In the 1998 NFL draft, Colts General Manager Bill Polian had a decision to make: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf? He chose right, and as a result his job in Indianapolis was safe as long Manning was there.
Now Polian is playing a different role, analyzing the draft for ESPN, and he was asked to pick the best quarterback in this year’s draft. Polian’s surprising answer? Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
Polian said he attended the 2011 Oklahoma-Texas A&M game and watched Jones complete 18/38 passes for 255 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Polian thought Jones compared favorably to Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was last year’s No. 8 overall pick and is now the Dolphins’ starter.
“He was a good one, and when he had a good supporting cast around him, he was great,” Polian said of Jones. “I was at the game in Norman where he beat Tannehill head-to-head, in a very, very fierce wind. So this guy has been a winner, he’s got stature, he’s got arm strength — he can make all the throws. He sees the field quite well, and he’s a natural leader.”
Polian acknowledged that there are concerns about Jones, including his lack of mobility, and he said he doesn’t see a Peyton Manning in this year’s draft. But he thinks if there’s a quarterback who’s going to make an instant impact for an NFL team in 2013, it’s Jones.
“I don’t think anybody in this group is going to be able to step in right away and lead the team, but if you ask me, who’s the guy who’s most ready, and who’s the guy who’s had the most winning experience, it would be Landry Jones,” Polian said.
From all indications, Polian’s view is a minority opinion — most people think Geno Smith of West Virginia, E.J. Manuel of Florida State, Matt Barkley of USC and Ryan Nassib of Syracuse are all better prospects than Jones.