The New York Football Giants have been verbally disemboweled by analysts and fans for their selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. No selection inspired more ire than that of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick.
Jones was booed by the Giants contingent present in Nashville who wanted the team to select Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Haskins is a native of Highland Park, N.J., roughly 30 miles from MetLife Stadium. Haskins, who was selected 15th overall by the division rival Washington Redskins, made no secret of his desire to play for the Giants throughout the draft process.
Jones has been ridiculed because of similarities in appearance and demeanor to Eli Manning. The fact that Jones attended the Manning Passing Academy and was coached by David Cutcliffe (who was Eli’s head coach at Ole Miss and Peyton’s position coach/offensive coordinator at Tennessee) has only fueled draft conspiracy theories. However, Jones has no issue with being compared to No. 10. He sees it as a positive.
“Listening to those guys speak, you can learn a lot from that, but I’ve always felt that being around those guys and watching how they carry themselves, their humility, joy and kindness that they have for people with the position that they’re in is something that’s always impressed me,” Jones said. “The opportunity to watch that in person and be around them is an opportunity to learn that, see that, and get a better sense for how they carry themselves.”
Jones ran a pro-style offense at Duke. In 36 career games for the Blue Devils, he completed 764 passes in 1,275 passes (59.9 percent) for 8,201 yards, 52 touchdowns and 29 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 122.9. Duke had a record of 17-19 (2-0 bowl games) with Jones as the starter.
As of Wednesday, Jones has seven practices under his belt, including four with the veterans during voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). He has displayed arm strength and accuracy that is better than anyone anticipated while looking comfortable and poised in the pocket. He has been a professional quarterback for a little more than a month but is already seeing a change in his preparation.
“I think what you do with the script before practice is something different,” Jones said. “Really studying that and preparing for your reps. You really want to have an awareness of what everyone is doing. I didn’t really do that a whole lot at Duke where we just kind of get out and run the play. But here you’re focusing your preparation based off the script.”
There is one player who knows exactly what Jones is going through: Kyle Lauletta. It wasn’t that long ago he was the rookie trying to adjust to the NFL game.
“It feels so much different this year,” Lauletta said. “I look at the rookies coming in and I see their faces; it’s just like being a freshman in college all over again.”
Lauletta pointed out that it isn’t just media, team personnel, and fans who are paying attention to Jones and his development. Giants players are curiously watching as well.
“You are not walking into guys that are 18 years old,” Lauletta said. “You’ve got grown men looking at you and counting on you. The vets look at the young guys like, ‘How can these guys help us win?’ They are counting on all the young guys. We’ve got a lot of draft picks, a lot of young talent.”
Jones has ignored the noise surrounding his selection by the Giants and focusing squarely on becoming a better quarterback. He is in an extremely fortunate position because he gets to watch Eli Manning go about his business. Although he was brought in to be Manning’s successor, he knows where he stands currently.
“I’m still pretty early in the process and still learning a whole lot every day,” Jones said. “I’m not sure I’m there yet. I don’t know when that happens. There is still a lot to learn, a lot to work on, and a lot to improve on.”