In his two years with the New York Giants, Daniel Jones has faced his fair share of criticism. Because he did not show measurable signs of improvement from year one to year two, Jones’ talent and ability to lead New York to a winning season have been called into question.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. however thinks that skepticism towards Jones is unwarranted. On ESPN’s Breaking Big Blue podcast, Kiper discussed how Jones compares to the other quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence is, of course, the presumed No. 1 overall pick. BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are also projected to go in the top 10. The Giants have the No. 11 overall pick.
“I think Daniel Jones is a better quarterback in this draft than everybody except Trevor Lawrence,” Kiper said. “Zach Wilson would be the closest to him and then Justin Fields. But I would say that Daniel Jones in this draft would be the second quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence. Coming out of Duke, he would have been the second highest-rated quarterback.”
This analysis might come as a surprise to Giants fans who are disappointed in the lack of improvement in Jones from year one to year two. But Kiper has an explanation for that.
“I don’t know what else he could have done,” Kiper said. “If you’re looking for a guy to be perfect without the offensive line, without Saquon Barkley, without receivers, without tight ends catching the ball on a consistent basis - dropping balls that would have sealed a game against Philadelphia - a critical drop in other games. I don’t know what else he could have done. And I don’t know what else you can say to say this justifies where he was taken.
“You can’t have everything perfect if you don’t have perfect things going on around you. And there was nothing perfect about what was going on around him. ...I get the criticism, but it’s unfair because they are rookies and second-year quarterbacks without great talent around them.”
Kiper said that fans want to see the kind of improvement in Jones that we have witnessed in Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who has made noticeable strides in each year he has spent in the league.
But Kiper said that expectations for starting quarterbacks in the NFL have risen so high in recent years that young players are not given time to develop.
“They don’t want to be patient with players anymore,” Kiper said. “But the talk now is not realistic. The way we evaluate players, we’re kicking them to the curb after year one, year two, year three...We have to allow players to work through their growing pains and we don’t seem to like to do that.”
In his rookie season, Jones was 284 of 459 for 3,027 yards with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. During his second season, Jones did not show significant improvement. He was 280 of 488 for 2,943 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Kiper emphasized that numbers do not tell the full story.
“If you just go by the numbers, you’re being lazy and you’re being stupid,” Kiper said. “Analytics are a great tool but to say the numbers always speak for themselves just isn’t the way it is. There’s always reasons beyond the numbers, reasons behind the numbers. In terms of Daniel Jones, I just think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
Ball security has been a consistent issues for Jones, who recorded 18 fumbles in his rookie season and 11 more in his sophomore campaign. But Kiper does not think these turnovers are a big cause for concern.
“If all you can knock a kid on is ball security, then that’s pretty good,” Kiper said.
For these reasons, Kiper does not think Jones should be cast aside just yet.
“Let’s get him Saquon Barkley for the full year healthy, let’s get him the offensive line that’s in sync and cohesive, let’s get him Evan Engram catching balls on a regular basis, let’s get all of those receivers all out there at the same time together. And then let’s see what Daniel Jones does in year three. This is the year where I think he can answer all of the skeptics and doubters. He’ll try to do what Josh Allen did and shut up the skeptics and doubters once and for all.
“Evidence suggests that he can be a really good quarterback in this league, certainly as good as Eli and Eli won two Super Bowls.”