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NFL insiders rank Daniel Jones 19th in the NFL

Jones returns to the third tier of quarterbacks

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NFL: New York Giants Training Camp Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has been the subject of most of the overarching stories regarding the Giants since the start of 2023. First it was his role in the Giants reaching the post season for the first time since 2016. Then it was the drama surrounding his contract negotiation and the franchise tag. In May and April, the story turned to how the team would build the offense around Jones.

And now, as we get ready for the 2023 season, we’re turning our attention to how Jones, and the Giants’ offense as a whole develops in Brian Daboll’s second year.

Every year, Mike Sando of The Athletic releases a tier list of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks, informed by interviews from coaches and executives from around the NFL. This year, Jones is regarded as a “Tier 3” quarterback and 19th overall.

Tier 3 is defined by Sando as “...a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.”

While being ranked 19th in the NFL could be read as a slight against Jones, it is a significant jump in how he’s regarded around the League. A year ago, Jones was ranked at the bottom of the fourth tier of quarterbacks at 30th overall.

He’s regarded much more favorably this year.

Sando writes:

“Only Geno Smith, Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence improved their Quarterback Tiers standing more than Jones from last year. A coaching change would seem to be the key variable.”

“I love the way he took care of the ball,” a head coach said. “That was the No. 1 thing he improved. I don’t know if his arm will ever elevate those around him, but when you are a big man that has athleticism and takes care of the ball, you are going to give yourself a chance.”

Sando noted the Giants’ conservative approach to offense, saying that the Giants ranked 30th in air yards. He added that adding speedy big play threats in Darren Waller, Jalin Hyatt, and Parris Campbell are expected to help expand the passing attack and add a vertical element.

A defensive coordinator offered a succinct summation of how Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have helped Jones.

“He’s a function of the offense,” a defensive coordinator said. “I don’t think from an arm standpoint he does a whole lot that is going to scare you, but his speed does. And I do think Brian Daboll protects his quarterbacks, even Josh Allen, by giving them very predictable throws, successful throws, easy throws to skill players who can go make a play. And then he takes his shots.”

A breakdown of Jones’ EPA from 2022 agrees with that coach’s assessment. While Jones’ EPA is dinged with a -0.05 for air yardage, it’s buoyed by a +0.04 for low interceptions and another +0.04 for his running.

(note: Those numbers are in comparison to league average)

Much of the Giants’ success in 2022 came down to their refusal to turn the ball over, as our own Rivka Boord noted. The Giants were both very risk averse and somewhat lucky in that department. One of the keys to watch this year will be whether the team can expand their passing attack while still keeping turnovers down.

One of the big changes that Mike Kakfa and Brian Daboll instituted last year was a willingness to put Jones in a position to run.

They relied heavily on bootleg rollouts combined with layered routes in the first half of 2022. Not only did that produce clearly defined reads for Jones, they had the added benefit of pulling defenders away from him and creating scramble opportunities. They expanded on that with package plays in the second half of the year, frequently featuring blocking schemes designed to shunt defenders toward the perimeter of the offensive line and away from the A-gaps. Those were combined with delayed route releases from the running back to pull the middle linebacker or a safety out of position and create free running lanes.

Sando adds:

“This coordinator thought Jones could become what Ryan Tannehill was at his peak in Tennessee, once the Giants’ offensive talent fills in.”

A third executive summed up Jones, his opinion on him, and how he rates among the NFL’s quarterbacks like this,

“He played really well last year, and I think with the added weapons, we are going to find out what he can do,” an exec said of Jones. “I don’t know if he can carry the team yet. That is what keeps him a 3 for now.”

Whether or not Jones can take the next step in the face of what is projected to be a schedule full of tough defense will be key to the Giants’ success in 2023.