Should Mac Jones Stay for 2021?
Mac Jones has taken the college football world by storm. If not for a postponement (hopefully) of the LSU contest, he would still be the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
What Jones hasn't taken over, truthfully, are the NFL Draft boards of many analysts. Many still have Jones as high as their fourth quarterback, while others are as low as seven.
Yes, the likes of Todd McShay have raved over Jones's accuracy and intellect on the field, the fact remains that the 2021 quarterback class remains heavily saturated. After scouring profiles and breakdowns of Jones's game, the two most prevailing cons are his lack of mobility and uncertainty of deep ball success against NFL defensive backs.
Those critiques may be justified or not, but regardless, the uphill climb stands tall for Jones to unseat enough quarterbacks to find himself selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The consensus top six, all of which have seen their names in the first round, remains in loose order:
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
- Justin Fields, Ohio State
- Trey Lance, North Dakota State
- Zach Wilson, BYU
- Kyle Trask, Florida
- Mac Jones, Alabama
The last time six quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft was 1983, nearly four decades ago. John Elway was first and though he was drooled over quite similarly to Lawrence, he never played a down for the Colts. Following him was Todd Blackledge to the Kansas City Chiefs, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly to the Buffalo Bills, Tony Eason to the New England Patriots, Ken O'Brien to the New York Jets, and finally, arguably the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl, Hall of Famer Dan Marino went 27th to the Miami Dolphins.
Ironically, the following year in the 1984 NFL Draft, no quarterback was selected in the first round (though four were taken in the supplemental draft's first round, including Hall of Famer Steve Young.) Boomer Esiason was taken in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Though most of these quarterbacks had anywhere between respectable and all-time great careers, the numbers game right now may not be in Jones's favor for 2021.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. offered one other bit of criticism: Jones's number of starts.
"Now, six-career starts this year, four last year, 10 total," Kiper told SEC Nation last Saturday. "You want that number higher than that. He’s going to end up with 16 after this year is over. Remember Mitchell Trubisky, 13, Mark Sanchez, 16? That’s the issue. Career starts only around 16, will he go back to Alabama to try to get more of those, more experience? We’ll see."
Kiper assured he has Jones as a top-25 player and expects him to be a first-rounder if he shows consistency through the remainder of the season.
To be fair, Trey Lance only played one game this season and ends his Bison career with 17 starts. Kyle Trask has 18 now, with likely six more to close his career. Is the difference really that much to sway Jones?
The 2022 NFL Draft class will see Arizona State's Jayden Daniels, USC's Kedon Slovis, and North Carolina's Sam Howell as eligible candidates. Another year of play could see Jones stand tall over these prospects.
The gamble would still be on Jones though. Alabama projects to lose eight offensive starters following the 2020 campaign, not including Jones. He'd certainly get the chance to prove he isn't a product of his system and surrounding talent, but would it be worth the risk?
Jones is a competitor. His choice to come to Alabama solidified that. If he's a late-round pick by the Steelers or Saints as projected, he may not have to step in right away or will compete with standing backups with experience. If he does have to play, his supporting cast will be reminiscent of his time in Tuscaloosa.
Sure, his name may not be called first, second or third. But that worked out just fine for Dan Marino. It could work out just fine for Jones too.
Alabama Football Players in the Hall-of-Fame