Duke’s Daniel Jones could be a fine understudy to Tom Brady
Could Daniel Jones be the Patriots’ quarterback of the future?
It’s possible, but right now the Duke standout bears a strong resemblance to the Patriots’ quarterback of the present.
Aside from the physical similarities — at 6 feet 5 inches, 220 pounds, Jones is just a shade taller than Tom Brady — coaches and scouts use a lot of similar buzzwords and phrases when talking about the two.
“Smart . . . prepared . . . good pocket presence . . . quick release . . . tight delivery . . . flawless mechanics.” Those are some of the ways in which observers describe both players.
Jones would add another important trait to the list.
“I think my biggest strength is my toughness,’’ he said. “It’s something I’ve always prided myself on. I think it’s a big part of why I’m here now.’’
Jones has surged from a second-day NFL Draft selection to a surefire first-rounder since wrapping up his three seasons with the Blue Devils. He threw for 8,201 yards and 52 touchdowns as a collegian. He also rushed for 1,323 yards and 17 more scores.
A strong showing at the Senior Bowl — he earned MVP honors — and positive reviews from team interviews at the NFL Combine helped his stock. While Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are widely considered the top signal-callers available, Jones and Missouri’s Drew Lock are considered the next best.
Jones said being overshadowed is something he’s used to, as he wasn’t as highly recruited out of high school as some others.
“I think the thing that matters is what the teams think of you,’’ he said. “I think I’m pretty aware of that. That’s something I remind myself of consistently.
“I’ve been through the recruiting process as a younger player. I had been someone who had been looked past before, and that’s something I’ve dealt with and been successful. That’s not something I’d say that really drives me, but it’s been part of my story to this point.’’
The Patriots were at Jones’s Pro Day and had him in for a visit April 10. Though New England likely would have to move up from No. 32 to grab Jones, he’d be under team control through 2023, when Brady would be 46.
Jones could benefit by expanding and sharpening his football skills while also learning how to be a professional working as Brady’s understudy. It’s a plan he’d be on board with.
“I think there are still opportunities to compete, whether that’s in practice or whatever it is . . . and I look forward to that,’’ said Jones. “I red-shirted my first year at Duke and I think that was good for me. And I think it would be good for me in the NFL.’’
Asked specifically about working with Brady, Jones was all in.
“Obviously that organization — the Patriots are at the top year in and year out — being a part of that culture, being able to watch Tom Brady day in and day out would be another opportunity for growth,’’ he said.
Jones excelled in the Blue Devils’ pro-style offense, and his ability to make solid presnap reads and work in empty sets should help him adjust to NFL competition. He got used to spreading the ball around to multiple weapons, which he’ll have to do in the NFL.
He said the wide-open style that Duke coach David Cutcliffe installed not only boosted the offense’s attack, it boosted his confidence.
“I think that stuff was great for us,” he said. “That was a thought — to get a lot of our playmakers on the field. I thought we had a lot of weapons at wideout, and we had some running backs that caught the ball, too.
“Also, just making quick decisions and getting the ball out was a thought there, so that was easy to do and kind of helped us speed up the tempo of the game.’’
The speed of the game forced him to speed up his thought process.
“From a protection standpoint, to me, when you get an empty [set], it simplifies things,’’ said Jones. “For me, calling protections and adjusting protections was pretty simple in empty situations.’’
The top quarterbacks in the draft
Best of the rest: Brett Rypien, Boise State (6-1, 210, 4.91); Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (6-4, 220, n/a); Gardner Minshew, Washington State (6-0, 225, 4.97); Easton Stick, North Dakota State (6-1, 224, 4.62); Jordan Ta’amu, Mississippi (6-2, 221, 4.77)