For the last two mock drafts posted on this website, the Buffalo Bills have been projected to select a quarterback — and not just any quarterback. The last two times, in the third round at 80th overall, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones has been the selection.
Based on some of the reactions to the pick, some would think he's done something to personally wrong some of the fan base.
@JoeBuscaglia no way they take cardale
— Todd Walters (@tm00123) April 22, 2016
@JoeBuscaglia Any draft that ends with the highly inaccurate C. Jones on the Bills is a bad one.
— Uncle Rico (@RckyMtnBillsFan) April 22, 2016
— Tim (@TimVaughn13) April 22, 2016
It’s getting a tad ridiculous as to why there is this burgeoning hate for a mid-level prospect that hasn’t even taken a snap in the National Football League, and probably won’t for a long time to come. If you’re unfamiliar with his history, here it goes:
Jones took over the starting job just in time for the Buckeyes’ magical run to the National Championship following the 2014 season, and had people wondering just how good he could be both at the college and professional level. He held the job heading into the 2015 season, struggled with some accuracy, and was eventually benched for backup J.T. Barrett.
Keep in mind, all through his turmoil, Jones never took a loss as the Ohio State starter. Some of the time he certainly wasn’t the reason for the undefeated mark to hold, but, he had a perfect winning mark nonetheless.
Now Jones has moved on from Ohio State, and is quite possibly the most polarizing quarterback prospect available. With due respect to the similarly polarizing Christian Hackenberg, Jones might have him beat. At the very least, Hackenberg held on to his job.
This is who Jones is: a 6-foot-5, 253-pound quarterback with a cannon for an arm, and the mobility and strength to be a factor in the ground game as well. He has shown inaccuracy in his starts, but hasn’t gotten a long time to figure it all out, either.
Those that are likening him to EJ Manuel — and there are more than a few — aren’t only naive, but at least a tad ignorant about it as well. While it’s true, they are both 6-foot-5, black, mobile, and have displayed some inaccuracy... that’s where the comparison ends.
These are two completely different prospects for a lot of reasons. First, Jones will wing it all over the field without a hint of hesitation. He’s willing to give his receivers chances. Manuel, on the other hand, is more of a risk-averse quarterback and hesitant to pull the trigger on giving his teammates that opportunity to go make a play.
Another reason, when tucking the ball and running, Manuel was a lot more reserved even at Florida Sate (are you noticing a trend here?) than Jones was when each player tucked the ball to run. Jones showed the toughness to keep drives alive with his feet when he felt the need to do so.
Third, the two players are different because of how much experience they’ve had. For those that looked at Manuel as a moldable player, he appeared in 43 games over his college career, and had 897 passing attempts. Habits were surely formed. Jones, on the other hand, had only 23 appearances, and a mere 270 pass attempts during his career. If you’re looking for the ball of clay, Jones appears to be much more moldable at time of draft.
Lastly, and most importantly, there aren’t any expectations on Jones and the pressure to take him high in the draft just isn’t there. When the Bills took Manuel in the first round in 2013, they put undue pressure on him to be ready likely quicker than he should have been. Then, the worst possible scenario happened and Manuel had to be forced into the starting lineup in his first year, and was taught by Doug Marrone — above all else — to not make any mistakes.
When it comes to Jones, specifically with the Bills, the situation is entirely different. First, he surely would not be a first-round pick, so pressure that was on Manuel won’t be with him. There is also an established starter in Tyrod Taylor, and Manuel is there to back him up — essentially creating a “redshirt” situation for Jones in 2016.
This is where fans who hate the pick lose me a bit. In the third round of the draft, where the likelihood of success in quarterbacks diminishes drastically with any prospect, why is it such a hideous and unwanted offense to swing big on the position?
Is there a chance that he doesn’t work out? Absolutely there is. In fact, history supports that it’s more than likely to happen. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying to add quarterbacks to the roster.
Perhaps the most maddening statistic for Bills fans over the past 20 years of drafts is this one: the team has only selected four quarterbacks in 20 drafts. Four. That's it.
So while they were toiling in mediocrity year after year after year, they skimped on the most important position in all of professional sports. Why? Why not take chances?
Luckily for the Bills, I think they have the regime that realizes taking swings at the quarterback position in the draft is never a bad thing. And when you’re talking about mid-round prospects — which is exactly what Jones is — then the more potential you can find, the better.
That’s what Cardale Jones is... potential. He has everything you could want from a skill perspective, and, he hasn’t been deep-rooted in his habits to where you have to completely break him down of them.
In Buffalo, he’d be working with noted quarterbacks coach David Lee, and an offensive coordinator in Greg Roman that has gotten more out of his seemingly average quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor) than perhaps any other coordinator in the league. It's a seemingly perfect situation for the former Buckeyes quarterback.
And, the Bills like him. To the chagrin of many, they’ve worked him out, had him in for a visit, they’re reportedly “enamored” with him… the idea isn’t going away.
So, I hear you. I've read you. I understand why some of you are so hellbent against the idea of Cardale Jones on the Buffalo Bills. I’ve had some people connected to the game tell me they wouldn’t even bother taking him on Day Three. I just don't agree, and it doesn't appear that the Bills do either.
In the third round, without any expectations placed upon that player, the right coaching staff around him, and a potential for greatness if you bring him along the right way... I simply ask you this, Bills fan against the idea of drafting Cardale Jones:
Why the hell not?