By David Fong
TROY — Cardale Jones is perhaps best known for his cannon of an arm, but as it turns out, he’s got a pretty quick remote control finger, as well.
That has served him well the past few months, as whenever the former Ohio State quarterback hears his name pop up on television in NFL Draft conversations, he’s quick to change the channel.
“I’m just trying to tune it all out right now,” said Jones, who surprised the students and staff at Troy Christian Schools Wednesday when he came to visit kindergarten student Owen Greil, whose father Fred is friends with Jones. “I don’t watch the NFL Network at all. I watch ESPN, but as soon as they start talking about the draft, I change the channel. I’m really trying to stay focused on what I need to do.”
Jones knows that as one of the most intriguing prospects in the NFL Draft, which will take place at the end of the month, there’s a good chance if he watches any draft coverage at all, there’s a better than average chance he’ll hear his name mentioned.
Not that Jones isn’t used to being in the microscope.
After sitting on the bench for the first two years of his career at Ohio State, he was forced into duty late in the 2014 season when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett — who only earned the starting job himself earlier that season when incumbent Braxton Miller was injured during the preseason — broke his leg in the regular season finale against Michigan.
All Jones did was come in and lead the Buckeyes to a victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, then followed that up with victories over Alabama and Oregon in the postseason to help win a national championship for the Buckeyes. With his NFL stock seemingly as high as it could possibly go, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jones shocked many experts by announcing his decision to return to Ohio State this past fall, as opposed to entering the NFL Draft early.
He and Barrett were the subject of much speculation all through the off-season in Columbus, with Jones eventually winning the starting nod for the season opener against Virginia Tech. Although Jones never lost a game as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, the offense never seemed to hit on all cylinders as it had at the end of 2014, and Jones eventually was replaced by Barrett as the starting quarterback.
The season would end with Jones on the bench.
All of which leaves NFL scouts with a limited body of work with which to judge Jones. He’s got all the measurables NFL teams look for — the size, the speed and the aforementioned arm — but questions remain about many of the other things teams look for in a franchise quarterback, such as experience, leadership and the ability to read defenses.
Because there are so many questions surrounding Jones, it’s nearly impossible to predict where he’ll be drafted. Some experts have him going as high as the third round, while others have him falling all the way into the sixth round — and others have him going somewhere in between.
With so much speculation out there, Jones himself would just as soon not listen.
“Honestly, I don’t really listen to any of it,” Jones said. “I can’t control what people are going to say about me. I’m focused on the things I can control. I’m just working as hard as I can every day to be a better quarterback.”
To that end, Jones has been holding private workouts for scouts from nearly NFL team, hoping to impress them with his ability to read defenses and make the correct throws. Before visiting Troy Christian Wednesday, he held a workout for the Baltimore Ravens in Columbus.
“It’s completely different than being in college,” Jones said of his current lifestyle. “For the first time in your life, you aren’t with a team. You are just kind of on your own. You don’t have someone planning out your entire schedule for you. You’ve got to do all of those things on your own. You’ve got to make all of your own decisions.”
Many of which extend well beyond deciding when to change the channel.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong