- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- When it comes to quarterbacking, George Whitfield Jr. has developed quite a reputation in NFL circles. The quarterback guru has personally tutored Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. So Whitfield knows what a first-round quarterback looks like. And he believes that Landry Jones will be a first-round selection.
“That’s where I see him going,” Whitfield said Wednesday after Jones finished throwing during Oklahoma’s pro day. “He might not be the headliner or front line guy right now, but when they boil it all down and get down to what’s most important, Landry will figure his way into the first round.”
Jones gave scouts from all 32 teams in attendance one final look before the NFL draft in April, throwing 71 passes inside OU’s Everest Indoor Training Center. He got off to a rocky start, as the first pass sailed out of his hand into a duck that fell way short of the intended receiver downfield. But he quickly settled down and was crisp for the rest of the session.
“Yeah, I started off a little shaky -- the first ball didn’t come out the way I wanted it to; I had a good laugh about that,” Jones said. “But after that ball, I felt good the rest of the day.”
After testing at the combine in February, Jones didn’t do any running Wednesday. But wanting to show teams he can make throws outside the pocket, almost two-thirds of his passes were either off-balance or on the run.
“Today’s workout was representative of what teams wanted to see,” Whitfield said. “They wanted to see his arm strength, his agility and mobility, how much of an athlete is he.
“He showed all that today. Showed the arm power, the consistent, gritty arm power that can reach the field, can beat tight coverage, can win in a 50-50 situation. None [of Jones’ passes] were quick game. They were all aggressive, heavy-metal throws, and he kept the pace up-tempo just to show what kind of workhorse he is.”
Despite the arm strength, which has never been in question, analysts have been divided about Jones’ pro prospects.
He reportedly received a first-round grade from the NFL's Draft Advisory Board as a junior before deciding to come back to OU for his senior season. But ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. recently said he thinks Jones could go as late as the fifth round.
"You see some of his decision-making, some of his inconsistency in terms of accuracy throwing the football,” Kiper said in January. “He's just kind of leveled off. He maybe played some better football earlier in his career than he did late at times.”
Whitfield, however, has heard different regarding Jones’ stock.
“We’ve had teams, they’ll say, ‘We’ve got him here on our board,’ ” he said. “Or ‘If he’s here, he won’t get past us at this position.’
“Some teams play poker, but I’m not an NFL [executive].”
Jones did falter at the end of his junior year after losing leading receiver Ryan Broyles to a season-ending knee injury. But after struggling in a home loss to Kansas State early in 2012, Jones quietly bounced back. He led the Sooners with game-winning touchdown drives against West Virginia and Oklahoma State in November, and threw for more than 500 yards in each.
Whitfield said that when NFL teams look at the entire picture, Jones’ stock will rise again. All the way into the first round.
“When this stuff settles,” he said, “and they go comb over the film, and they realize he didn’t miss one game in his college career, which shows a lot of tenacity and toughness, then you see all the prolific numbers he’s put up even the last two years not playing in the red zone, and then what kind of young man he is -- teams are always in the market for that kind of player.
“I worked with guys similar to him before. And I’ve seen what he’s been able to do these last couple months. He fits that mold.”