Curious about Cardale? The NFL is, too

BY foxsports • January 13, 2015

DALLAS -- If Ohio State third-stringer-turned-national-championship-winner Cardale Jones wants to ride this wave of momentum into the NFL, he has until Thursday to declare his intentions.

It might seem crazy that a guy with three career starts would enter the NFL Draft and, well, it is. Jones said at a Tuesday morning press conference he doesn't believe he's ready for the NFL, but Jones also said he's not ruling anything out.

A 22-year-old redshirt sophomore, Jones had never played a meaningful college snap before being called in to lead Ohio State in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 29 regular-season finale at Michigan. In those three starts -- wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon -- Jones threw for 742 yards and five touchdowns while completing 61 percent of his passes.

More than the numbers, though, was the way Jones seemed to effortlessly throw the deep ball and was a battering ram against would-be tacklers. Ohio State lists Jones at 6-foot-5, 250.

Jones passes the eye test. As for what other NFL tests he would or wouldn't pass, time will tell.

"If he comes out, we will have a lot of work to do," one NFC scout told FOXSportsOhio.com. "I'm not saying he will. I have no idea. I'm saying we know very little about him other than what we've seen and heard (on television) over the last three games."

A personnel executive from an AFC team wrote in a text message: "No idea when he'd be drafted. No idea if he's ready. But we spend a lot of time looking for guys who look like he looks (and) it looks like he has a cannon arm."

On Twitter Tuesday morning, former Cleveland Browns general manager and current Senior Bowl CEO Phil Savage wrote that he struggled to come up with a comparison for an NFL prospect who held such intrigue but had so little experience.

"... I thought of Jay Schroeder at UCLA who started one college game before being a 3rd round pick by (the Washington Redskins) in 1984," Savage tweeted. "I bring up Schroeder because he had a very small sample size and ended up as (a third-round) pick. Matt Cassel never played and (the Patriots) took him as a seventh-round flyer."

The NFL's early-entry deadline is Jan. 15. Tuesday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he will "chat" with Jones and that Jones "has the talent" to eventually play in the NFL but doesn't know what will happen. Meyer also declined to answer questions on Ohio State's quarterback situation that includes two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, who finished fifth in the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting. Both players have remaining eligibility.

Jones graduated from Cleveland Glenville High School in 2011 and committed to then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. He did a semester at Fork Union Military Academy before enrolling at Ohio State; he said after the national championship game that his first day at Ohio State was Meyer's first official day on the job in Jan. 2012.

Meyer said he's "very proud" of how far Jones has come on and off the field and has talked openly about Jones blowing off obligations and not carrying himself like a leader before he was forced into duty six weeks ago.

"This is a rare story," another longtime NFL scout said. "There's no guarantee (Jones) is Ohio State's starter next year. He was surrounded by a bunch of good players but he made good throws. You absolutely notice him. Do you blame him if he comes out, even if he's not ready? There's so much digging we'd have to do."

On NFL.com Tuesday, NFL Network analyst and longtime NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah wrote: "When you study the quarterback position you always look for players with exceptional traits. Jones has many -- rare size and arm strength, and he has above-average touch and athleticism. He had a couple turnovers (vs. Oregon), but I was really impressed by how he didn't let the game get away from him like Jameis Winston did in the Rose Bowl. Jones showed much more poise, and was even keel throughout the game. He reminds me of Daunte Culpepper."

Two scouts used Culpepper as a body-type and skill-set comparison to Jones. One mentioned Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger but said, "That's getting way ahead of things, but big and fast...those guys get a long look."

Roethlisberger started 38 games at Miami (Ohio) University and Culpepper started 33 at Central Florida, underscoring how rare it is for a player with as little experience as Jones has to be facing this type of decision.

From benched and admitting he thought his chance might not ever come at Ohio State to now facing an instant NFL decision, Jones has come a long way. And lots of people are interested in what he sees as his next step.

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