Drake Maye

Giants Not Ready To Give Up On QB Daniel Jones

The Giants 2023 NFL season has seemingly gone off the rails. After snapping their four-game losing streak from earlier in the year, New York has started a new losing streak, dropping their last three contests. Their 2-8 record currently qualifies them for the second-overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. With USC quarterback Caleb Williams and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye likely to be locked in as the first two college passers taken in the draft, are the Giants going to pass up a top college arm in the top 2?

According to Ralph Vacchiano of FOX Sports, “it’s far from guaranteed that the Giants would actually” draft Williams or Maye to replace starting quarterback Daniel Jones. There are several factors that play into the team’s loyalty to the veteran passer, but essentially, they haven’t given up on hopes that he will be the long-term answer for New York at quarterback.

The first clear sign of this is the fact that, only four months ago, the Giants signed Jones to a four-year, $160MM contract extension. The team expressed their support for the 26-year-old at that point, and though things haven’t panned out thus far, they’re not ready to give up on him yet.

Jones earned that extension after showing tremendous improvement under the tutelage of new head coach Brian Daboll and new offensive coordinator Mike Kafka last year. The new coaching took some of Jones’ biggest weaknesses, namely turnovers, and turned them into a strength. After throwing 29 interceptions and fumbling the football 36 times in his first three seasons, Jones led the league in lowest percentage of pass attempts resulting in an interception after throwing just five picks and fumbled the ball a career-low six times in 2022. Beyond that, Jones teamed up with his backfield mate, running back Saquon Barkley, to lead the Giants to their first postseason berth since 2016.

This year, the results have been drastically different, but realistically, the coaches and front office aren’t viewing the numbers in a vacuum. Sure, the team has the league’s second-worst record and only won one game in which Jones started, and yes, Jones’ touchdown-interception ratio of 2-6 and four fumbles in six games seems to show a regression of his strongest traits from last year, but these statistics aren’t solely the result of Jones’ play. First, of his six starts, three of them were without Barkley by his side and four of them were without starting left tackle Andrew Thomas protecting him. Second, a porous offensive line has led to the veteran passer taking a battering.

“It’s almost an unfair evaluation,” an NFC scout told Vacchiano. “He was getting battered. He had no time to run an offense before the rush was in his face. He didn’t look good, I’m not excusing him, but he didn’t have much of a chance. And I think (the Giants) know that.”

The disastrous offensive line resulted in Jones taking a beating. Whether related to the constant pressure or not, Jones ended up suffering a neck injury that would hold him out for three games. His short-lived return to play ended with him tearing his ACL, taking him out for the remainder of the season. Injuries, both to himself and to his teammates, paired with poor offensive play around him led to a decline in Jones’ performance this year. The Giants understand that and will likely continue giving him a chance to show he’s a franchise quarterback.

That decision also proves to be a bit self-serving for Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen. Despite the duo leading the team to the playoffs in their first year at the helm, Vacchiano states that in today’s cutthroat NFL, a serious step backward might not be something to two staffers could afford. Making the move to draft and rely on a rookie quarterback very often can result in a step backward, and after the disappointment of this season, another year of regression has the potential to spell doom for Daboll and Schoen. That being said, Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report made it clear that, “barring something drastic,” both will return with Jones in 2024.

Still, the two aren’t ruling anything out. While proclaiming their faith in Jones, the Giants are still actively doing their homework on Williams and Maye. Schoen has reportedly already seen both college passers in person, and the personnel department will likely continue keeping a close eye on the two. Especially with the current unknown of Jones’ recovery time, quarterback may become a big offseason need for New York if Jones isn’t expected back in time for camp.

It’s an ugly situation and a difficult decision for the Giants to make. And, as of now, it’s not one they’ve decided on yet. They have reason and need to rely on Jones going forward, but it may become necessary at some point to bolster the position, just in case. They’re not ready to give up on Jones yet, but they need to be prepared to face that possibility should it arise.

Patriots Have Scouted Top QB Prospects

The Patriots currently sit at the bottom of the AFC, and if their struggles continue, the organization will be picking towards the top of next year’s draft. So, it probably isn’t much of a coincidence that the Patriots have scouted some of the top quarterback prospects.

