Mac Jones to New England: Three things to know, scouting report on Patriots first-round pick at 2021 NFL Draft

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It’s a new day for the Patriots under center. This time last offseason, New England was still reeling from losing Tom Brady in free agency after the franchise icon elected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The club didn’t address the quarterback position in the 2020 draft and eventually signed Cam Newton over the summer, who ended up becoming the starter throughout the year. While adding a former league MVP looked strong on paper, Newton’s arrival didn’t translate into enough winds for the Patriots to make the playoffs, missing out on the action for the first time since 2008. More specifically, it became clear that he wasn’t able to be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. 

While he re-signed earlier this offseason, the mission became clear in Foxborough that finding the guy to lead the franchise into the foreseeable future needed to be a point of emphasis. New England then wasted little time at the 2021 draft, selecting Alabama’s Mac Jones once they were on the clock at No. 15. 

Now that Jones is heading to Foxborough, let’s look a bit closer at the guy who’ll soon ascend to QB1 under Bill Belichick. 

Historic season at Alabama, Heisman finalist

Jones had to wait a while before getting his shot as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, but he sure made his opportunity count when he got it. After sitting behind the likes of Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, Jones put together a final season at Alabama that pops off the stat sheet and arguably bests what Tagovailoa — the No. 5 overall pick of the Dolphins in 2020 — did during his time in Tuscaloosa. Jones’ 4,500 yards passing broke the school record. Meanwhile, his 41 passing touchdowns came just short of Tagovailoa’s school record, which he was able to reach in 15 games in 2018. Last season, Jones played in just 13 contests. 

Not only was Jones surpassing or rivaling school records, but he was also breaking through new barriers across college football as well. His 77.4 completion percentage is the highest of all-time over a single season, besting Colt McCoy’s 2008 campaign at Texas. He also broke the NCAA single-season record with a 203.06 passer efficiency rating, which was previously set by 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. All of that success set Jones up to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which ended up going to Alabama teammate and trusted pass-catcher DeVonta Smith. 

More important than the Heisman, however, Jones was able to lead Alabama to a national championship win over Ohio State where he completed 80% of his passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. In that victory, he set national championship records in passing yards and completions. 

Bill Belichick attended his pro day

This should have been one of the main clues that pointed to New England’s interest in the player. The Patriots had a number of scouts and assistant coaches attending a wide array of pro days of quarterbacks that could be available to the team in the first round. However, the only pro day which Bill Belichick attended was Jones’. He and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels both watched as he showed a number of NFL evaluators what he brings to the table. 

Of course, the relationship between Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban is well-documented. That relationship almost certainly helped facilitate New England coming to this decision to ultimately bring Jones aboard. 

One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2020 season was the emergence of running back Damien Harris. He is set to take on a larger role in the Patriots backfield this coming season and could be doing so with Jones as his quarterback. That should be a familiar circumstance for both of these players as they were teammates at Alabama and have developed a kinship. While speaking to reporters following his selection to New England, Jones noted that he and Harris are “pretty much best friends.”

Harris was quick to share his excitement about the pick on social media. 

In 10 games (all starts) last season, Harris rushed for 691 yards and two touchdowns on five yards per carry. 

Scouting report

Strengths

  • Stocky build in pads.
  • Overall mechanics, from footwork to hip rotation to delivery were very good. Usually delivered throws in a compact, effortless motion.
  • Zero issues about his ability to read and react to defensive coverages. Understood how to play off safeties. Rarely made bad decisions on who to throw to.
  • Also did a good job of not forcing a lot of throws when under duress — took sacks and threw passes out of bounds when he had to.
  • Polished in his maneuvering of the pocket and fearless from throwing when pressure was in his kitchen. Kept eyes downfield consistently and had a good sense for the pass rush, buying time and shifting away from it when necessary and delivering an accurate throw when about to get hit.
  • Wasn’t in a hurry to check down to a short-area target. His check-downs were smart plays, not scared plays.
  • Absolutely a rhythm and anticipatory thrower suitable for any playbook. Threw his receivers open frequently, giving them chances to make catches in bounds and/or make plays after the catch. 
  • Accuracy was usually very good at all levels. Knew when to use touch or when to use good velocity to place the ball where his man would catch it. Deep accuracy was typically good with strikes ranging between 30 and 45 yards through the air.
  • Was willing to dive and burrow in short-yardage situations.
  • Played actor after handing off, faking a throw or a run to try and trick the defense. Very Favre-like.
  • No reported injuries through time at Alabama. Did sustain a minor ankle injury during 2021 Senior Bowl.
  • Humble kid with a willingness to work hard and put his team first.

Concerns

  • Sizable quarterback, but went down rather easily on sacks and rarely kept plays alive after taking on contact. Frankly didn’t take on a whole lot of contact.
  • Frequently lined up in shotgun, rarely under center.
  • Would sometimes pass up short, safe throws for more challenging throws. Might drive his coaches crazy.
  • Happened rarely, but aggressive pass rushes sped up his throwing motion and delivery, resulting in off-target throws and incomplete passes. Would throw off his back foot under pressure sometimes, which impacted velocity and accuracy.
  • Threw 85 screen passes, second-most in the nation (Trevor Lawrence, 87). Had 591 yards on screen passes, second-most in the nation (Lawrence, 686).
  • Stats legitimately might be the byproduct of working in a talented offense. Offensive line was terrific, pass-catchers were outstanding and play-calling was awesome. 
  • Maybe two or three times per game was a little off-target with his throws, forcing his receivers to adjust (wrong shoulder, high pass, underthrown, etc.).
  • Mobility is adequate. He’s not a mover.
  • Generally has high character but was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and carrying a fake ID as a freshman in November 2017 (19 years old). 

Click here to read Jones’ full scouting report and draft profile. 





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