When Landry Jones came onto the scene at Oklahoma people looked at his size, athleticism and arm strength and immediately thought he could be Sam Bradford with more upside. A combination of the overrating of Jones, the weight of expectations, and a lack of development have resulted in Jones being projected to be far lower than anyone would have guessed a couple years ago. People would think that Jones struggled this season but he actually improved his stat line almost across the board. Jones enters the draft as one of the quarterbacks with the most tools that can be developed in the draft and one has to wonder if he would not be looked at differently if he played his college football at another school without the overwhelming expectations.
Jones has a strong arm and can throw the ball effortlessly down the field. He can throw touch passes as well as passes with zip on them and his receivers will love him because he loves to give his guys a chance to go up and make plays. Jones has the ability to make all the throws out on the football field from short to those big time deep throws that scouts love to see.
Jones has all of the characteristics of the bigger quarterback who can stand tall in the pocket and make strong armed throws, but he is solid athlete who can move in and out of the pocket to extend plays and create opportunities. Jones is not looking to run the ball to pick up yards and does a great job keeping his eyes down the field to find opportunities to make plays. In some ways, Jones appears to be a better quarterback when he shuts his mind off and just works off instinct on the move and being able to just find the open guy. In addition, Jones is a good quarterback when it comes to throwing on the run and while he needs to improve where he puts the ball in terms of accuracy, he does show the ability to throw receivers open and put the ball in places where only they can make the play.
For the criticisms of Jones’s accuracy on throws, he is not someone who often misses where it is going to hurt his team. He tends to air on the side of caution and throw the ball so if he will miss, it is because no one can get to it rather than the defender.
And while the experience he has may not be in the most ideal system for the NFL, the fact that Jones has played in an incredible 53 games of college football. The recent run of early success stories from quarterbacks who have had a lot of game experience: Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick all played in a ton of games during their college careers. This is no guarantee of success for Jones by any stretch, but a recent trend worth noting.
Jones is wildly inconsistent and some of this has to do with the Air Raid system he played in for the Sooners and some of this is on him for bad habits he has picked up along the way. The system has him play almost exclusively out of the shotgun and while there are plays that work on timing, too often the plays resemble schoolyard football with plays drawn up in the dirt. Instead of having a natural progression to work through, it looks chaotic and Landry Jones is relying on the Sooner athletes to get open and just find a guy to throw the ball. The Air Raid system is great for Oklahoma in that it creates huge passing windows and opportunities to make big plays allowing them to put up points and win games, but it is not all that great for developing effective quarterbacks to go to the NFL. Jones was not overly effective in the red zone this year. This should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed the Sooners as up until this year, Jones had few if any opportunities in the red zone because Bob Stoops would bring in Blake Bell, known as the ‘Belldozer’, to come in and pound the football into the end zone; great for Oklahoma, bad for Landry Jones.
Jones does not use consistent mechanics and while he can make incredible throws, he will also miss open plays that prove to be big opportunities and stall the offense. Jones also has times where he seems to be caught in between throws and will make touch throws where he should zip the ball and zip passes he should throw with a little touch. The Oklahoma route tree is unconventional for the most part and Jones will need to adjust to a more conventional NFL system. He also needs to get better at reading defenses and is periodically victimized by confusing zone reads for man resulting in some ugly interceptions from defenders patrolling underneath.
Jones will also need to adjust to playing under center, read the defenses while dropping, and work on his footwork. This will also force him to get better at learning timing with his receivers.
In so many ways, Landry Jones entered Oklahoma as a raw passer in need of development and he is leaving Oklahoma as a raw passer in need of development. He has a ton of physical talent and potential, but the question facing Landry Jones is whether or not he still can turn into a great quarterback or if the damage is too extensive. As a result, Jones might be the most well suited to end up as a backup quarterback somewhere and be able to sit, learn, and just refine his technique for a year or few, preferably behind an established quarterback. If a team has the right coaches to work with him and the patience to stay with him for a while, he could turn out to be the quarterback people believed he could earlier in his Oklahoma career. Jones may be a guy who learns in one place and is traded to another if he is going to become a starter in the league. All of this suggests Landry Jones could go in the fourth or fifth round area of the draft. Jones might remind some of Jay Cutler but he has a ton of work to do to get anywhere near that level of play in the NFL.