With draft season fully upon us, roadmaps for teams are staring to be put together. Both within the organizations and on the outside. Recently, Todd McShay with ESPN floated the idea of the New York Giants drafting a quarterback with their first selection in the 2020 draft. This ... is an interesting approach.
One I would disagree with. For three critical reasons.
Daniel Jones has made progress
We have covered this fertile ground previously, however, it is important to revisit this idea. If the Giants’ front office believes that Jones has not made progress this season, then sure, draft a quarterback early in the upcoming draft.
However, they would be mistaken in that belief.
Has Jones made mistakes this season? Of course. All quarterbacks do, even the savviest of veterans. The interceptions and the turnovers are signs that he needs to progress at the position. But that need to improve is ever-present in the NFL, and as we saw in the Giants’ loss two weeks ago to the Green Bay Packers, Jones is getting better at the things that matter ... things that will help cut down on the turnovers.
Take this first quarter throw to Darius Slayton from that game:
Jones faces edge pressure from the right side. He subtly climbs the pocket, dipping his shoulder slightly as he does so, and keeps both hands glued to the football as he moves in response to duress. Only when he starts to deliver this throw does that left hand come off the football. This is almost textbook from the rookie quarterback, as you can see from the end zone angle:
This is true improvement, marked progress from some of the mistakes he was making earlier in the season. There was also this play in that game:
That subtle little dip, those eyes in the back of your head, are so critical to playing the quarterback position; and playing it well. Jones did not have this club in his bag earlier this season. Furthermore, it merits mentioning here that pocket management and presence was going to be a steeper developmental curve for him. Remember some of the numbers from his final season at Duke University? The numbers that led me to suggest caution and patience when considering him as a prospect?
Jones was primarily asked to execute 0/1-step drops, RPOs, screens, and rollouts, concepts that generally indicate simpler, or even singular, reads. He did so on a whopping 72.6% of his dropbacks, the eighth-highest rate among 164 quarterbacks who dropped back 100+ times in 2018. To give you an idea of how that might translate to the NFL, Nick Foles had the highest rate of 43 NFL quarterbacks at 58.3%. Only two other quarterbacks did so at a rate above 50%, and the average rate among quarterbacks who dropped back at least 100 times was 33.8%.
Handling a pocket, the way we typically consider that task and in the manner he is being asked to do now in the NFL, is not something he had a great level of experience with. So yes, it was going to take some time. But the progress is there, and cutting bait on him at this point does not make sense. Especially when this roster has other glaring needs, and especially when you consider that...
What franchise QB is there at 2?
Assume, for the sake of argument, that quarterback is in play with the second overall selection. Is there a player worthy of that kind of draft capital who will even be available?
That sounds strange to say given the hype around this class back in the summer. However, this has been a strange season as far as the upcoming quarterback class is considered.
A quarterback out of the SEC has ridden a magical final year on campus to the College Football Playoff, a likely Heisman Trophy, and in all likelihood the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it is not the quarterback everyone expected to see back in the summer. Instead of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, it is LSU’s Joe Burrow who has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season.
Honestly, he has gone from a potential fringe Day 3 pick, to a player likely to get a Senior Bowl invitation, to a player who goes first overall. His rise has been incredible, and he still has at least one more game to showcase his talents.
Assuming he is off the board to Cincinnati with the first selection, then who is left? The aforementioned Tagovailoa, who from a talent perspective is good enough for that pick but, let’s face it, comes with some serious injury concerns. Those were present even before the recent hip injury. Tagovailoa missed a game in the 2018 season with a quad injury, then injured his ankle in that season’s College Football Playoff. Then this season suffered a high ankle sprain that caused him to undergo surgery.
Then the hip injury which ended his season.
Now there is even discussion that he could return to school. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit recently said on the radio that it is “no slam dunk” that Tagovailoa declares for the draft, putting the odds at 50/50 that he returns to campus.
Behind Tagovailoa there are even more question marks. Oregon’s Justin Herbert might be the next quarterback on many draft boards, but his final season with the Ducks has been underwhelming at times. I believe he is still a talented quarterback, but drafting him second overall - a year after taking a quarterback in the top 10 - seems like a misuse of draft capital to me. Utah State’s Jordan Love just declared for the draft, but he is more of a developmental prospect than even Jones was a year ago. Love has tremendous arm talent and raw ability, but his final season with the Aggies did not live up to some of his summertime hype.
Beyond them? Jake Fromm? Jacob Eason? Jalen Hurts? Intriguing prospects but more Day 2 players. Not guys you’re taking with the second overall pick to build around.
Now, there is a player who is likely going to be there who is worth building around.
He just plays defense.
Chase Young is the real deal.
Honestly I could just end the piece right here, with that sentence, but given the importance of the second overall draft pick I need to show my work a bit. So, let’s just turn on the Wisconsin game from this season - a good game to study given their prowess along the offensive line - and see how quickly Young (No. 2) can impact an offense:
Here he is on the defensive edge, staying home against a zone read look and still chasing down the running back from the backside.
Here he is aligned as a two-point linebacker in the A-Gap, getting immediate pressure on the quarterback and then recognizing the screen, and chasing down a running back from behind.
Oh and here he is blowing up a LT/RB double team rushing off the edge, pressuring the quarterback and eventually getting the sack.
These plays were all in the first quarter.
Years ago during the NFL Draft Mike Mayock (then with the NFL Network, now with the Oakland Raiders) stated that the most important spot on the football field is the pocket. You need a guy that can throw from there, guys that can protect there, and guys that can attack there.
Young can attack there.
Jeff Risdon, who covers the NFL for RealGM as well as a handful of USA Today Wire websites, gave a tongue-in-cheek response to a question I asked about passing on Young for a quarterback: “Anytime you can pass on a hybrid of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, you 100 percent must do it.”
Now we can end this piece.