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Patriots pick a first-round quarterback in a new 2021 NFL mock draft

Related: The Lane Breakdown: Patriots get no answers to their quarterback questions on Monday night

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SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New England Patriots will have some big decisions to make this offseason about the future of the team. Is impending free agent Cam Newton a part of it? How about backup Jarrett Stidham? Will some outside help be brought in via free agency? And what about the draft?

While it remains to be seen how it all plays out, the Patriots certainly appear to be in the market for a passer early during next year’s college player selection meeting. While top-rated Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be long gone when New England is on the clock, there is an intriguing second tier of quarterbacks that could be available once the Patriots pick.

One player to watch, at least according to the latest mock draft by Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle, is Alabama’s Mac Jones:

14. New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

The Cam Newton experiment has not panned out in New England. Through Week 16, he ranks just 26th in PFF passing grade (67.1). Jones is currently outperforming Tua in what is still a loaded ‘Bama offense and currently ranks second behind BYU’s Wilson in PFF grade (95.3) among all FBS quarterbacks.

The connection between Bill Belichick’s Patriots and Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide make Jones a natural target for the Patriots, but would they be interested in drafting him especially on Day One? That can be questioned, but it is obvious that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound QB does have some talent to work with.

Pats Pulpit’s own Keagan Stiefel, for example, wrote the following about him earlier this year:

Mac Jones spent three seasons backing up Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, with both heading to the NFL in 2020, he got his opportunity this year and he ran with it. He’s taken full advantage of his gaggle of weapons (three future first-round picks) throwing 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions with a 77.1% completion percentage. He’s a fundamentally sound QB who takes what he’s given, and is tough as hell.

This year’s QB class is fairly top heavy but it’s deep. There could be anywhere from 10-20 quarterbacks drafted this season and Jones might be in the top 6. I see a perfect opportunity to take a Stidham like approach with Jones. A mid-round selection with the talent to morph into a future starter. If the Patriots saw that in Stidham, I don’t know how they wouldn’t see it in Jones.

While investing a mid-round pick is fairly different than using a first-rounder to bring Jones aboard, his skillset and pro-style background does align with what New England is looking for at the quarterback position. That does not mean the team will select him, especially this high, but it makes him a player to watch once draft season gets underway.