Apart from being brothers, one thing that Peyton and Eli Manning have in common is David Cutcliffe, who coached both quarterbacks in college.
Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee when Peyton Manning was there and would become the head coach at Ole Miss when Eli Manning went to school. Currently, Cutcliffe is the head coach at Duke University, where he coached quarterback Daniel Jones, who has cherished the opportunity to learn under him and have a relationship with the Manning brothers.
“Being in that group, being with Coach Cut and the Mannings is an honor and something I appreciate very much,” Jones said while speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine. “I think the preparation that I have been through with Coach Cut I have been through at Duke is something that will prepare me well for this step, and being able to have the relationships I have with Eli and Peyton is something that's been special about my process and I think something that will help.”
Jones attended the Manning Camps in Louisiana, which helped him grow the relationship that he has with the Mannings. Although he has not had much contact with them outside of the camp, Jones’ relationship and knowledge gained from them helps separate him from other quarterbacks in the draft class.
Jones spent four years at Duke but only played in three after redshirting his freshman season in 2015. In his three years as a starter, he threw for 8,201 yards and 52 touchdowns, which are fifth and third in Duke history, respectively. In Duke’s 2018 bowl game against Temple, he threw for 423 yards and 5 touchdowns en route to being named MVP of the game.
In 2017 he was named Quick Lane Bowl MVP after throwing for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with getting 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground. In the 2019 Senior Bowl, Jones put on a show for scouts, getting a touchdown through the air and on the ground and winning another MVP award. Jones’ impressive collegiate play has put him in contention to be a first-round pick, with some experts thinking the Redskins will look to him as the quarterback of the future.
According to Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network, Jones “projects as a potential starter, but he's not going to be a universal prospect. Jones needs to work in an offense that is predicated on dispersing the football quickly out of his hands and allows for a lot of rhythm work. Jones' work under pressure is also of concern, so he'll need to work behind an established, effective offensive line if he's going to reach his ceiling, which projects as an average starting quarterback in the NFL. Scheme dependent but starter qualities.”
While he is high on himself and believes he is the best quarterback in the draft class, Jones still sees a lot that he needs to work on. That includes becoming more consistent with his mechanics. Jones has worked with former Ole Miss quarterback David Morris to become more tight and compact in the pocket, and to stop drifting towards throws.
“I'm very aware of who I am as a player and as a person,” Jones said. “I think when you have that and you have that confidence, not to say that I don't have that -- I think that goes with your weaknesses too. So when you're aware of those things yourself, I don't think you're as dependent on people telling you those things. So I trust my coaches, I trust myself, I trust the people I'm closest to give me that kind of feedback.”
Take a look at photos of 2019 NFL Draft prospect Daniel Jones
Being a highly-touted quarterback prospect often comes with a lot of scrutiny from critics. Ignoring the noise is something Jones has worked hard to do. He has reminded himself that no matter what the draft analysts say, the only draft boards that matter are NFL team boards.
“As a player, I've been through the recruiting process as a younger player,” Jones said. “I had been someone who had been looked past before and that's something I've dealt with and been successful. That's not something I'd say really drives me, but it's been part of my story to this point.”