Having faced struggles developing their next Tom Brady at quarterback, the New England Patriots decided to take a jump into the deep end in this year’s NFL Draft with the selection of Alabama’s Mac Jones. With Bill Belichick needing to find his next QB of the future, the team was situated to find their next option, who just so happens to come highly regarded from a close friend of Belichick’s in the college ranks.
Frequently seen as the fifth option out of five first-round QB options for this year’s draft, Jones was seen as a work in progress of sorts, fitting the recent mold of QBs that have been drafted out of the University of Alabama. Following in the footsteps of the likes of AJ McCarren, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and others, Jones will look to become just as, if not more, successful than these latter two options.
Rumors circulated as the draft drew closer involving the landing spot for Jones, who was never truly penciled into a spot or a team and could have fallen far in the draft. With his range as early as the third overall selection to the San Francisco 49ers, the ceiling for Jones was unknown even on the day of the draft.
The Niners ended up going with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with their selection, meaning that Jones and Justin Fields were the two remaining options left on the board – and when Fields was selected by the Chicago Bears, it was Jones who was all alone in the green room as the last remaining QB option.
The Patriots have long been trying to find that established backup option behind Brady, a process that was highlighted by Jimmy Garoppolo and most recently featured Jarred Stidham. But with Stidham not working out and profiling as a journeyman option and not that of starting caliber, Jones became the logical option once he fell to the Patriots in the first round.
The 15th overall selection heads into training camp facing an uphill climb in his battle with incumbent starter Cam Newton and Stidham. Newton’s rushing abilities were uniquely utilized by the Patriots last season (especially around the goal line), but his inconsistencies provided writing on the walls for the future plans at QB for this team.
While Newton did come back on a short-term deal this past offseason, that did not stop Belichick from selecting a guy who he seems to have faith in and feels like is a solid option to be the team’s future leader on offense. Being able to forecast how the starting QB role is going to be divvied up is impossible, especially with Belichick running the show, but getting Jones some playing time in his first season is going to be important to his development.
2021 Projected Statistics
8 Starts / 158 for 293 / 1,625 yards / 11 TDs / 8 INTs / 106 rushing yards / 2 rushing TDs
While getting the Alabama rookie playing time is important, understanding that he does not need to be given too much is almost just as important to his development. Giving rookie QBs time to grasp an NFL playbook, game speed, and expectations will not only help better his development, but will also help him acclimate to the team and what is expected from him early on in his career.
Not to mention, a seventeen-game season is going to produce many more chances that players get hurt and suffer injuries, something that can easily set back a rookie. Newton has just as much, if not more, to prove than Jones in this upcoming season, so both options certainly will want to earn a good amount of playing time to be able to prove their worth.
All dependent on record and how they are looking for the playoff race, Jones could very easily earn eight starts in his first season to help get his feet wet and his head ready. Letting Newton start in 11 games would be a good result for all sides involved, as it could potentially boost Newton’s trade value if the team would decide to go that way, and it would help boost Newton’s stock heading into the offseason for his next contract.
Without having a proven stable of offensive pass-catching options at his disposal, Jones could struggle to hit rhythm throws at points, which could point to a high interception total. But throwing for over 1,625 yards and 11 touchdowns across that eight-game slate would both be solid points to build off of going into Year 2.
While certainly not possessing the kind of running abilities that Newton has, Jones does bring a sense of pocket mobility to the table, something that certainly will work in a Josh McDaniels-led Patriots offense. Jones would not be used in the same light that Newton was last year towards the goal line, but he certainly could be used in some running situations (more than what Brady ever was in his career).
Expectations for the Patriots in 2021 should not be that high, and certainly should not be tied to the kind of player Brady was, especially with how well the Buffalo Bills are projected to be and how this could be the year for the Miami Dolphins. Long-term development certainly wins out here for the Pats, and developing Jones into a starting-caliber option at QB would mean way more than an above-.500 record this season – or another Brady lookalike.
Even if that is what Belichick wants.