The confetti has fallen, the trophy has been handed out, and I think it goes without saying that the first College Football Playoff, despite two of the three games being eventual blowouts of 20 points or more, has been a rousing success.
The numbers are not in, but even on a crowded night of Monday television -- damn, with Monday Night RAW, Celebrity Apprentice and The Bachelor sitting on my DVR, I'm sunk this week -- I'm guessing that Ohio State's 42-20 rout of Oregon, a game that should have been even more lopsided, was easily the most watched game of the season, and maybe of the past couple of decades.
Opportunity comes at strange times and in odd ways. As much as we plan for the future, tribulation and fortuitous luck both just happen sometimes. You can't plan for those things. All you can do is plan once they happen, then adapt and move forward. And I say this because who could have seen Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones's lottery ticket coming three months ago?
The conductor of the train that steamrolled a three-game gauntlet of Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to the tune of 47 points a game now has a decision to make. The redshirt sophomore who looked like a raw version of Cam Newton in these three games (a compliment, by the way) could turn pro.
I think this is a no-brainer. Cardale Jones needs to go pro, and the Texans need to draft him.
Am I saying the Texans should use the 16th pick in the draft on Cardale Jones? No, but I'm also not saying they should rule it out either. The market will dictate Jones's worth. That will come in time. What we do know is that this is a thin quarterback class, with only Marcus Mariota (the losing QB on Monday night) and Florida State's Jameis Winston seen as obvious first rounders. Supply and demand both favor Jones, and any quarterback with a high ceiling and a ton of unknown.
Once Jones announces his intentions to move on to the next level, if that's what he decides, he'll have the NFL Combine and his pro days to change, for better or worse, whatever grade the NFL assigns him. With a cannon for an arm (did you see that 3rd and 5 throw to Jalin Marshall in the fourth quarter, or every deep ball Jones threw?), an ability to move outside the pocket and an obvious mental toughness manifested in the results of these three games, I can't imagine Jones's stock going down during the silly season of over-evaluation.
So what is Cardale Jones worth in the NFL Draft? When should a team consider taking him?
These are always funny questions to me, because the tendency of Drafty McDraftnik is to come up with some grade that seems precise ("I'd grade him a high 4th or low 3rd round pick!" Oh, okay.) but doesn't take into account a) the importance of the quarterback position and b) the fact that once you get outside the first and second rounds, most of these picks are failures anyway.
If you're going to have a failed pick in the third round or on, why not fail on a player with massive, massive upside, all the physical tools, at the most important, game-changing position on the football field? Seriously, Logan Thomas was an atrocious college quarterback. He was a totally energy-sapping turnover machine at Virginia Tech who trapped his program in a vortex of suck for his entire time there. In short, LOGAN THOMAS WAS TERRIBLE IN COLLEGE. ATROCIOUS.
Logan Thomas was drafted in the fourth round last season. FOURTH! Why? Because he's tall with a big arm. The only problem is he sucks at football. (Ryan Lindley nods in approval.)
Unlike Thomas (and a slew of other post-second-round turds of the past several decades), Cardale Jones is actually good at football. People want to bring up Jones's small sample size as a starter as a cause for concern. It's a cause for maybe not taking him in the first round, but any round after that? Have at it. Again, let me remind you, the three games he played in were a 59-0 win over a 10-2 Wisconsin team, a 42-36 win over Nick Saban and Alabama, and a 42-20 win in the fucking national title game over Oregon.
Some people act like he beat Samford, Tennesse Tech and Michigan. He beat three really good to great teams....and averaged 47 points a game. Not all "three game sample sizes" are created equal.
When I began floating my enthusiasm for Jones's possibly going pro on Twitter last night, many of the people looking to throw a wet blanket on me are the same people who are cautiously giddy about Ryan Mallett taking the reins for the Texans next season.
Ryan Mallett, whose entire body of work is a solid win over a shitty Cleveland team and a putrid game that broke that Pro Football Focus red ink applicator against Cincinnati.
Um, hello? Sample size?
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To espouse Ryan Mallett (and prayer) as your beacon of hope at quarterback for the Texans and bring up Cardale Jones's sample size as a cause for concern is like me making jokes about how ugly Michael Chiklis is. (For the record, Michael Chiklis is a magnificent specimen of a bald human being.)
This team, the Houston Texans, is not getting one of the top two quarterbacks in this draft, and they're not bringing in anybody on the outside (unless this Peyton Manning thing unfolds in a really weird way, and even that is a one- or two-year solution, at best). Who will be this team's quarterback for the next ten years? At some point, you got to take a chance on something, Bob and Bill (and Rick, I suppose). You can't just sit here in the third round and draft C.J. Fiedorowiczes your whole life.
Why not Cardale Jones?