The first day of practices at the 70th edition of the Senior Bowl are in the books, and for New York Giants fans hoping that the organization can find their next quarterback, there were definitely some reasons to build on the cautious optimism that most entered draft season holding in their hearts. Watching the representatives of the Giants as well as their media members it was clear two quarterbacks held their attention: Will Grier from West Virginia University and Daniel Jones for Duke University.
Playing quarterback is in large part all about your confidence level. Let’s face it. A quarterback believes that he is the only person on a team who should be trusted with taking the football and making the right decisions with the ball on any particular play. So it is not a position for the meek or timid. If you had any concerns about whether Grier could display that kind of self-confidence, they were immediately erased during his post practice scrum with the media. Grier was asked about some of the draft rankings that have him outside the top one or two quarterbacks in this class and you can tell that he was paying attention to those types of comments: “I don’t understand some of the things that have been put out there. I mean, I’m the best quarterback in this class. I think my arm talent is there and my play will speak for itself.”
Then when he was asked about his - apparent - lack of arm strength, he got even more pointed: “I’m confident in my abilities ... ask my receivers, ask the guys at Florida, ask the guys I’ve played against if my arm strength was a problem. It doesn’t necessarily make me mad, I think my play speaks for itself. That’s part of why I’m here, I hope people can see my arm strength out here.” That line of questioning prompted an easy follow up, asking if he was going to throw at the combine. His curt response: “Absolutely.”
Grier’s performance on the field was a bit mixed, as he missed some throws in the 11-on-11 portion that came at the end of practice that might have overshadowed what he did on the whole. But some of his earlier throws, such as comeback route to Anthony Johnson from the University of Buffalo working off play-action, and later a curl to Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow. Looking at the big picture, I thought Grier had a good day despite some of the late miscues.
Jones is an interesting draft prospect, because working just off his film you see a quarterback most comfortable and effective when running West Coast passing concepts. On those designs his decision-making, processing speed and ball placement are at their best. He consistently makes quick and appropriate decisions on those route concepts, and his ball placement tends to put his receivers in the best position to gain yardage after the catch. So a big question for me was whether he could show during practices the ability to expand outside of that realm, or if he would remain a more scheme-specific quarterback.
His performance was a bit of a mixed bag outside of the quick game concepts, but there was enough to make me more open to the possibility of him becoming a more scheme-diverse prospect. He ripped a strike on a deep out route to Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin (a player catching a lot of buzz this week at the wide receiver position) and also dropped in a corner route with impressive touch during the seven-on-seven portion of practice. Jones also delivered on a deep out on a Sail concept during seven-on-seven, as well as a deep crosser on a Yankee concept play during the team portion. So while the deeper game might not have been his calling card coming into the week, he showed enough on Tuesday to make me begin to re-think that position.