The NFL draft seemingly now always has that one quarterback who skyrockets into the first round. Emory Jones could be that player in 2022.
Those are powerful words and expectations regarding Jones, a longtime backup at the University of Florida who has only thrown 86 passes in college. But if Pro Football Focus is correct, we may be mentioning him in the same sentence as Joe Burrow a year from now.
Pro Football Focus believes Emery Jones could be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft
Jones already had enough on his plate by having to replace Kyle Trask, the gunslinging quarterback who is now sharing a quarterback room with Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A rising redshirt junior, Jones is expected to take over a Gators program that went 29-9 in the last three seasons. Pro Football Focus sees an extremely high ceiling for Jones beyond a potential appearance in the College Football Playoff.
PFF recently ranked the 130 quarterbacks at the FBS level, and Jones came in 14th. Despite his lack of experience, Jones finished so highly because of his arm talent and skills as a dual-threat rusher. He ran for 473 yards and six touchdowns on 76 carries — an impressive 6.22 yards per attempt average — over the last two years.
That skillset, PFF said, could propel him into the 2022 NFL Draft on an extremely high note.
“Jones may have a more notable recruiting profile and background, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become the Joe Burrow or Zach Wilson of the 2021 college football season. What’s most alluring about his situation is that he is partnering with one of the top offensive minds in the country in Dan Mullen, who will have his first dual-threat quarterback as Florida’s head coach.”Pro Football Focus
This is the same quarterback who threw 86 passes in his first three seasons, right?
Jones has the skilllset and traits to follow in Burrow and Wilson’s footsteps
If you’re still in shock at how high PFF is on Jones, get ready for this nugget. The outlet ranked Trask, an eventual second-round pick, 48th on last year’s preseason list.
But that’s what makes the NFL draft so fun and intriguing each year. Wilson worked as a DoorDash driver and later went second overall after torching defenses at BYU. Burrow sat on the bench at Ohio State before transferring to LSU and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2019.
Although neither were exactly unheralded prospects coming out of high school, they worked hard and maximized their talent after frustrating starts to become NFL quarterbacks. Mac Jones did the same thing at Alabama and could become Tom Brady’s long-term successor for the New England Patriots.
Dual-threat quarterbacks are all the rage, and anyone doubtful should ask Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson. If Jones dominates in 2021 and avoids any ball-control issues, it doesn’t sound so unrealistic to think a quarterback-needy team — the Denver Broncos, perhaps? — could bite on him next spring.
The only question at that point will be how many hours Stephen A. Smith spends debating if Jones should play quarterback or receiver in the NFL. We’re setting the unofficial over/under is on 11.5.
Which other quarterbacks can make a similar leap in the 2022 NFL Draft?
At this time last year, no one would have guessed Wilson would skyrocket to become the second overall pick. Jones was a trendy pick, especially after Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa went fifth overall in the 2020 draft, but he needed to prove himself.
So who will be the next massive riser? Jones is clearly an option, as is UCF’s Dillon Gabriel. Despite being a prolific passer in his first two seasons starting, Gabriel is extremely underrated leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft. Most outlets didn’t include him on their top-10 quarterback draft prospects entering the 2021 season.
Liberty’s Malik Willis is another explosive dual-threat, but many mock drafts have already included him as a first-round pick. Age might work against Louisiana Tech’s Austin Kendall, who is entering his sixth college season. Still, the right team might be willing to take a risk on the former Oklahoma and West Virginia quarterback if he dominates in Conference USA.
The NFL draft never sleeps, especially not before Jones even starts a college game for the first time. Look what social media and the internet have done to a three-day event.