Fairly or not, being a first-round draft pick in the NFL comes with considerable expectations. Cole Strange, for example, is expected to immediately take over a starting role on the New England Patriots’ offensive line; the Chattanooga prospect was picked 29th overall last Thursday.
Whether or not Strange will live up to those expectations and handle the pressure that comes with them remains to be seen. Not everybody succeeds, after all. Former Patriots first round-pick N’Keal Harry is just the latest example of a Day 1 selection to fall flat; the team declined to exercise his fifth-year contract option just earlier this week.
Some, however, are able to strive despite facing some considerable pressure. And few players in recent history have done so as well as Mac Jones. Just ask center David Andrews.
“He’s a great guy and just as funny. He also loves playing this game. He loves the grind of this game. The preparation. He’s such a smart guy,” Andrews said during the Patriots’ draft party last week. “Being an undrafted guy, there’s not a lot of pressure on you. Being a first-round quarterback, I can’t imagine the pressure. And I can’t say enough about how he handled it.”
Selected 15th overall in 2021, the burden of being the Patriots’ future at the most important position was placed on Jones immediately. The young quarterback stood firm, however, and eventually won the starting gig in training camp and led New England back to the postseason.
Jones had his ups and downs, but he proved himself worthy of filling the massive shoes previously worn by the legendary Tom Brady. While obviously far from Brady’s level, Jones’ first year showed that he can be a long-term solution at QB1.
“As soon as he stepped into the building, you could see the kid was going to be a good football player, and I think he got better and better each and every week,” said running back James White last year. “He took on that leadership as a rookie. First off, being a rookie and starting all the games, that’s not an easy job. He’s a good competitor, works hard, and he attacks each and every day.”
The Patriots are counting on Jones to continue his development in 2022. By all accounts, he appears to be on a good way.