UPDATE: Cardale Jones was finally benched for JT Barrett. This will seriously impact Jones’ draft stock as NFL teams will begin to question whether or not Jones will be able to handle the NFL and learning a new system.
We all know the story by now. After Braxton Miller’s season ending injury in the preseason, J.T. Barrett stepped in for Ohio State and led them to an 11-1 record before going down with an injury himself. Preseason third string quarterback Cardale Jones then went on to lead Oho State to wins over Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon en route to a national title, while along the way cementing himself as a legitimate NFL prospect. There was some buzz about Jones going pro after the 2014 season, but he dismissed those rumors and returned to Ohio State for his junior season. After a long offseason of quarterback competition, Urban Meyer surprisingly trotted out Cardale Jones as his starter as most people had assumed that J.T. Barrett, the more proven commodity, would win the job.
So far, Cardale Jones has not impressed through four games. After drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and Daunte Culpepper for his size, elusiveness, and arm talent, Jones has struggled through four games and was actually benched in a narrow win over Northern Illinois for J.T. Barrett. He was re-named the starter and rebounded in the following week, but this has raised some concerns over his play and his maturity going forward.
Cardale Jones Bio
College: Ohio State
Recruiting Ranking: N/A (#12 QB, 3-star prospect)
2014 Stats: 56/92 (60.9%), 860 Yds, 7 TD, 2 INT, 296 Rush Yds, 4.1 AVG, 1 TD
2015 Stats (through 5 games): 63/106 (59.4%), 867 Yds, 5 TD, 5 INT, 127 Rush Yds, 3.2 AVG, 1 TD
Cardale Jones committed to Ohio State in 2011, but delayed his enrollment a year in order to improve his academic standing. He redshirted in 2012, played very little in 2013 behind Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, and had his infamous playoff run in 2014. So far in 2015, Jones has struggled. He opened the season with a good performance versus Virginia Tech, but struggled against Hawaii and turned the ball over twice against Northern Illinois before being benched for J.T. Barrett. He was re-named the starter for the foreseeable future and rebounded with a nice performance versus Western Michigan.
One of the most concerning factors so far is Jones’ inability to hold on to the starting job at Ohio State. Urban Meyer has already shown that he is not above benching Jones if he is struggling. Of course, working against Jones is the fact that J.T. Barrett is a legit NFL prospect himself and might actually be better for Ohio State’s offensive scheme. Remember, Barrett shattered Drew Brees’ Big 10 touchdown record with 44 total touchdowns in 2014. If Jones continues to be benched in favor of Barrett, expect to see his draft stock plummet. His maturity issues have also been well documented, from his famous “we don’t come here to play school” tweet as a freshman to his recent Twitter profile change after being benched for Barrett where he referred to himself as the “third string quarterback.”
The upside is obvious to see with Cardale Jones. He is a massive quarterback at 6-5, 250 lbs. and comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger were thrown out there when he took over in 2014. He has a cannon for an arm and famously threw a 74 yard pass during Ohio State’s 2015 spring game.
The clip above demonstrates the special arm talent that Jones has. With pressure in his face, Jones drifts back and launches a bomb to the end zone off of his back foot which the receiver hauls in for a touchdown despite defensive pass interference. Jones has a massive arm and is certainly capable of making all of the necessary throws all over the field. He also has an uncanny ability to escape pressure (a la Ben Roethlisberger) and pick up positive yards with his legs. Last year, we saw him bail the pocket more often than not, but this year he’s working the pocket more and extending the play with his arm more than his legs.
Unfortunately, one of Jones’ biggest weaknesses is his inability to control his arm sometimes. With such great arm strength comes the inability to put touch on his passes. In the clip above, he smartly climbs the pocket with pressure arriving but lofts his pass over the head of his receiver and it’s easily picked off by the Northern Illinois defensive back. This was one of two interceptions that Jones threw in the first half of that game that caused him to get benched.
The clip above also demonstrates another of Jones’ weaknesses: he doesn’t see the field very well. In this clip, Ohio State is in the red zone and Jones fires a pass to a receiver in triple coverage that is easily picked off. More often than not, Jones will force passes to his receivers, something that NFL teams will severely down-grade him for. So while Jones has massive upside, he also has some pretty big weaknesses that will hold him back from being the first quarterback drafted.
Because the NFL is a quarterback driven league, Jones has a pretty good shot at being drafted in the first round. If he had come out last year, he most likely would have gone in round two with only three games of tape. If we can agree that Jared Goff is the top quarterback available, Cardale Jones would be the second or third option either in front or being Connor Cook of Michigan State but ahead of Christian Hackenberg. A team drafting a quarterback in the first round would likely force Jones into starting action, something that might be harmful to his development. Jones definitely needs a year or two to sit behind a more experienced quarterback while he learns the game more. Keep in mind, Jones will have only started about 15 games in his career at this point (assuming he keeps the starting job at Ohio State). He is still very raw and needs to be molded into a future starting quarterback.
Cardale Jones has ties to Cleveland and has openly supported the Browns on his twitter profile, which will make the upcoming draft process that more interesting. Cleveland will certainly be in the market for a quarterback, assuming they have given up on Johnny Manziel. If Goff is already off the board, the Browns could certainly go for a quarterback like Jones. The Redskins, Jets and Texans could also take Jones depending on where they’re drafting and where they have him on their board. Of course, Jones should not be considered a day one starter and is definitely someone you want to have sit and learn behind a more experienced quarterback.