Daniel Jones Is Not a Long-Term Solution for the Giants
Daniel Jones' ascent into the early-first round conversation was a fast one.
On April 16, FanDuel Sportsbook had the Duke passer at only 7-to-1 to be the second quarterback off the board, with three passers priced ahead of him. By Wednesday, those odds were down to 3-to-1, still behind Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock, but implying it to be a much closer race. Those odds put Jones at an implied 25% to go second among quarterbacks -- double what he was implied at earlier this month.
And then, on Thursday night, the New York Giants pulled the trigger, making him the sixth overall pick and the second overall quarterback off the board of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jones the Prospect
Looking at Jones' physical profile, you can see why teams might be interested in him as a pro prospect. Per MockDraftable.com He ranks in the 94th percentile in height among quarterback prospects, while also coming in above the 60th in hand size and arm length. He also shows some nice athleticism, sitting in the 69th percentile or better in three-cone time, broad jump and vertical jump, as well as 52nd percentile in 40-yard dash time. He has even had the chance to learn the quarterback position under the Manning brothers.
Of course, none of those things mean much without production to back them up. It doesn't matter how tall, strong, or fast you are if you're not producing effectively, and that's what we see for Jones.
His 6'5" frame completed only 60.5 percent of his passes in his senior season, throwing the ball 392 times for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. That line was good for an average of 6.9 adjusted yards per attempt -- a career-best mark but still one that ranked only 73rd in the nation. That relative improvement in his junior season gave him a career-average adjusted yards per attempt of only 6.2.
Obviously, ranking 73rd in the NCAA is not good, but how much does that tend to matter at the pro level? For early-round picks, a lot.
Since 2010, there have only been five quarterbacks selected in the first round who finished their final NCAA season with an adjusted yards per attempt mark below even 7.5: Josh Allen, Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder.
And if we look at career-averages, even raising the cut-off to 8.0 adjusted yards per attempt, the only player we add to the group is Paxton Lynch. And Jones' 6.2 is tied (with Locker) for the worst mark in the group.
Looking at those six passers, we get a combined 14 seasons with at least 50 drop backs within their first three NFL seasons. Only two of those 14 seasons (one from Tannehill and one from Locker) saw a passer finish above the NFL average in numberFire's Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back efficiency metric.
A high adjusted yards per attempt mark isn't a guarantee of quarterback success, but poor efficiency does look to be a good indicator of struggles as a pro.
Fit With the Giants
If there's anything positive to be said about this spot and this pick, it's that at least the Giants aren't going to be heading into 2019 with Daniel Jones as their starting quarterback.
For as bad as the Giants were in 2018, Eli Manning wasn't egregious. Among the 43 passers with 100 drop backs in 2018, Manning's 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back ranked a middling 22nd. At 38 years old, he's obviously not a long-term quarterback option in New York, and he's not going to get any better. But replacing him for 2019 isn't urgent.
Not needing to start Jones at quarterback right away doesn't mean this pick makes any more sense though.
Drew Lock was still on the board. Dwayne Haskins was still on the board. Even Will Grier might be a better long-term answer than Jones. As our own Jim Sannes looked at in February, Jones isn't even among the five most statistically impressive quarterback prospects in this year's draft.
The Giants are a team with tons of holes, picking sixth overall despite middling quarterback play. Seemingly set on starting Eli for another year, they could have used this pick to address any number of issues, but instead, they seem content to punt the 2019 season.
In and of itself, that's probably a good choice. Manning isn't long for this league, and season-to-season variance could easily mean they don't pick quite as high as this in 2020, so their chances at landing a franchise quarterback could be worse. But the choice of which quarterback to invest in this year is a head-scratcher and -- in all likelihood -- is going to set back the Giants' rebuild by a couple of years.
That's not surprising, though, considering this is the same front office that thought the presence of Odell Beckham is what was holding them back.