As the 2021 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots’ radar or that we feel would be a great fit.
The Patriots had been spoiled for 20 years having Tom Brady at the helm at quarterback, while other teams struggled for years (some of them for decades) trying to find their franchise quarterback. In 2020, the Patriots remembered what that was like after Brady signed with Tampa Bay. We’re not going to get into the same tired “whose fault was it” here… he’s gone and they were starting from scratch.
At first, the team seemed set on going with Jarrett Stidham, and by all outward indications, the Patriots seemed to have a lot of confidence in his ability to lead the team forward. And we were intrigued to see what they had in him.
But after the COVID-19 coronavirus hit, the Patriots (and the rest of the NFL), had no OTAs, minicamps etc. All of a sudden, the Patriots grew less enthused with Stidham and a late signing of Cam Newton sealed the deal. Although the coaches gave Stidham the early reps, he didn’t impress and was throwing interceptions daily in practice. Where Brady reveled in competition, Stidham seemingly crumbled.
Newton, while on paper was a steal, his on-field production was more of a nightmare. It had nothing to do with his work ethic, which was off the charts. Or his chemistry with the players, where it seemed like the players were attracted to him as their leader. But it was just a bad fit. So, the team is back to square one.
We thought the Patriots would sign a veteran (Ryan Fitzpatrick, to me is a great fit, although we’ve been hearing rumors of Mariota), and then draft a young gun. That’s still our thoughts. So…who will the Patriots draft? Yesterday we profiled Justin Fields, today, we look at his National Championship opponent.
Mac Jones, Alabama, put up absolutely phenomenal numbers during Alabama’s national championship run, completing 311 of 402 passes for a whopping 77.1 percent completion percentage, good for 4,500 yards (11.2 yards per completion) with 41 TDs and just 4 INTs for a passer rating of 203.1.
Jones, isn’t part of the new breed of quarterbacks who are half-runners, half-passers. He isn’t going to scare defenses with his ability to scramble out of the pocket, but he’s shown the ability to make very good presnap reads, deliver the ball accurately and on-time and sees the field extremely well.
The big question with him remains, where will he go in the NFL Draft? If you’re a number’s cruncher, then he’s a no-brainer first-round pick…right? Despite, the gaudy numbers, most NFL draft analysts believe that Jones will be the fifth QB taken in the spring.
One knock on Jones is that he (and undeniably so), had the best supporting cast in college football with three bonafide 1st round talents around him, with WRs DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and RB Najee Harris. And skeptics will point out that 53.5 percent of Jones yardage came after the catch…which is a huge amount. While not in any way comparing the two QBs, because there isn’t any, but about 52 percent of Patrick Mahomes’ 4740 yards came via YAC.
However, Jones’ draft stock is all over the place, with some saying he’s a first-round pick, others saying he’s a second-rounder, and others stating he’s a mid-tier pick. One thing to keep in mind is that at the Senior Bowl, prior to suffering an injury and not playing in the game, he was the best QB in practices, showing excellent accuracy, consistency, and decisiveness.
However, Jones is a clutch performer and performed best in Alabama’s biggest games. Against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, he completed 33 of 43 passes for 418 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. In the College football Semifinals against Notre Dame he completed 83 percent of his passes 25 of 30, for 297 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Against Ohio State, he shredded the Buckeyes’ defense, completing 36-45 passes for 464 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.
– Physically measures well at 6’2 5/8, 217
– Good arm strength, can make all the throws, and showed improvement in this area
– Excellent vision, sees the field very well, and makes sound decisions
– Clutch performer, played best in biggest games.
– Limited athletically, will not be able to scramble
– Arm strength is adequate but not exceptional, footwork can be sloppy at times
– Was he a product of the system (OMG here we go again)?
What his Role Will Be:
Jones will be the backup and learn the system behind a veteran in 2021
Will His Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, he will be expected to make the jump to be the starter in 2022.
How Many Downs Can He Play?
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
None, Brian Hoyer is a free agent and for now, Jarrett Stidham is the only other QB on the roster. However, if the team signs another veteran, he’ll push Stidham for the backup role.
What is his ST Value?
Jones is certainly an intriguing QB prospect who would fit what the Patriots’ offense does. One of the most interesting things about him is that in moving up to the NFL (and especially New England), he’d be operating with a vastly inferior array of weapons than he did with the Tide.
Yes, he has athletic limitations, and his arm strength won’t jump off the charts, but one thing that stood out was that seemed to improve as the 2020 season wore on. But Jones delivers outstanding pinpoint accuracy on his throws from the pocket and has shown the ability to slide a bit in the pocket to buy himself some time.
The fit would be right for New England because the Patriots system is based around the quarterback making the correct presnap reads, go through his progressions quickly, and deliver the ball quickly and accurately. Jones does all of those things extremely well. Obviously, a QB like Jones requires good protection, something the Patriots OL has done and with a good complimentary running game, will open things up for the passing game.
But will Bill Belichick pull the trigger at #15 for Jones? That is the big question. It will all depend on how the coaching staff, and especially Josh McDaniels feel about his fit and ceiling. Belichick will get a detailed low-down from his buddy Nick Saban but I wouldn’t be shocked to see McDaniels take in Alabama’s Pro Day.
A highlight film for Jones from College Films can be seen here:
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