During an appearance on NBC Sports Boston, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer revealed that the Patriots have sent personnel to games for “every one of the top quarterbacks except Caleb Williams.”

“I can tell you guys for a fact the Patriots have had live game exposure — and remember, you have to make decisions on where you go with your scouts — they’ve had live game exposure to every one of the top quarterbacks except Caleb Williams,” Breer said (via NBCSportsBoston.com). “I’m sure they’ll get to Caleb soon. So they are taking a very hard look at these guys.”

Williams is the prize of the draft class but would require the first-overall pick. If New England doesn’t finish with the worst record in the NFL (and fails to work out a trade for the selection), they could pivot to North Carolina’s Drake Maye, who is also expected to hear his name at the beginning of the draft. Washington quarterback and Heisman-Trophy favorite Michael Penix Jr. is also a projected first-round pick, as is Oregon’s Bo Nix.

Thanks to Tom Brady, the Patriots went decades without selecting a quarterback in the first round. Mac Jones was the 15th-overall pick in the 2021 draft, making him the first Round 1 QB to be selected by the organization since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Following a one-year stint with Cam Newton under center, the Patriots handed Jones the reins during his rookie campaign. The Alabama product looked like a hit, earning a Pro Bowl nod while also guiding his team to the playoffs.

However, his 2022 seasons was mired by benchings and a questionable offensive coaching staff led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The Patriots brought in Bill O’Brien to help fix the offense, but the third-year quarterback has continued to struggle. Jones has tossed nine touchdowns vs. a league-leading eight interceptions while playing a major role in the Patriots’ 2-6 record.

Jones still has at least a year remaining on his rookie contract (depending on the fifth-year-option decision during the offseason), so the Patriots aren’t in a rush to replace him. However, Jones also hasn’t shown enough to stop the front office from using a top-five pick at the position during the 2024 draft.

QB Notes: Hooker, Dolphins, Watson, Draft

The Lions added one of the draft’s most talked-about quarterbacks in Hendon Hooker. The third-rounder is rehabbing the ACL tear which ended his college career, and 2023 is not expected to see him on the field much, if at all.

Hooker has been making progress in his recovery, however, and he indicated last month that he is ahead of schedule. Detroit has no need to rush the Tennessee alum, with veteran Jared Goff in place and high expectations for the offense as a whole after last year’s performance. Hooker remains on a positive track to be available at some point during the year.

The 25-year-old said that he is “progressing very well,” via Cora Hall of the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Lions are not thought to be seeking an addition to their QB room, pointing further to Hooker being available if need be, perhaps as early as the fall. His recovery will be worth watching during training camp and the preseason.

Here are some other quarterback-related notes:

  • Plenty of attention will be focused on the pivot position during the season for the Dolphins, given the health uncertainty surrounding Tua Tagovailoa. The backup spot is up for grabs this summer, with 2022 second-rounder Skylar Thompson and free agent signing Mike White vying for the QB2 role. The former “appears to have the early lead” in the competition, per Adam Beasley of Pro Football Network. Thompson made two starts to close out the regular season, and was in place for the team’s narrow playoff loss to the Bills. Moving on from veteran Teddy Bridgewater, Miami inked White to a two-year, $8MM deal. That investment was larger than the team anticipated they would make, and it is noteworthy White could be third in the pecking order heading into training camp. Beasley notes that the Dolphins’ Week 1 backup may not yet be on the current roster, and Bridgewater is one of a few veterans still on the open market.
  • Deshaun Watson‘s 11-game suspension made his debut Browns campaign a shortened one, and his brief stint at the end of the season was far from the Pro Bowl level of production he has demonstrated earlier in his career. During his first full offseason in Cleveland, though, the returns have been impressive. Watson drew positive reviews for his work in the spring in addressing the issues most prevalent in his 2022 play, as noted by Pro Football Network’s Adam Caplan. A step forward from the 27-year-old – along with the Browns’ re-tooled receiver room – would go a long way in helping Cleveland return to the postseason and justifying the team’s enormous investment (in both trade capital and finances) in him.
  • The 2024 draft class is headlined by a few highly-touted passers, and it comes as no surprise that USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are receiving the most attention at the top of the board. The pair are thought to be in a QB tier of their own entering the college season, as detailed by Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Williams won the Heisman trophy in 2022 and has drawn comparisons to Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Trevor Lawrence with respect to how he is rated as an NFL prospect. Maye, meanwhile, finds himself behind Williams in summer rankings, but trainer Jordan Palmer (one of the evaluators with whom Breer discussed the top QB prospects) stated that he would be the No. 1 option at the position in most drafts. Wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. has been named as a possible contender for the top pick in April, but Williams and Maye likely represent the favorites for that distinction heading into the fall.

