Back in August, Barry Switzer took in one of Oklahoma's two-a-day practices alongside Bob Stoops. Together, they began eyeballing quarterback Landry Jones.
“He's sitting there for about a half-hour and says, ‘Bob, this guy is going to be a first-round draft pick,'” Stoops recalled Fiesta Bowl week. “He, you know, evaluates talent pretty well. ... and that was his assessment of watching a second-year guy, watching his ability and talent."
Before long, Switzer could be proven right.
Considering how high Washington's Jake Locker (eighth overall) Missouri's Blaine Gabbert (tenth) and Florida State's Christian Ponder (twelfth) went over the weekend In the NFL Draft, Jones certainly has the chance in 2013 — or 2012 — to join Sam Bradford as Sooner quarterbacks drafted in the first round.
After all, despite being two years younger, Jones outplayed Locker, Gabbert and Ponder last season, while leading the Sooners to a 12-2 record. Jones threw for more yards and touchdowns, completed a higher percentage of passes, and claimed — by far — the best quarterback rating of the four.
Sure, Jones benefitted from a superior supporting cast. He also had a couple of mediocre performances earlier on, notably at Missouri, in which Gabbert outperformed him.
But there's no denying that Jones progressed rapidly the second half of the season, propelling the Sooners to thrilling wins at Oklahoma State, Nebraska in Big 12 Championship and Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
"He's really come a long way,” Stoops said. “He's a hard worker, he's talented, he's got a great arm.”
Jones may not be the can't-miss pro prospect that Bradford was. Or Cam Newton appears to be.
But Jones has several factors working in his favor that could ultimately help make him a first rounder:
1. A 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, roughly the same size as Gabbert. Unlike Boise State's returning All-American Kellen Moore, only 6-foot tall, Jones has prototypical size of an NFL quarterback.
2. Arm strength. OU's offense, while not exactly pro style, requires the quarterback to make NFL throws. Jones has proven he can make those throws.
3. No red flags when it comes to injuries or durability.
4. Bradford's rookie success. NFL franchises like going back to wells that produce — just look at the recent run of USC quarterbacks.
5. A considerable body of work, which should comprise 37 starts at the end of next season. Track record is a trait NFL scouts covet in quarterbacks.
Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki is among those who believe Jones has first-round potential.
“He looks the part with a very strong arm, good accuracy and physical tools to harness,” wrote Nawrocki, who has Jones as the second-best returning pro quarterback prospect, behind only Stanford's Andrew Luck, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick for the 2012 draft.
“He knows where to go with the ball, throws accurately on the move and has appeared more confident and composed.”
Jones could stay for his senior season. But should he come out next year, he'll be part of a strong quarterback draft class.
Some believe Luck is the top quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. USC's Matt Barkley, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Arizona's Nick Foles and OSU's Brandon Weeden will be first-round contenders, as well.
But, as Switzer predicted, Jones figures to be right there with them.
"He's already shown he's an excellent quarterback,” Stoops said.
“But he has a chance to be one of those elite guys.”
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