3rd-String Ohio State Quarterback Who No One Had Heard Of 45 Days Ago Is The Wild Card Of The NFL Draft
Back in August Cardale Jones was the backup to the backup at Ohio State. He was better known for a tweet than anything he'd done on the field.
When starting quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, Jones was promoted to second string. He spent the next 11 games on the bench, only seeing action in garbage time of blowout wins.
In the final game of the regular season, second-string quarterback J.T. Barrett got hurt. Jones became the starter before the Big 10 championship game, and the college football world was so skeptical of him that the Buckeyes were four-point underdogs to Wisconsin.
Now, after a barnstorming national championship run in which Jones blew out Wisconsin, upset Alabama, and outplayed Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, he could be headed for the NFL Draft.
Bleacher Report's NFL Draft expert Matt Miller says he could be a second or third rounder if everything breaks right. Jones might be the first quarterback taken after the consensus top-two players Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, despite playing only three games, Miller says:
"As an athlete, it’s all there. He’s huge. His arm is amazing. It would be the best arm in this year’s draft. He grades great throwing it to every level of the field. Really good anticipation too. That’s what surprises me most; his ability to see the field, anticipate and get it out quickly, so he’s doing a good job there."
Jones is a sophomore, but he's eligible to enter the draft because he's four years removed from high school.
He may be a third-stringer, but he looks like an NFL starter. He's tall (6'5"), powerful (250 pounds), athletic (see the Vine below), and has an incredible arm (he says he can throw it 85 yards in the air).
He does things quarterbacks shouldn't be able to do:
He would have never seen the light of day if first-stringer Braxton Miller and second-stringer J.T. Barrett hadn't suffered season-ending injuries. But he made the most of his opportunity, and now he could be on to the pros after a perfect three-start college career.
He'd have to declare for the draft by Thursday. If he ends up entering the draft, it'll be one of the most rapid rises for a prospect ever. No one outside of the state of Ohio knew who he was 45 days ago.
How does this happen? How can a player who might be the third-best QB prospect in the draft end up at the third-stringer on his own team?
Ohio State's strength coach Mickey Marotti attributes Jones' rise to him getting in shape. He told Dan Wetzel of Yahoo:
"He was last in conditioning. I told him, ‘You’ll never play quarterback here. You’re last in everything. I’ve never coached a quarterback who is last.’ He’s the complete opposite of Tim Tebow. He never was zoned in. But he kept working, kept plugging. He’s a great example: Never give up."
The sample size is so small that any NFL who drafted him would be taking a significant risk. But, as Miller points out, there's a precedent for this type of player getting taken high in the draft and panning out — Cam Newton.
Miller said of the Cam-Cardale comparison, "Cam was so inexperienced when he came out of Auburn too. He had one year in the NCAA and really didn’t work in a real advanced-passing offense. He was just kind of an athlete with a big arm, and I think Jones is the same thing."
The possibilities for Jones are all over the map right now. He could come back to Ohio State and start. He could come back to Ohio State and be a back up again. He could enter the draft and fall because he has only played three games. He could enter the draft and get picked earlier than anyone could have imagined six weeks ago.