After beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game 59-0, eliminating SEC king Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl, and then helping lead the Buckeyes to a 42-20 College Football Playoff championship win over Oregon, his stock might never be higher.
“I’m not going to say ‘definitely,'” Jones said following the title game, according to NFL.com. “(The NFL) is something that I’ll consider. My most important focus is getting my degree.”
In the 6-foot-5, 250-pound behemoth’s three career starts – against the No. 4, 12, and 89 total defenses, respectively – Jones completed 46-of-75 (61.3 percent) of his passes for 742 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, while bulldozing defensive linemen over for an extra 90 yards and another score, including several short conversions on pivotal downs.
But it was nothing more than his ability to launch the football down the field – this report says he can throw it 80-85 yards – as effortlessly as he displayed that have already turned several pro scouts’ heads.
Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Analyst Matt Miller, opposing many noteworthy draft experts such as Todd McShay and Mel Kiper – who both view Jones as a developmental project with outstanding upside – says that the Cleveland native could end up going in the second or third round, if he decides to declare.
“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,” said Miller. “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.”
Though considerably raw, Jones has grown comparisons to Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. But even with the high praise, Jones made it clear he’s not sure if he’s NFL quality yet.
“I mean, it’s very odd,” Jones said at Tuesday morning’s news conference for the title game winners, according to ESPN. “You know, I’m going to be starting three games in three years, and you know, guys play their whole career to have that buildup and have that motivation to play in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I’m not ready for that level yet. I mean, like coach [Urban] Meyer said, it’s a conversation me and him will have later down the road. But to me right now, it’s far out.”
“It’s up in the air, sort of, because my No. 1 priority is graduating from Ohio State University and walking away with something that no one can take away from me,” Jones added.
There may be nothing more gratifying than being able to walk out of a graduation ceremony with a degree in your hand, but is that worth walking away from the possibility of obtaining a minimum base salary of around $600,000 as a Day Two or Three pick, with plenty of leeway for more?
Consider this: Let’s say that Jones decides to stay in Columbus for another year and loses – as expected – the preseason position battle to J.T. Barrett, who recently broke the Big Ten single-season record for total touchdowns, and rides the bench for the 2015 season as a special package QB that also gets garbage time.
Do you think his stock would be as high as it is then as it is now? Absolutely not.
Jones, who has acquired nicknames such as “12-Gauge,” and “The Heisman Killer,” for obvious reasons, should strike the iron while its hot and take his chances with the professional ranks. Not only is this a weak quarterback class (with the exception of the likely No. 1 and 2 picks in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston), but he would arguably be one of the most interesting prospects in the draft.
And if you haven’t noticed lately, NFL general managers have been willing to gamble on the “interesting” kind of guys.
I’m not saying Jones should be a first-round selection or that he’ll be a starter in the NFL as a rookie. However, given Ohio State’s quarterback situation and the massive amount of draft hot takes culminating around his name, I don’t think the big man will have a better opportunity than to take his championship ring and go.
He has to make his decision quickly, though – the NFL draft declaration deadline is on Thursday.