Goff in the Super Bowl)? Will he be able to run a pro offense, especially one as challenging as New England’s?
If the answers are yes to most of the questions, the Patriots might have Jones fairly high on their draft board. Still, a rating worthy of a first-round investment might be too rich from the club’s perspective: Jones needs serious development to unlock his potential. Of course, he would enter a perfect environment in New England where he could sit behind an established starter, while also being coached by arguably the best offensive staff in all of football.
If there is a team to turn Jones from a starting-caliber prospect into a player worthy of maybe one day following the greatest of all time, it is the Patriots. And if they feel the same way about the passer and his outlook, he might make his way to Foxboro after all.