Will Mac Jones be a top 15 NFL Draft pick?

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

March 24th, 2021

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones enjoyed a quick ascension to success during the 2020 college football season.

In his first full year as a starter, Jones led the Crimson Tide to a dominating national championship. Jones threw for 4,500 yards, had 41 touchdown passes to just four interceptions, and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt.

He benefited tremendously from the most talented roster in the country, which leaves promoters and critics alike wondering how his success in college will translate to the NFL. Current odds have his Over/Under for NFL Draft position at 15.5, and today we’re going to look at why the Under is the best bet.

Jones was efficient at Alabama

Jones succeeded in college not just because he had an elite offensive line, a five-star, multi-dimensional running back in Najee Harris, and weapons galore on the outside, including Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith.

While those pieces helped his cause, it was still Jones’ job to distribute and put them in a position to succeed. Jones was efficient and quick with the football.

Alabama allowed fewer than 1.5 sacks per game — an impressive number, given the number of talented defensive lineman in the SEC. LSU and Joe Burrow surrendered 2.2 sacks per game during the 2019 season.

Where is the need?

For every good to great player, however, there needs to be an appropriate destination. If every team in the top half of the draft already had an elite quarterback, Jones would be an unlikely pick in one of those spots. However, teams that draft in the first half of the first round typically have flaws and an opportunity for an upgrade.

While Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are likely to go very early in the NFL Draft, teams like the San Francisco 49ers at 12, Minnesota Vikings at 14, and New England Patriots at 15 all make sense for Jones.

The 49ers will almost surely start the 2021 season with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, but the long-term outlook for their oft-injured quarterback isn’t great. The 49ers are just two years removed from a Super Bowl, and with better injury luck could return with a game manager like Jones. They are one of the better running teams in the league, and Kyle Shanahan is a play-calling wizard. The 49ers situation makes the most sense for a player like Jones.

The Vikings have given Kirk Cousins plenty of opportunity, but he doesn’t appear capable to reach a Super Bowl. Cousins will be 35 in 2023 and a replacement by then seems inevitable. The Vikings need a lot of help, but giving Jones time to learn the system from the bench for a year could be a recipe for success.

Last but not least, the Patriots need a quarterback. Tom Brady isn’t walking through that door, and Cam Newton just agreed to be a short-term option. Bill Belichick and Alabama coach Nick Saban have a well-documented friendship, and you can bet Saban will put in a good word for Jones.

It takes an intelligent quarterback to run Josh McDaniels’ offense and Jones has that box checked. Belichick and the Patriots know it takes a smart, efficient quarterback to win in the NFL, and they also know he doesn’t have to possess the most elite physical skills to be successful.

You may have to wait until the 15th pick to cash this ticket, but I like the efficient and accomplished Jones to get the call in time.