Latest On Texans’ No. 2 Overall Pick

A stream of skepticism about the Texans taking C.J. Stroud second overall has come out over the past few weeks. With Bryce Young all but certain to go No. 1 overall to the Panthers, Stroud’s chances to be the next name announced may depend on trade offers the Texans receive.

Nick Caserio said teams have called regarding Houston’s No. 2 pick, and if genuine interest exists in Stroud, rumblings about a Texans trade-down will intensify as we move closer to the draft. The Texans passing on a QB at 2 and rolling the dice ahead of Caserio’s third season in charge — which the GM insists will take place, rather than an abrupt exit — would be one of the more interesting draft decisions in recent memory, but that appears to be where this is headed.

Some on Houston’s staff do not appear as high on Stroud compared to Young, whom the Texans presumably targeted when they entered trade talks with the Bears for No. 1, and Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes the team’s interest in taking Will Levis or Anthony Richardson that high does not appear strong. A previous report indicated a value gap between Young and the other QBs existed in Houston as well. This would open the door to a pass rusher pick, and La Canfora adds more fuel to the Tyree Wilson-over-Will Anderson Jr. fire by indicating execs expect the Texans — should they be unable to trade the pick — to take the Texas Tech edge rusher over Alabama’s two-time Bronko Nagurski award winner.

Stroud’s choice of agent may at least be a fringe issue for the Texans. Deshaun Watson‘s agent, David Mulugheta, is representing Stroud. The bad blood between Mulugheta and Texans ownership dates to Watson — before the run of sexual misconduct allegations surfaced — asking for a trade months after signing a four-year extension. One anonymous GM offers that Mulugheta’s top 2023 rookie client becoming the face of the Texans would be a “nonstarter” for owner Cal McNair, La Canfora adds. As could be expected, the Texans are not exactly over the Watson ugliness that included a paid full-season absence and a settlement with 30 Watson accusers who had sued the team or were preparing to do so.

While the agent component would serve as an interesting reason to pass on a well-regarded quarterback, Texans coaches also being iffy on Stroud may bring enough concerns to follow through with a non-QB pick or trade-down scenario. In the event the Texans can move down, La Canfora adds the Texans would want to stay in the top 10. That would wall off the Titans at No. 11; Houston trading up so Tennessee can take a quarterback would be an unusual development as well. The Titans, who joined the Raiders in venturing to QB pro days but not in hosting passers on visits, loom as a wild card. They have both been connected to moving up and being too iffy on the QB crop to do so.

The Raiders and Falcons continue to generate buzz as a trade-up candidates, per La Canfora, who adds a Titans move up — be it to No. 2 or the Cardinals’ No. 3 slot — would most likely be for Stroud. The Raiders have done extensive homework on QBs, meeting with the five top prospects, while the Falcons hosted Stroud on a visit this week.

Were the Texans to pass on a QB, they would essentially be further delaying their rebuild. The team trading down only to use its No. 12 overall pick to move back up for a passer would bring some odd complications to a process that could wrap by simply drafting a passer at 2. While other roster areas appear somewhat improved from 2022, Houston waiting until 2024 to acquire its franchise-QB hopeful would extend this already-lengthy rebuild. Then again, team connections to using a top-10 selection on a quarterback often include talk of that franchise not expecting to be picking high again. That has not been an issue for the Texans, who have either landed a top-three pick or seen their draft choice fall in that territory in each of the past three years.

And, if the Texans actually exit the first round with Case Keenum and Davis Mills as their top QBs, Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina) continue to generate considerable attention around the NFL a year away from their draft eligibility.