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Hadley: Jones misses NFL opportunity

| Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cardale Jones is heading back to Ohio State. That’s great news for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

It is also good for Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and the rest of the rather underwhelming 2015 quarterback draft class.

I’m just not so sure that’s what’s best for Cardale Jones.

Yes, he’s only started three games in his entire collegiate career. Yes, he has two years of eligibility left. And yes, the 2016 quarterback draft class looks positively anemic. But it is hard to imagine events beyond Jones’s control playing out in his favor over the next year, and his draft stock is unlikely to get much higher anytime soon.

For one, Ohio State is slated to return three of the most talented quarterbacks in the country for the 2015 season. Braxton Miller was an early Heisman favorite this year, and J.T. Barrett was the one who led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season. Jones was the quarterback for the team’s magical postseason run, sure, but the Buckeyes’ success was due as much to Ezekiel Elliott’s explosive running as anything else.

While some fans, still running on the high of a national championship, may be clamoring for Meyer to anoint Jones the starter here and now, the likelihood of that happening is just not that high. Meyer is a brilliant coach, and even though Jones may have NFL talent, Miller and Barrett have more experience in his system and make more sense as starters, as long as they remain healthy. And that’s the key. Meyer knows he may need multiple quarterbacks to make it through the season, so having one more talented gunslinger in his back pocket works to his advantage. Of course he wants Jones to stay.

But if Jones does not start next year and spends 13 or so games sitting on the bench, memory of his championship run will fade, and the one bit of experience he does have will be buried behind Miller’s and Barrett’s prospects.

Jones was projected to be a second- or third-round pick if he went to the NFL Draft this year. If he doesn’t start, he will only jump slightly next year. No matter how bad next season’s quarterback class is, this one isn’t much better. Behind Mariota and Winston, things peter out quickly. Jump ahead one year, and Jones will still have to compete with Miller in the draft. He’s essentially in the same place, except in the latter situation, he will have the disadvantage of basically no competitive football for a year.

Secondly, I think Jones’s lack of starting experience would not have been counted against him as much as some believe. What makes Jones exciting as a player and a prospect are his physical gifts, not his smart decision-making or calm presence in the pocket. He can still develop in those areas, to be sure, but I think at least one team in the NFL would have been willing to invest a year in helping him gain those skills if it meant grabbing him in the second or third round.

Put yourself in the shoes of the Patriots, Saints or most of all, the Broncos. Your quarterback is getting up there in years, and it’s time to start for looking a replacement. Look at what the Packers did with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. Jones has the potential. Why not grab him before it becomes harder next year and basically have him learn at the feet of one of the best?

If you’re Jones, you could have to spend the next year sitting on the bench. Would you rather be getting paid in the NFL or doing a lot of nothing at Ohio State? Jones has already reached the pinnacle of his collegiate career. Ohio State could, of course, repeat as champion next year, but with the new playoff system, that will be even harder.

Besides, not to judge someone based on a single tweet, but Jones did send out a now-infamous 140-character missive making his feelings about school quite clear. So when he claimed in his press conference that part of his decision to stay was based on his desire to graduate, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Either he has had a change of heart one does not typically see in collegiate athletics, or he was using school as an excuse not to test himself on the next level. Forgive me if I tend to favor the latter explanation.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

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