With the No. 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones….
Mac Jones Career Statistics
Jones was strong filling in through Tua Tagovailoa’s injury in 2019, completing 68.8% of his passes for 10.7 Y/A and a 14-to-3 TD-to-INT rate, but then just blew the doors off his 2020 campaign when fully locked in as the catalyst of the Alabama offense.
Last year, Jones completed 77.4% of his passes for 11.2 Y/A to go with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The only quarterbacks to hit those same thresholds of 70% completions and over 10.0 Y/A to go with 40-plus touchdowns in their final season were Joe Burrow a year ago and Baker Mayfield in 2017. And with Jones, he had that season playing SEC against top opponents.
If recency bias towards program stigma is something orbiting Justin Fields, then it is in play here as well. It is hard to not notice how much Jones’s final season overlaps what we saw from Tagovailoa in terms of measured passing acumen. Both passers closed their collegiate careers in the 97th percentile or higher in completion rate, yards per attempt, and touchdown to interception rate. Given Tagovailoa’s rookie season outside of the Alabama talent vortex and not having to make many tight window throws, Jones will have to shed a similar narrative as a rookie.
While Jones has a clean passing resume, the one thing he lacks compared to his peers at the top of this class is the added rushing component. That is by no means a dealbreaker for what Jones can be as an NFL prospect, but it does force him to hit his passing ceiling with fewer outs as a fantasy quarterback.
Among the 11 quarterbacks this past season to average at least 20 fantasy points per game, only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady had single-digit percentage of their fantasy production come via rushing while the average among those players was 20.1% even including those two veteran passers.
Although he is not someone to count on for rushing performance like the top-four quarterbacks in this class, Jones did come out his Pro Day in the 71st percentile athletically at his position, showing he is a better athlete than his profile suggests.
The Patriots had just 12 passing touchdowns a year ago, which was tied for the fewest in the league. They also averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt, which ranked 26th.
Despite the lackluster results through the air, New England brought back Cam Newton on a one-year, $5M base contract with the potential for an added $9M through incentives. While the contract is incentive-laden and short-term, the Patriots have made a ton of moves this offseason that signal that they are swerving into a heavy-personnel offense.
Not many teams got less out of their wide receiving unit in 2020 than the Patriots. New England wideouts combined for just four touchdown receptions (the fewest in the league) and averaged just 128.9 receiving yards per game (31st). From a per play basis, the Patriots were a touch better, ranking 21st in success rate per target to their wideouts (52%) and 20th in yards per target (7.8 yards) to the position.
That said, when your top two targets in a season are Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd, you need to go out and add to the position. New England did that, immediately pursuing and adding both Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne on the first day of free agency. We are not here to argue if the Patriots overestimated the wide receiver market with either signing, as both Agholor and Bourne will be thrust into large roles in the offense.
No team ran less 12 personnel last season than the Patriots at 2% of their plays. That is absolutely going to change in 2021 after the Patriots went out and added both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in free agency.
Since 2008, we have had 39 quarterbacks selected in the first round. 17 of them started immediately in Week 1. 26 of those players were starting for their organizations by Week 4 of the season. 29 of those players started more than half of the team games as a rookie. The only first round rookie quarterbacks to actually not start a game in their rookie season out of those 39 players were Jake Locker in 2011 and Jordan Love a year ago, who played (well, did not even dress actually) behind the MVP of the league.
While Newton likely has a lead to start the season, Jones should be expected to take over at some point this season.
Early 2021 Mac Jones Projection: (60% of team snaps) 212-of-328 for 2,339 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 12 carries, 47 yards, 0 TD