The New England Patriots haven’t selected a quarterback in Round One of the draft since they picked Drew Bledsoe first overall back in 1993. However, a year into “Life after Tom Brady,” they might just be in the same boat as they were 28 years ago: the Patriots are in uncharted territory and do not appear to have a real plan at the game’s most vital position.
They did get almost nothing out of their quarterback position in 2020, after all. Free agency addition Cam Newton struggling to efficiently move the ball through the air contributed to the Patriots’ bottom-third offense, while second-year backup Jarrett Stidham showed no signs of promise in his brief relief stints. New England drafting a QB high this year would therefore not come as a surprise.
Enter, Mac Jones. The Alabama quarterback offers a lot of potential and could give the Patriots plenty of security for the future if they decide to invest in him in the first round come April.
Let’s take a closer look at him.
Name: Mac Jones
School: Alabama (Redshirt Junior)
Opening day age: 23
2019 stats: 311 for 402 (77%), 4500 yards, 41-3 TD/INT
Size: 6’2”, 217 lbs
Hand size: 9 3/4
Workout numbers: TBA
Expected round: 1st/2nd
Strengths: Jones is certainly an interesting prospect who showed flashes all season long of being able to be a competent starter in the NFL. His biggest strength is his ability to pick defenses apart with his pre-snap adjustments and full-field progressions. Jones works the pocket better than any prospect in the class. He continuously picked apart defenses when allowed to stay home due to his elite ball-placement and timing throws.
Timing and ball placement is Jones specialty. Operates extremely well from inside the pocket and rarely makes the wrong decision. Of course, all the talent around him/schemed up to succeed but he shows many flashes of being able to succeed in the league.pic.twitter.com/gnfgEaqkfM— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) January 26, 2021
As a whole, Jones can make just about any throw on the field and oozes with confidence inside the pocket. He may not be able to create much when flushed outside or employed on rollouts or designed runs, but has great awareness and repeatedly showed his ability to move up in the pocket when feeling the heat and deliver a strike on time.
Here it is again. Double coverage, tight window and drops it right in the bucket. Limited athletically and didn’t operate much from outside the pocket but Jones fits the #Patriots scheme perfectly. Good project with potentially a lot of upside. pic.twitter.com/aQzU4nqBxD— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) January 26, 2021
Weaknesses: It’s hard to talk about Jones without mentioning the talent that was surrounding him at Alabama: he had three future first-round picks in the Crimson Tide offense in receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle as well as Najee Harris in the backfield. And despite lighting up the SEC in 2020 alongside them, Jones definitely showed his fair share of weaknesses to his game as well.
One of the biggest issues with Jones is his athleticism. He doesn’t run necessarily well and, as mentioned above, is extremely limited outside the pocket — something we see quarterbacks consistently do in today’s game. Also, Jones’ footwork and arm strength aren’t necessarily of first-round value. On film, he got away with some of his throws due to the separation created by his pass catchers. Those throws might turn into misfires or even interceptions at the next level. His footwork was sometimes lazy as well, and forced him to throw off-platform at times. Jones’ arm strength is certainly also a question; he has the touch and ball placement traits but struggled firing balls into small windows against tight coverage.
What would his role be? If the Patriots decided to select Jones, it would most likely have to be in the first round. His stock should continue to rise as it has all season long and with teams in the backend of the first round looking for developmental prospects at the most important position on the field. Jones would likely sit behind a veteran bridge quarterback early that the Patriots should be in the market for regardless, either through trade or free agency. If Jones could take the same route the Kansas City Chiefs did when they drafted Patrick Mahomes — he sat for 15 weeks as a rookie and was given one start at the end of the season — it might be the best-case scenario for both the Patriots and his long-term future. He’s a developmental prospect, but has a lot of upside to his game.
Why the Patriots? New England has arguably one of the worst quarterback rooms in the entire league at the moment. With Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer’s futures in New England uncertain — they are both unrestricted free agents and did not convince in 2002 — and given Jarrett Stidham’s inconsistent start to his NFL career, the Patriots may look to improve and insert some youth and upside to the position early on through the draft. Jones is a prototypical Patriots quarterback as well: he is an efficient thrower, understands defenses, and has the ability to pick them apart without having to extend plays or leave the pocket, something offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels loves his quarterbacks to do.
Why not the Patriots? The biggest question leading up to April’s draft will be what the Patriots do with pick No. 15. Will they trade up? Trade out? Select a quarterback, skill position player, or add a dynamic piece to their defensive front seven? There are so many different directions they could go. Assuming they stay in that spot, however, there will likely be a top-10 talent there for them to select, specifically at the wide receiver, tight end, or edge spots. If the Patriots truly want to get better for 2021 and find an impact player right away, Jones necessarily would not be the choice here.