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The Tape Tells All - Daniel Jones' Week 3 Performance


Welcome to another edition of "The Tape Tells All," where I break down some film of an NFL's player performance and try to draw some fantasy football conclusions from that film. This week, I'm looking at New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones took over the Giants starting role from veteran Eli Manning on Sunday. This was just the second game that Manning hadn't started for the Giants since 2004, and after Sunday it looks like Manning's time as a starter in New York is over barring injury.

Jones, meanwhile, entered this season with a lot of baggage. His college career wasn't stellar. He was universally considered a draft reach. The metrics that are used in scouting college prospects pretty much all ranked him as a bust waiting to happen.

But he didn't bust in his first start, and while that could be meaningless, it's see what we can learn from Daniel Jones debut.

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Background Information

So, let's just get this out in the open now for the sake of transparency: I did not think Daniel Jones would be a good NFL quarterback. I wrote things like this:

Jones has been the Josh Allen of this year's class, a quarterback who shot up draft boards despite not putting up productive numbers in college, but even Allen was a better prospect than Jones.

SB Nation ranked the 22 FBS quarterbacks who have a chance of either being taken in this draft or picked up as an UDFA by where they stand in various metrics vs. other quarterbacks in this class.

Jones was 13th out of 22 quarterbacks in completion rate, but all his other metrics were rough. His college success rate -- a stat that measures what percentage of plays in a game were deemed "successful" -- was lower than Allen's was in 2018. Allen also had a positive number in marginal efficiency unlike Jones, who finished at -0.7 percent. It's hard not to think of Jones as a worse prospect than...well, than any of last year's first-round prospects.

And like this:

Jones ranked last in this draft class -- and again, I'm talking about of 22 potentially draftable quarterbacks, not just the ones who were drafted -- in yards per completion and marginal efficiency and second to last in adjusted net yards per attempt. As a passer, the Duke version of Daniel Jones was just really poor in a lot of ways.

And you know? I'm tentatively standing by those things. Jones didn't look like an NFL-caliber passer in college and at the time, his college tape and production and metrics were all we really had to go off. Based on those, the Giants taking him at six was a reach.

But Jones had an impressive preseason and an even more impressive first NFL start, and it's looking like the traits that made the Giants pick him at six are standing out. He's able to evade pressure significantly better than Eli Manning and has the arm strength to make plays down the field.

His first NFL start produced a 23-for-36 passing performance with 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also added 28 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on four carries. It was a strong showing for Jones.

Digging deeper into those numbers, Jones' 9.8 average intended air yards were 10th among quarterbacks in Week 3. Eli Manning in Week 2 ranked 15th at 8.5. Jones is throwing the ball farther down the field, which theoretically should result in more passing yards for him.

The Giants won Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, but it wasn't perfect. They lost Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury that should sideline him for up to eight weeks. Their passing plays had just a 39 percent success rate per Sharp Football Stats,which was among the 10 lowest success rates in the league. He was sacked five times.

But the good outweighed the bad in the minds of pretty much everyone. Does the tape of Danny Dimes (I hate that I just called him that) mesh with the production we saw?

 

The Game Tape

Let's look at a smattering of plays. The touchdowns, obviously, but also a few other things so we can be a holistic sense of what Jones was doing.

Here was Jones' first pass attempt of Sunday's game. He does a good job here identifying the open man and getting the ball out before the pass rush gets to him, which is good because this wasn't the best pass protection. Good recognition. Let's Evan Engram do the hard work.

Here's another early play, with Jones doing a good job of getting the ball to his open receiver. Steps back and puts a well-placed ball right there for an open Sterling Shepard. It's good to see Jones hitting his receivers with accuracy since accuracy was one of those concerns that a lot of people had before this season.

Here was the first incompletion we saw from Jones. We can learn a lot from looking at the not-so-good plays by a quarterback, and on this one we see Jones still throwing a pretty accurate ball, albeit maybe just a little too hard for the intended receiver.

Here was the first of two rushing touchdowns by Jones. With Eli Manning, there's no way they run a play like this, but with Jones they can insert some more options into the playbook. With Barkley in the backfield, the defense falls for the fake here, which leaves Jones with plenty of running room on the right side.

Important thing to remember: Barkley is out for a while. Will Wayne Gallman scare defenses in the same way? Probably not, which means these plays might lose some of their effectiveness. Not all of it, but the success rate should go down a little without Barkley to pull the defense away from Jones.

This is a touchdown throw by Jones, though it's more accurate to say it's a touchdown run by Evan Engram that just happened to be accompanied by a pass first. Play action helps open up space for Engram over the middle and Jones makes the easy throw. From there, it's all Engram. Which...hey, you probably can't count on your tight end taking a short pass 75 yards every week, can you?

Okay, maybe the Buccaneers just can't defend crossing routes? I'm starting to come to that conclusion based on all these plays where Jones is able to just get the ball to an open guy on crossing routes.

This is my favorite Daniel Jones play from this game. I'm a little confused about the decision to run 22 personnel from midfield when trailing in the second half, but it works here. Only three players are running routes, so the defense is able to double cover Darius Slayton. But Slayton's able to find space between that double coverage and Jones puts the pass where only Slayton can get it. He also does this while moving away from the play.

Jones' second touchdown pass was a lot more about Daniel Jones than his first one was.

Shepard is double covered on the right side of the end zone. It's maybe not the best option here -- if we're talking about safety, Bennie Fowler is a lot more open -- but Jones again does a good job putting the ball where the defenders can't get to it. (To be fair, he also almost puts it where Shepard couldn't get to it either, but #touchdowns.)

Here's the final touchdown run by Jones. Drops back for the pass. No one's open. Sees that the middle of the field is open and takes off. Eli Manning's not doing that.

 

Fantasy Impact

So, what should you do with Daniel Jones?

Rushing out and adding him in shallow leagues seems premature. With Barkley out, defenses will key in pretty hard on Jones and while Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate and Evan Engram are all obviously talented players, Jones isn't going to have an easy time on a week-to-week basis.

The quality of the defenses he faces will matter a lot. Can he have a strong game against Washington? Sure, because Washington has been really bad this year when it comes to preventing big plays from opposing passers. But do you trust a rookie quarterback against the Vikings or one the road against New England? I don't.

But the upside is there with Jones. He's going to struggle at times, but the film from Sunday's game suggests that he's really worked on his accuracy since he was at Duke. It's not always there, and maybe a good amount of Sunday's success was because of the defense, but there are signs that he can be a solid quarterback.

Am I ready to make him a starter in a 12-team league? Nope. Am I willing to stash him on my bench and see how things go? Sure, and that's a lot more than I expected a few months ago.

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