With the NFL Draft less than a month away, the quarterback buzz is nearing a fever pitch.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray—a possible No. 1 overall selection—is all in on football, announcing last month that he’ll opt for the gridiron instead of the baseball diamond. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock are flying up draft boards, each with the potential to go in the first 10 picks.
As for Daniel Jones? Well, Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Devil quarterback certainly looked like the soon-to-be first-rounder many experts are projecting him to be.
Jones showed off for 31 of the 32 NFL teams at Duke’s Pro Day, held inside Pascal Field House, along with linebacker Joe Giles-Harris, wide receivers T.J. Rahming and Johnathan Lloyd, tight ends Daniel Helm and Davis Koppenhaver and offensive lineman Christian Harris. The only team not represented was the Dallas Cowboys, but there were also three Canadian Football League sides among the approximately 60 scouts and coaches in attendance.
The event began with individual drills, including the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill. Scouts then tested players individually before the event was capped with Jones’ throwing showcase, which saw the Charlotte native complete 61 of his 64 passes.
“I told Daniel yesterday, ‘[Scouts] haven’t really seen you throw in your environment. This is your place, your house, your turf,’” Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe said afterwards. “There were some jaws that dropped. There’s a wide array of interest from a lot of teams. You never know where that’s going to lead, but I had pro scouts and veterans that are friends of mine say that was the best workout they’ve seen in 25 years of doing this.”
Perhaps even more interesting than Jones’ throwing was his decision to run the 40 once again after doing so at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. The 6-foot-5 signal caller ran a 4.81 40 in Indianapolis, but has shown himself to be more than capable with his legs in games, so Jones was eager to one-up his past performance.
He did just that, posting a 4.68 on his first run before logging a 4.64 on his second attempt—that would’ve been good for a top-five mark at the Combine, just ahead of Lock’s 4.69 mark.
“I just wanted to prove I could run better,” Jones said. “Maybe it doesn’t matter for some people as much as others, but if there’s someone it matters to, I’m going to run again.... I thought I was faster, I knew I was faster, so I wasn’t going to let that go without at least trying.”
The highly-anticipated event, however, was Jones’ passing workout, which comprised the final half-hour of the day. With scouts lining both sides of the field, Jones worked with Lloyd, Rahming, Helm, Koppenhaver and running back Nicodem Pierre, showing off his arm at short, medium and long distances.
The most impressive, by far, was Jones’ ball speed and accuracy in the 10-to-20 yard range. He completed his first 44 passes of the afternoon before a ball to Lloyd over the middle was just a bit too high, ending his perfect run.
Jones also wowed with a handful of his deep balls. Still, there were two passes way down the field that wobbled severely—that is the one aspect of his game that gives draftniks a bit of pause about Jones.
“When you look at Daniel Jones, the combination of size, athleticism, intelligence, toughness, work ethic, he checks all those boxes,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said on Around the NFL after Duke’s Pro Day. “I’d be very surprised if, when it’s all set and done, Daniel Jones does not go in the first round.”
The other Blue Devil expected to hear his name called next month is Giles-Harris, who also chose to forgo his final season of eligibility at Duke and turn pro. The Nyack, N.Y., native is currently projected as a Day 3 selection, and chose to only participate in a handful of drills Tuesday.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Giles-Harris said when asked about being a part of Pro Day. “It’s kind of sad knowing this is probably the last workout I’ll have here, but it was good to have it with the group of guys I had it with.... It’s a new chapter in my life.”
Still, Tuesday was all about the guy who will only have to wait a couple of hours, at most, to hear his name called in Nashville next month.
“I’m lucky to be here, and being in this position has always been my dream,” Jones said. “If I wasn’t enjoying it, I’d have the wrong dream.”
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."