The NFL draft is an unpredictable event, but there’s been a pattern developing in recent years that’s hard to ignore: quarterback prospects rise out of nowhere, and they often end up becoming one of the first, if not the first, players selected.
Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Zach Wilson all began their final seasons of college football as quality NFL prospects, but they weren’t rated as elite first-rounders. Yet, with the exception of Wilson (who went second overall), they were each the first overall pick.
So who’s going to be that guy this year?
One prospect to keep an eye on is Florida’s Emory Jones, who was recently dubbed a potential breakout candidate in 2021.
He may not have had many reps to showcase it, but Jones is also a promising passer. He possesses natural arm strength and is able to deliver throws with eye-opening velocity, regardless of whether his feet are set or not. Jones’ arm talent allows him to fit passes into tight windows and deliver the deep ball with ideal distance and a quick release to stretch the field.
Jones is very unproven as a passer at this stage, and his overall pocket presence and ability to scan the field seem to be a bit raw. Despite his shortcomings, his physical prowess and flashes as a dual-threat quarterback are tantalizing, to be sure. With a breakout season starting against SEC competition, he could propel up draft boards in no time.
It’s a slippery slope trying to project which quarterback will have the kind of year enjoyed by high-first round picks of the past. In fact, it’s almost impossible. Instead, it’s better to sit back and observe the first month of the season before investing too much time in deep sleepers. Once they begin breaking out? Dive in.
Maybe Jones will be that guy. But he has a long way to go before he can confidently be pegged as an early-round prospect let alone a first-rounder.
Still, the hype around Jones is very real. Pro Football Focus recently mocked him to the Eagles with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 draft, which will either be viewed as a stroke of genius or a summer scouting moment to forget.