NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Daniel Jones' journey from overlooked recruit to NFL quarterback is finally complete.
Almost four years after coming to Durham without a guaranteed scholarship, Jones became just the second Duke quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, going to the New York Giants with the No. 6 pick Thursday night. He joins Dave Brown, who was taken with a first-round selection in the 1992 supplemental draft, also to the Giants.
Jones is the first Blue Devil to hear his name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the first round since 2015, when the San Francisco 49ers selected offensive guard Laken Tomlinson with the 26th pick. Jones also is the program's highest selection in the draft since 1987.
“Anytime you make a decision that is something you really want to do, you make a right decision," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. "There’s a joy in watching players who have worked hard and been committed to the process. Daniel Jones embraces something we believe in here–real swag is no swag.”
After redshirting the 2015 season, Jones took over the starting role in 2016. Although the Blue Devils compiled just a 4-8 record in his first year at the helm, Jones showed flashes of his abilities. The 6-foot-5 signal caller led Duke to a 28-27 upset on the road against No. 15 North Carolina, a game in which Jones showcased his dual-threat talents, with a touchdown through the air and two touchdowns on the ground.
The Charlotte, N.C., native endured a bit of a redshirt sophomore slump, and finished the 2017 campaign with just a 56.7 completion percentage, with 14 passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While he did not miss any games due to injury, Jones struggled to stay healthy for much of the year.
His redshirt junior season is where Jones emerged as a top-of-the-line NFL prospect, but not without overcoming a major obstacle. Following an efficient performance in the Blue Devils’ season-opening win against Army and a strong first half against eventual Big Ten West Division champion Northwestern, Jones went down with a fractured clavicle against the Wildcats. But Jones came back after missing only two full games—thanks to the engineering work of teammates Clark Bulleit and Kevin Gehsmann—and looked at full strength immediately.
Jones saved his best for last in his time at Duke. In the Walk-On Independence Bowl, he torched Temple’s defense to the tune of six total touchdowns and 423 passing yards, both career highs, and helped the Blue Devils to their second consecutive bowl victory.
The Duke product continued his momentum into the 2019 offseason, and earned the Senior Bowl MVP thanks to Jones' 124 passing yards and two touchdowns in his team's winning effort. Jones furthered opened scouts eyes with his stellar pro day performance, where he completed 61 of his 64 passes and ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash.
This is not Duke head coach David Cutcliffe’s first time mentoring a highly drafted quarterback prospect. Touted as a quarterback guru, Cutcliffe was Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Eli Manning’s head coach at Mississippi. Each of the Manning brothers were selected first overall in the NFL Draft, went on to win multiple Super Bowl titles, and are likely future Hall of Famers.
On the Giants, Jones will compete with Eli Manning, Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta to earn playing time. Often compared to the Manning brothers in the NFL Draft process, Jones will look to reach a similar level of NFL success as his fellow Cutcliffe disciples.
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