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Daniel Jones Enters Draft With Growing Momentum

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Independence Bowl, for Daniel Jones, stands as a major springboard forward.

We will soon see what the future holds for Duke signal caller Daniel Jones, a potential first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after deciding to forgo his senior season of eligibility. At 6'5'', 220 pounds, with a strong arm, mobility and a perspective shaped by quarterback guru David Cutcliffe, Jones is a prospect with considerable upside. His Offensive MVP performance in the Independence Bowl was a signature showcase of all of that potential.

Jones' final college game was an afternoon for the record books as he completed 30-of-41 passes, threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns, also running for a score, as the Blue Devils put up 56 points on Temple. He joins some impressive company with the historic effort; of the previous six Power Five quarterbacks to have a game with at least 420 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and a rushing score, four of them are Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Pat Mahomes and Dak Prescott. 

What Jones did was especially-notable given who he did it against. The Owls entered bowl season ranked seventh nationally in pass defense. Furthermore, Temple, prior to playing Duke, was allowing merely 5.1 yards per pass attempt on the year, the lowest rate in all of college football since Florida State in 2012. Jones gashed the Owls for 10.3 yards per throw, over twice their regular season average. He had touchdown passes of 85, 34 and 22 yards. 

The Independence Bowl, for Jones, stands as a major springboard forward. Arguably the best performance of his career, Jones, in Shreveport, looked the part of an elite prospect. Over the next few months, NFL administrators will compare him to the likes of NC State's Ryan Finley, West Virginia's Will Grier, presumably Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Missouri's Drew Lock. There is a very real chance Jones could be the very first quarterback taken.   

Jones, as a three-year starter, compiled over 9,500 total yards, with 52 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns, plus, in terms of the next level, all of the measurables. From bursting onto the national scene with 290 passing yards and three touchdowns in leading Duke to a win at Notre Dame as a redshirt freshman, Jones has emerged, and moved up, draft boards. Entering the new year, his stock has never been higher.   

Physical traits aside, Jones has intangibles that compliment his profile. The former walk-on already has a degree in economics and was the Blue Devils' team captain twice before his senior season. A big game proficiency has also been on display. In addition to Jones pacing Duke to the aforementioned triumph in South Bend his first year, he and Kyler Murray were the only quarterbacks to beat nationally-ranked Army this fall and Jones went 3-0 against rival North Carolina, including a 547-yard effort this past last November. The lone players with a 360-yard passing, 180-yard rushing game this millennium are Lamar Jackson and Jones.   

Furthermore, Duke played in two bowl games in Jones' career; twice, the Blue Devils won and he was named MVP.   

Cutcliffe's influence is a multiplier. He is generally-regarded as one of the top developers of quarterbacks in the country. In adding to mentoring superstars Peyton and Eli Manning, Cutcliffe also tutored fellow NFL signal callers Erik Ainge and Heath Shuler at Tennessee and Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree at Duke. To have a relationship with Cutcliffe, and his stamp of approval, has to be considered a plus for Jones in the eyes of evaluators.

“Without a doubt, we are excited for Daniel and his decision to enter the upcoming NFL Draft and could not be happier for him and his family,” Cutcliffe shared in a statement. “Daniel has been a cornerstone of our program and leaves with our full support. It has been a privilege to coach him, but the best part about Daniel is he’s an even better young man than he is a football player. The bottom line is he’s a special person and we'll miss him greatly.”

The last Duke quarterback to be selected in the top 50 picks of the NFL Draft was Sonny Jurgensen in 1957. A Pro Football Hall of Famer who starred with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, he went on to lead the league in passing yards five times, win a championship in 1960s and become a member of the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team. Jurgensen played 18 professional seasons.

A unique quarterback prospect, more and more people are talking about Jones. Expect current trends to continue.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports