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Make or Break: Daniel Jones

Jesse Patterson (@df_patterson) takes a look at New York Giants QB Daniel Jones. This year is a make or break it one for the former first round pick. Will he shine in his third year or fold under pressure, forcing the Giants to look elsewhere?

Entering his third professional season, Daniel Jones is the unquestioned starting QB for the New York Giants and second year head coach Joe Judge, but for how long? Sporting an 8-19 win/loss record, and finishing as the fantasy QB24 in each of his years at the helm, Jones has left a lot to be desired as both a franchise, and a fantasy starter. He does possess the measurables, standing 6’5 and weighing 220lbs, and the draft pedigree after being selected 6th overall in the 2019 draft to be a success in the NFL, but he has yet to really establish himself at this level.

Last year, Jones actually took a step back both developmentally and statistically as his numbers dropped in total yards and passer rating. He threw for two fewer interceptions, but for 13 fewer TDs, yet the Giants somehow managed to stay within a victory of winning the embarrassingly terrible NFC East with a 6-10 record. Intent to decipher if Jones is the long-term solution at quarterback, the Giants management team set out to surround the former Duke Blue Devil with talent this offseason. Whether this free agency spending spree is enough for Daniel Jones to live up to his potential or not remains to be seen.

First in 2020 Deep Ball Passer Rating

General Manager Dave Gettleman is the man responsible for drafting Jones, and thus is heavily invested in his success. Gettleman was among a host of teams to show interest in one of the top receiving options in this year’s free agent crop, eventually signing fifth year pro Kenny Golladay to an eye-opening four year $72 million contract that includes $40 million in guarantees. In Golladay, Jones will for the first time in his young career have a true alpha receiving weapon to throw to, and when looking at both players’ strengths it is obvious why Gettleman was so eager to make the move.

One of the more surprising stats that I have come across this offseason was that Daniel Jones actually ranked first among all quarterbacks in deep ball passer rating during the 2020 season. Though as you will note on that linked list, although he only attempted 39 passes of 20 or more yards downfield, he showed a surprising accuracy and command of his intended target, completing 19 of those passes for 636 yards. More impressively, Jones has a perfect TD to interception ratio of 5:0 when pushing the ball downfield and his 134.3 passer rating on deep targets is nothing to laugh at. All of this was accomplished while being sacked the 4th most times in the league (45 times!!) and while targeting career slot receiver Sterling Sheppard and former fifth round pick Darius Slayton downfield. This season, Jones has a true deep ball artist joining the ranks, as Golladay managed 41 receptions of 20 or more yards over the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Golladay’s 628 yards on deep passes actually ranked second in the league during his highly successful 2019 season in which he finished as the overall WR3 in standard scoring fantasy leagues. Golladay has also been highly successful as a red zone weapon over his career. During that 2019 season he caught 8 of 15 targets and scored 6 touchdowns inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. For comparison’s sake, the Giants pass catchers that year caught 11 of 25 targets and 6 total touchdowns. Jones meanwhile struggled somewhat in the red zone last season, completing 32 of 59 pass attempts with 7 TDs, all of which ranked 18th or worse compared to the rest of his QB compatriots. The addition of Golladay should help both Jones’ red zone struggles and also compliment his deep ball strengths almost perfectly.

Kyle Rudolph - Underrated Signing

Before the Golladay signing was even made official, Gettleman made another move, signing former Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph to a two year $14 million deal. This move was slightly puzzling if only for the fact that the Giants already have a solid TE on the roster in perennial top-20 fantasy option Evan Engram. But looking closer into the Rudolph signing shows this was quite the savvy move by Gettleman. Rudolph earned the nickname “The Red Zone Reindeer” during his time in Minnesota by being a sure-handed, reliable pass catching option inside the opposition’s 20 yard line. Ask Saints fans if they remember his overtime game winning catch during the 2019 playoffs and they will likely curse at you at best, but there is no denying his aptitude in the red zone. In the 2019 regular season, Rudolph caught 8 of 11 targets and 4 touchdowns in the red zone. Adding another weapon at this end of the field was likely on Gettleman’s mind when he made this move. Helping successfully finish offensive positions was not the only skill Kyle Rudolph learned from his time with the Vikings. As a fan of the team myself, I can tell you first hand that Minnesota has struggled with blocking for years due to a weak offensive line. I will be one of the last people to ever offer excuses for Kirk Cousins when he makes a boneheaded play, but even I can admit that the O-Line play has not helped Cousins one bit over the past few seasons. As a result of their seemingly annual tradition of searching for success in the trenches, Rudolph was tasked a lot of the time with being an in-line blocker, and due to this, he has gained a lot of experience in this area. Once again, this strength in Rudolph's game seems to complement a weakness that Daniel Jones has had to deal with in previous years.

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Kadarius Toney: Another Weapon

Gettleman also traded down in the first round of the draft before grabbing Florida receiver Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick. Toney projects as a project at the receiver position, possibly a future slot weapon to replace an aging Sterling Shepard, meaning his year one impact on the offense will be limited. One way that he can make an immediate on field difference is on special teams should the Giants choose to utilize his sub 4.4 speed on punt and kick returns, something he excelled at during College. Any success that Toney shows in the return game would be a boon to Daniel Jones’ success this season as the Giants finished around mid-pack in starting field position after kickoffs and punts over the past three seasons. While not a new signing, the healthy return of stud RB, and former second overall draft pick Saquon Barkley should also go a long way to helping Jones and the offence get back on track. It’s no surprise that, upon losing Barkley to a devastating week 2 knee injury, the Giants offence became fairly one-dimensional and predictable. With opposing defenses no longer having to respect Barkley’s game-breaking ability, they were more able to focus on Jones and his stats predictably suffered. The additions of Golladay, Rudolph and Toney, as well as the return of Barkley should allow the Giants’ Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett to create a more balanced attack that defenses will be forced to account for.

Not to be forgotten in this conversation is the fact that Jones himself is a capable dual-threat quarterback, which seems to be the prototype for modern NFL success. Over his two year career, Jones has 702 rushing yards and three TDs, and ranked 8th in the NFL last season in rushing statistics from the position, and still ranked 9th without his hilariously ill-fated 80 yard run in which he ended up tripping himself out of a surefire TD.

No More Excuses For Danny Dimes

By addressing obvious team weaknesses which limited his success in previous years, while at the same time adding weapons to compliment his strengths, the Giants have done their best to set Daniel Jones up for a make or break third professional season in 2021. Yes, the offensive line is still a serious question mark who’s success will hinge on improvements and continued rapid development of 2019 1st and 3rd rounders Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, but Jones cannot continue to use this as an excuse. He has to take a step forward and lead this team to prove to the organization that he is the long-term answer at quarterback, despite the perceived shortcomings on the O-Line. He has the weapons and surrounding talent, he has the college success, the size, the speed and the draft pedigree. He just needs to put it all together to be a viable weekly fantasy contributor and real life leader, and this season may very well be his last chance to do so.

Currently being selected in startup drafts as the QB25 based on DLF's ADP data, Jones has the tools and weapons to be a value buy based on that perception. I would select him as my QB2 in Superflex or multiple-quarterback leagues with confidence, and would consider him a hold in single QB dynasty leagues.

Thank you for reading my article on Danny Dimes. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Comment or leave me a message on Twitter @df_patterson


Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)