Did Cardale Jones Make a Mistake by Going Back to School?


“We’re all bored, we’re all so tired of everything/We wait for, trains that just aren’t coming”

Taylor Swift, New Romantics

By now  you are probably aware National Champion quarterback Cardale Jones has decided to return to Ohio State next year to hopefully build on his three collegiate starts. But I already did research for this article,  so lets talk about what type of prospect Cardale Jones would have been for this season.

I looked at every Football Bowl Series (FBS) QB drafted in the first two rounds going back to 2007 and compared their end of season stats in their final college year, (I used Sam Bradford’s 2nd to last year as he was hurt early in his final year and I also included Russell Wilson for fun) to compare their performance in games against opponents who’d finished the season in the Associated Press top 25 to their end of year performance on the whole.  That table is below.


Name Regular AYA Top 25 AYA Top 25 games Regular AYA-Top 25 AYA
Jake Locker 6.6 0.6 3 6
Drew Stanton 5.9 3.2 3 2.7
Derek Carr 8.7 3.9 1 4.8
Christian Ponder 7 4.5 4 2.5
Matt Ryan 6.5 4.9 3 1.6
Pat White 7.1 5.6 1 1.5
Brady Quinn 8.2 5.7 4 2.5
Chad Henne 6.7 6.2 4 0.5
Josh Freeman 7.8 6.2 3 1.6
Ryan Tannehill 6.9 6.2 5 0.7
Matt Stafford 9.2 6.3 3 2.9
Jimmy Clausen 9.7 6.6 2 3.1
Jamarcus Russell 9.7 6.7 5 3
Colin Kaepernick 8.6 6.7 1 1.9
Blaine Gabbert 6.5 7 3 -0.5
Geno Smith 9.2 7.2 3 2
EJ Manuel 8.8 7.6 3 1.2
John Beck 10 7.8 2 2.2
Andrew Luck 9.4 8.1 3 1.3
Blake Bortles 9.6 8.3 3 1.3
Brian Brohm 8.6 8.4 2 0.2
Brandon Weeden 8.6 9.1 4 -0.5
Teddy Bridgewater 10.3 10 1 0.3
Tim Tebow 9.8 10.2 3 -0.4
Kevin Kolb 9.8 10.3 1 -0.5
Cam Newton 11.2 10.3 7 0.9
Sam Bradford 11.1 10.4 7 0.7
Andy Dalton 9.9 10.4 1 -0.5
Johnny Manziel 10 10.5 5 -0.5
Mark Sanchez 9.4 11.1 4 -1.7
Russell Wilson 11.8 11.1 4 0.7
Robert Griffin 11.8 11.3 3 0.5

There’s a lot of cool stuff happening here. One, guess how many starts the average QB picked in the top 2 rounds had against Top 25 Teams? 3.15. How many did Cardale Jones have this season? Three. Am I using hypophora as a crutch? Absolutely. But still, if we’re talking about number of games vs. a certain caliber of opponent, Jones is actually doing just fine as a prospect. So then the question you might ask is “well how much does the player’s performance vs. ranked teams correlate with their end of season numbers on the whole?” and the answer is: a lot. The correlation between regular AYA and AYA in top 25 games is 0.8, meaning if a player is 1 standard deviation above the mean in top 25 games, we would expect them to be 0.8 above the mean in regular games. This is a very strong relationship.

Now would be a good time to mention that Cardale Jones put up an AYA of 10 in his three starts, which would put him in the top third of the group. Furthermore, 78 percent of the quarterbacks performed better in terms of average AYA in their “easy” games than they did in their games vs. Top 25 opponents. Taken at face value, this suggests there is a 78 percent chance that, if he had started the entire season, Cardale Jones would have an AYA above 10. In fact, on average the quarterbacks performed 1.2 AYA higher in their end of season passing stats than they did in the games against top 25 Teams. This means that if we were to estimate Cardale Jones full season AYA based on the data from his three starts, our best guess would 11.2. This would make him a Tier 1 Prospect based on Shawn Siegeles’ research by a comfortable margin of two yards per attempt. In short, Cardale Jones could have been one of the best quarterback prospects of the past few years had he declared for the draft this season.

In a related sense, it’s strange to me that Jones’ lack of experience was considered a concern that could have caused him to fall in the draft. Ryan Tannehill was a #8 overall pick despite being a full time quarterback for less than two years and having never performed near the level Jones played at in college.