After Ohio State’s stunning National Championship win, many are suggesting quarterback Cardale Jones strike while the iron’s hot and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft before Thursday’s deadline.
Jones is projected by NFL scouts at this early stage to be a third-day pick in the 2015 draft, according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay. Should a team draft him in the middle of the fourth round, he’d stand to earn about $528,000 merely months after his rise from Ohio State’s third-string quarterback to National Championship star. That might not sound like much relative to the salaries of NFL veterans, but for a 22-year-old with an infant daughter and a well-chronicled distaste for the classroom, it’s certainly tempting.
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2014 draft with the 120th pick. Thomas might provide an appropriate comparison for Jones, given his similar size, arm strength and resulting draft position. In his rookie season, Thomas was paid $528,023 — if we assume his signing bonus is averaged out over the length of the deal — despite throwing only nine passes.
Jones’ value could fluctuate when his Ohio State game film and pending pre-draft workout performances go under the microscope of NFL talent evaluators. But his current draft projection as a fourth rounder seems reasonable and realistic.
The other option for the redshirt sophomore is, of course, returning to school and developing his skills for another year in hopes of a better draft position in 2016.
If — and it seems like a big if — he leverages next season to climb into the first round in 2016, he’d be looking at upwards of $1,245,364 in first-year salary (also assuming his signing bonus is spread out over the length of his rookie contract) and close to $5.5 million guaranteed, based on Teddy Bridgewater’s rookie salary as the 32nd pick in 2014. Jones would still face the challenging task of winning the starting job at currently crowded Ohio State, and he would need to replicate his phenomenal performance over the course of a full season.
So by staying at Ohio State, he risks injury or devalued draft stock in return for a potential $5 million increase in guaranteed money by becoming a late first-round pick next year. But he also passes up a surefire NFL payday when his stock is fairly high in the aftermath of the National Championship game.
It’s a decision likely to keep Jones from sleeping soundly until the Thursday deadline.