It’s only mid-February, but already, we’ve seen endless combinations of rankings as it pertains to the top five quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most of those rankings have Alabama quarterback Mac Jones near the back, but Jones’ draft stock may be on the rise. As questions linger about Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance, does he deserve to be in the conversation as the best non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback?
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Should Alabama’s Mac Jones be QB2 in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Mac Jones played well in relief of Tua Tagovailoa in 2019, but no one expected him to come back and play as well as he did as the team’s full-time starter. After receiving the reins from Tua, who moved on to the NFL in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jones took the Alabama quarterback job and ran with it, completing 311 of 402 passes (77.4%) for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions over the course of the 2020 season.
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Once viewed as a draft sleeper with a chance to ascend, Mac Jones’ draft stock has skyrocketed over the past six months. He’s now comfortably in the top five of the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class. Additionally, many view Jones as a likely mid-to-late first-round pick, given the dire quarterback situation across the league.
For some, that’s too rich for a quarterback with limited mobility and creation capacity. But for others, Jones wins in the same way quarterbacks have won for a long time, and his tried-and-true method is what makes him just as valuable as the other options. However, the question remains — how should Jones be ranked as a prospect?
Steve Verderosa weighs in on Mac Jones’ draft stock in “Breaking Down the Board” debut
During Pro Football Network’s debut segment of the “Breaking Down the Board” series hosted by Anita Marks, longtime NFL scout and current PFN Draft Analyst Steve Verderosa gave viewers an inside look at his quarterback rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft.
After first expressing doubt regarding the NFL readiness of Justin Fields and Trey Lance, Verderosa pivoted to Mac Jones and praised Jones’ stellar play in 2020. The former NFL scout broke down Jones’ skill set. He then stated that Jones was his QB2, above all other quarterbacks besides Trevor Lawrence.
“I’ve never seen a guy orchestrate an offense like this guy has. He’s just too consistent against the very best college competition. Every week, he’s the same. The only thing that I wouldn’t give him high marks for would be athleticism, strength, and explosion. His competitiveness, his mental alertness is off the charts. This guy processes information so fast for me watching the tape, it’s unreal. You never see happy feet with this guy. He can go to [option] one, to two, to three. He can check it down, he has a feel for where the rush is, he knows how to climb in the pocket. He’s got a nice, high ball carriage. He’s got a nice arm… he is accurate at all levels. He throws players open… I have him ahead of all those guys except for Trevor Lawrence.”
Verderosa compares Mac Jones to the ultimate pocket passer archetype
Verderosa went on to compare Alabama’s Mac Jones to the ultimate pocket passer archetype: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. While the comparison is not one-to-one, Verderosa was impressed with how Jones resembled the timeless field general in several ways.
Verderosa even went so far as to say that Jones was a more quality distributor for Alabama than Tua Tagovailoa.
“[Jones] reminds me of a young Tom Brady, because he’s a true pocket passer — the run is really not part of his repertoire — and his ability to process information. Almost the same size, [Jones] is a little shorter. Kind of the same body build, built a little sturdier than Tom was coming out. This guy is more ready than those other guys we talked about, except for Trevor. He orchestrated that Alabama offense better than Tua [Tagovailoa] did, with less people. This kid took their offense to another level, even more so than Tua did… Justin Fields is a better athlete than Mac Jones, but Mac Jones is more ready to play in the National Football League and read coverages and go through progressions than Justin Fields is.”
Despite Jones’ high ranking, his grade still falls well short of Trevor Lawrence
After Verderosa completed his breakdown of Mac Jones and why the Alabama quarterback‘s stock is on the rise, host Anita Marks went on to ask Verderosa if he would draft Jones in the first round. Verderosa said that, despite Jones’ high floor, the Alabama quarterback only received a second-round grade on the former scout’s board.
Verderosa referenced Jones’ lack of mobility as a reason for the lower grade. He also referenced Jones’ strong supporting cast, which included Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, and several NFL linemen.
“No, I put a high second-round grade on him. And the only reason I tempered that is for those other things. I don’t know how fast he’s going to run. The pocket mobility and all that stuff, and again, he played with a really strong supporting cast. If he goes to a team that struggles, and you have a pocket passer that maybe can’t get out of his own way, you’re not going to be able to get the same performance that he was able to do at Alabama. So it’s got to be a fit. All these guys will probably all go, except for Trevor, a lot higher than what I have them graded, and that’s fine.”
Upon being prompted again by Marks, Verderosa confirmed that Trevor Lawrence is the only quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft worthy of a first-round pick on his board. Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide quarterback was the closest contender, and Verderosa gave a ringing endorsement for Jones’ traits as a passer.
How does Jones stack up as a prospect?
Verderosa’s analysis of Jones highlights a key juxtaposition that arises every year. Each offseason, scouts get caught up in a debate pitting NFL-ready signal-callers and high-upside prototypes against one another. The NFL appears to be trending more toward quarterbacks who can move, extend plays, and create opportunities for themselves.
Because players in the NFL Draft are prospects, graded for what they can be, Mac Jones might not have as many fans as a QB2 candidate.
Nevertheless, the traditional quarterbacks will always have a champion in Tom Brady. If they flash the necessary traits to follow in his footsteps — such as pocket poise, mental prowess, and an NFL-caliber arm — they can earn praise on the draft stage. Furthermore, they can inherit starting roles at the NFL level. Jones, at the very least, is on his way.
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