Mac Jones had a similar season to Joe Burrow as he succeeded Tua Tagovailoa as Alabama’s starting quarterback, leading a second straight national championship run for a SEC West offensive giant. He played so well in 2020 that he made his way to first-round NFL draft status, something both Burrow and Tagovailoa enjoyed last year.
Jones was masterful in uniting a loaded attack with first-round wide receivers DeVonta Smith (Heisman Trophy winner) and Jaylen Waddle with the support of powerful running back Najee Harris. Jones was very efficient throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 TDs (to just 4 interceptions) in 13 games. He completed 77.4 percent of his passes at 11.2 yards per attempt with a passer rating that would have become 143.0 in the NFL.
Jones doesn’t have the same amazing arm type as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or BYU’s Zach Wilson, the consensus 1-2 prospects in the class of 2021. He doesn’t have the athleticism of Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota’s Trey Lance State.
But it is an attractive combination of all the traits to perform and win at a high level in the NFL. He can still hit all the shots, delivers the ball with precision, and makes quick, smart decisions. He has great football intelligence, but at the same time he is a grinder. Jones has been billed as a “pure pocket passer,” but he’s a capable athlete when he needs to extend plays while avoiding the passing rush.
Jones won’t be a double threat in the NFL, so he needs to get into a superior passing system that maximizes his mental and intangible strengths. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of their ideal landing spots on the night of April 29:
MOST NFL DRAFT: SN’s Latest 2021 Mock Draft | Top 50 big board
2021 Mac Jones Mock Draft
1. Las Vegas Raiders (No. 17 overall)
The Raiders have taken players of offensive ability from Alabama in the first round of the last two drafts (wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, running back Josh Jacobs). Derek Carr is arguably coming off his best season, but there are easy exits from his contract with significant salary cap savings this year and next before he becomes a free agent in 2023.
Jones would work well with Greg Olson and Jon Gruden when meeting with Ruggs and Jacobs. He would excel at expanding the field and, like Carr, would have a natural connection to tight end Darren Waller. Carr has been solid and efficient, but despite his high QB floor, he has kept the Raiders below their offensive ceiling. Jones can take them to another level with his big goals.
Carr is also bound to be a lot more expensive for an extension. If Jones were still available, he would be the ideal quarterback to save and prepare to replace Carr before the 2022 season.
2. San Francisco 49ers (No. 12)
The 49ers have an excellent system with Kyle Shanahan who produced an MVP season from Matt Ryan in 2016 and has brought out the best of Jimmy Garoppolo’s passing skills. Kirk Cousins is not heading to San Francisco, so Jones becomes the best option to replace Garoppolo. The 49ers, like the Raiders with Carr, have easy exits from Garoppolo’s contract for the next two years with even more significant capitalization savings.
Jones would make the most of the possibility of having George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as his trio of dynamic top targets. He would also handle the diversity of Shanahan’s passing game and play well with a solid running game, knowing he has a left tackle on Trent Williams.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24)
The Steelers restructured Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to keep him as a starter for another year, but it’s clear he showed signs of massive physical deterioration last season and needs to be replaced as early as 2022. For now, the offensive tackle and cornerback could be top priorities. But if Jones slips past No. 20, the Steelers need to think hard before moving on to Jones, who has the ideal build to be the true heir apparent to Big Ben.
This is another team loaded with wide receivers and should be more impactful as a running back in 2021. The Steelers will be limited to making their way into the playoffs with Mike Tomlin again, as long as they keep pitching Roethlisberger. If it’s not Jones, they’d have to think about hiding Florida’s Kyle Trask in the second round.
4. Washington Soccer Team (No. 19)
Ron Rivera and Scott Turner will go with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their last bridge starter to replace Alex Smith, but he has not been guaranteed a starting spot. While Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke hope they can compete for him, Washington needs to think of a better pedigree youngster to polish up a young offense on the rise with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas and Antonio Gibson.
The same attributes that made Fitzpatrick attractive are in Jones, only in a younger, more talented body. Jones’ cerebral and hardworking nature would fit in well with Rivera and Turner and he can also execute all the throws with good skill support.
5. Minnesota Vikings (No. 14)
The Vikings are tied to Kirk Cousins’ contract for 2021, but before 2022, they can come out of it with $ 10 million in dead money versus $ 35 million in salary cap relief. Cousins is now set to become a 35-year-old free agent in 2023 after last year’s extension.
Setting Jones up to succeed would be a good plan to ease his mini-rebuild transition. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have Jones to consider, but he would probably be a better pick in a trade. The Vikings will also have to think about the offensive line, linebacker and edge running back, as they weigh whether they should go in the near future to the QB.
6. New England Patirots (No. 15)
The Patriots seem determined to execute a different style of offense with a running QB playing a power offense that comes off two sets of tight ends. But they could also be using Cam Newton as a pure convenient bridge while thinking of an “efficient point guard” as a quarterback, one who can distribute the ball across the field with precision with the intelligence to absorb Josh McDaniels’ complex system. .
Jones would love this as a huge Tom Brady fan and emulator. He comes to the NFL with the same hard-hitting nature as Brady, only with a more polished skill set, better athleticism, and an established winning pedigree. Okay, let’s not say he’s the next Brady, as Tagovailoa has mildly suggested, but Jones could please Bill Belichick a lot as he helps the Patriots better compete with the Tagovailoa Dolphins and Josh Allen’s Bills in the AFC East.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.