Will Daniel Jones Break Out?
Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes
When the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones with the sixth pick of the 2019 draft, they incited an uproar in the Tri-State Area. With top pass-rush prospects like Josh Allen and Brian Burns left on the board, what did the Giants’ front office see in the Duke signal-caller? For starters, they saw someone who looked like a long lost relative of franchise legend Eli Manning. While Eli does have more charisma, they both stay out of the limelight and seem to have great relationships with their teammates. On the field, Jones’s flashes of high-end play are met with equally highlight-worthy boneheaded mistakes. In his rookie season, Daniel Jones had a 4.1% big-time throw rate and a 5.9% turnover worthy throw rate, per PFF. Jones also had a 5.2% touchdown percentage on his pass attempts in his rookie year. While PFF’s advanced statistics are not released for the 2020 season, it was clear that Jason Garrett’s offense made Jones a different player. Instead of emphasizing Jones’s gunslinger style that produced highs and lows in 2019, 2020 brought a more mellow quarterback. Jones threw for a touchdown on only 2.5% of his 2020 pass attempts and 25% fewer turnovers. While Danny Dimes did not take the sophomore jump that many expected, is he worth the investment in Dynasty?
Why you should acquire Daniel Jones
The best argument for buying Daniel Jones is his Konami code upside. To those unfamiliar, the Konami code is the bonus of having quarterbacks that produce 20% or more of their fantasy points from rushing. Any quarterback can have a statistically solid passing season, but that does not translate to fantasy success in the same way that a season from a below-average but mobile quarterback posts. 26.8% of Jones’s 2020 production came on the ground, and he did that with only one rushing touchdown and a hamstring injury that limited him late in the season. At the quarterback position, Konami quarterbacks are dominating in recent years. From 2015-2018, 25% of the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks qualified as Konami code QBs. In 2019, that figure jumped to 42%, and in 2020, 58% of the top 12 passers were Konami QBs. The trend is clear: to dominate as a fantasy football quarterback utilizing your legs is becoming necessary. While Jones has not flourished as a passer, his rushing ability provides the potential for future top 12 finishes.
Another reason to acquire Daniel Jones is the likely addition of talent to the Big Blue offense in the 2020 offseason. Jones’s passing upside is undoubtedly due for an uptick with the addition of both a playmaker at either the wide receiver or tight end position and the return of Saquon Barkley. The Giants will target wide receivers that hit the open market, but I expect many to get franchise tagged, leaving few options. If Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, and Allen Robinson all receive the tag–which is not an unreasonable expectation–the Giants will turn to the draft to add a weapon. The key names to keep track of are Kyle Pitts, JaMarr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman, and Devonta Smith. Any of these stars will improve the Giants’ 29th ranked passing attack.
A final reason to target Daniel Jones comes in the likely long term security that he will see. The jury is still out on whether or not Danny deserves another contract. Still, the Giants organization is not a fan of turnover at prominent roster positions for better and for worse. Owner John Mara has already proclaimed that running back Saquon Barkley will be a Giant for a long time, and the team has committed to Daniel Jones for the 2021 season already. Historically, the Giants have kept their quarterbacks for many years, even if it was not in their best interests to do so. While some teams have frequent turnover, the Giants, with quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Phil Simms, and Kerry Collins, have preferred consistency. Unless the New York Giants regress to the point where they sever ties with Dave Gettleman and finish with a top draft pick, I have the utmost confidence that Daniel Jones will be rewarded with a second contract, even if he should not be offered that contract.
Why You Should Be Skeptical of Daniel Jones
When a player is given the nickname “Danny Dimes,” it is reasonable to expect that they earned it making great throws in regular-season games for his team. However, Jones was dubbed Danny Dimes in his first preseason games after he lit up opposing team’s backups and led the Giants to an undefeated 2019 preseason. Jones’s first two years in the league have demonstrated a pattern of bad decisions and inaccurate passes. Jones plays almost like he has multiple personality disorder. He goes from throwing a 30-yard dime to take the lead in a close game to missing an open wideout in a game-winning scenario. Betting on Jones to stop making stupid mistakes while retaining his big-play ability seems foolish to many at this point.
Daniel Jones’s injury history is another reason to be skeptical of his long-term prospects. Jones has not completed a full 16 game season yet. In 2019 he missed games late in the season due to a high ankle sprain. This season he missed a game (and was limited once he came back) by various leg injuries. Jones’s penchant for injuries is a cause for concern. If you are optimistic that Jones will progress as a passer and that the Garrett offense will be more effective, you should still be wary of Jones’s injury history when including him in a transaction.
Speaking of Garrett’s offense, in 2020, it was a trainwreck. The Giants’ offense failed to modernize, as they used pre-snap motion at a bottom-five rate. Much of the offense’s failures must be put on Jones. Jones’s passer rating in 2020 was in the bottom ten in the National Football League and ranked next to Alex Smith and Cam Newton. His 2020 passer rating of 80 was a step back from his passer rating of 87 in 2019. If you are confident that Jones’s struggles in 2020 were due to Garrett and that Garrett will not be with the Giants for much longer.
From the moment Daniel Jones stepped on the gridiron against Tampa Bay in week 3 of the 2019 season, he had the “it factor.” Jones drove the Giants down the field and took the lead with less than one minute left, giving every Giants fan a taste of what the future could hold. However, Daniel also has given many examples that support why he is nothing more than a career backup. Daniel Jones is as risky as they come. The best way I can summarize Daniel Jones is through an office quote from Will Ferrel’s Deangelo Vickers. “I can’t sit here and tell you [Daniel’s] gonna be a success. I can’t sit here and tell you that he’s even the best man for the job. [(Daniel) looks awkward] But I can say this: He’s got potential. Sure. You know, I always say: go big, or go home. You go with This guy, you could be making the biggest mistake of your life, OR, the biggest, Good decision of your life. It’s either gonna be the best thing you ever did, or the worst thing you ever did.” Jones is a mystery. I firmly believe that his range of outcomes includes maturing into a perennial QB1. However, it is necessary to evaluate the chance at the high-end outcome occurring. Jones needs better weapons, a competent offensive coordinator, and to become an accurate, healthy, and consistent passer. I would suggest that Jones has a 20% chance of reaching this potential, with a solid chance at becoming a fantasy qb2 for 5-10 more years, while also having a decent chance at becoming irrelevant within three years.
In summation, I believe that investing in Daniel Jones is a smart decision. The quarterbacks that are drafted around and ahead of him (Derek Carr, Teddy B, Kirk, and Goff) all lack the rushing upside that Jones has. I am of the personal belief that if you are drafting a qb2 and thinking in the long term, it is best to hope for the best range of outcome to occur (See Josh Allen). While Daniel Jones has a lot of work to do to reach his full potential, the path to fantasy greatness is evident.