As baseball analytics grow, the concept of “Three True Outcomes” has risen to prominence. A walk, home run, or strikeout are considered the only “true” outcomes of any plate appearance. They’re seen as the cleanest way to evaluate hitters and pitchers since they occur without the help of team defense.
Daniel Jones is used to playing without the help of a defense. The New York Giants quarterback was tasked to win games virtually by himself last season. Big Blue’s defense hemorrhaged yardage, their offensive line was a sieve, and their skill-position players split time between the training room and the field. But Jones managed an impressive rookie year despite his surroundings. The Duke product had a completion percentage over 60 and a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. His 24 touchdowns through 12 games would’ve set the rookie record if prorated over a 16-game schedule.
But one promising season does not make a great player. Using Pro Football Reference’s player season finder, here’s a set of quarterbacks with comparable rookie seasons to Jones (over 58% completions, over 15 touchdown passes, over 10 interceptions, with at least 10 games started). From that set, the ones that are stylistically dissimilar to Jones or are too young to assess can be filtered out. What’s left are The Three True Outcomes of Daniel Jones: three players that represent the paths his career can take. One is a walk (average), one is a strikeout (bad), and one is a home run (great).
Walk: Andy Dalton
Jones and Dalton had eerily similar rookie years. Jones had four more touchdown passes and one less interception (in four fewer games), but both averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. Dalton is the epitome of quarterback mediocrity. When the Cincinnati Bengals put a good team around him, they went to the playoffs five straight years from 2011-2015. However, the Bengals didn’t win a single playoff game during that stretch (Dalton missed the 2015 playoffs due to injury). Dalton couldn’t keep the team competitive when their roster talent declined, and the Bengals have since moved on.
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Jones is more mobile than Dalton, and his rookie year showed he’s a better playmaker. But the chances of him having a Dalton-esque career can’t be ignored. The Giants would at least get on-base if Jones were the next Dalton, but those who mocked them for picking him sixth overall would be vindicated.
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Strikeout: Marcus Mariota
Mariota wasn’t a complete bust like Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell. Still, when you draft a quarterback second overall and he doesn’t make it to a second contract, that’s a whiff. The Oregon product had a better quarterback rating and more yards per attempt than Jones his rookie year. But their completion percentages were nearly the same and Jones had five more touchdown passes.
Mariota did have modest success with the Tennessee Titans. He won a playoff game in 2017 and had an almost 3:1 touchdown to interception ration in 2016. But it had become clear that the Titans were limited with him him at quarterback. They became a much better team once Ryan Tannehill replaced him. The Giants need Jones to be a player that spurs them forward, not one that holds them back.
Home Run: Matt Ryan
The Giants would love if in twelve years time, Jones is a four-time pro-bowler with an MVP and super bowl appearance. Jones and Ryan had the exact same 87.7 quarterback rating as rookies, with Ryan having a better yards per attempt but Jones throwing eight more touchdown passes.
Ryan was a common comparison for Jones coming out of Duke. Neither has great arm strength, but both display accuracy and touch to all three levels of the defense. Even their athletic profiles are startlingly alike.
If Ryan exemplifies the best path forward for Jones, the Giants should emulate the Atlanta Falcons in how they supported him. Ryan always had an elite number one receiver (Roddy White, Julio Jones) and a pass catching tight end (Tony Gonzalez, Austin Hooper) at his disposal. It’ll be easier said than done to provide the same for Jones. But when you have a chance at the plate with a franchise quarterback, you may as well swing for the fences.
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