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Patriots pick Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in Mel Kiper Jr’s first mock draft of the year

Related: Exploring every potential quarterback option for the 2021 Patriots

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are headed into a possibly franchise-altering offseason as far as the most important position on the field is concerned: they need to find a quarterback of the future. Could it be Cam Newton despite his inconsistent 2020 campaign? Or how about backup Jarrett Stidham? Will the team invest in a free agent or use its draft capital to swing a trade?

All those options seem to be on the table, but one of the most plausible appears to be the Patriots investing a draft pick in the quarterback position. So, who could they use?

While top-rated Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be long gone when New England is on the clock, and Zach Wilson and Trey Lanse are also not expected to last until pick No. 15, there is another first-round-caliber quarterback that could be available once the Patriots are on the clock: Alabama’s Mac Jones. And according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr’s first mock draft of the year, Jones is a realistic candidate to land in New England.

15. New England Patriots

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

I’m thinking quarterback for the Patriots. They don’t pick this high often. Why not go and get your guy and build around him? Now, that changes if Bill Belichick & Co. can make a deal to get a veteran quarterback on the trade market or if Jimmy Garoppolo gets cut by the 49ers. But with Cam Newton unlikely to return to New England, Jones could become a signal-caller to groom for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Jones can make every throw at every level of the field, and he’s extremely accurate. Plus, we know that Belichick has drafted plenty of Alabama stars and trusts Nick Saban. Jones will be at the Senior Bowl this week, and I’m expecting him to impress.

The connection between Bill Belichick’s Patriots and Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide makes Jones a natural target for the Patriots, but would they be interested in drafting him on Day One? That is the big question when it comes to the 6-foot-2, 205-pound QB, who saw his draft stock rise quite a bit over the last few weeks of the season while leading Alabama to a National Championship.

Either way, Jones should be available once the Patriots are on the clock in late April. While he has created first-round buzz, the expectation is that he will not come off the board before New England’s 15th overall selection. His Senior Bowl performance and other pre-draft work could change this, but he likely will be in the team’s range either way.

So, what would the Patriots get in the Alabama passer? Pats Pulpit’s own Keagan Stiefel 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.

Jones ended up finishing the 2020 season with some impressive numbers: he completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards as well as a 41-to-4 touchdown-to-interception share. As Keagan mentions, he did play with an impressive supporting cast — something he would likely not have in New England compared to the level of his opponents — but the statistics were still outstanding.

Either way, his skillset and pro-style background do align with what New England is looking for at the quarterback position. That does not mean the Patriots will end up selecting him, especially on Day One, but it still makes Jones a player to watch over the next three months.