2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Mac Jonesby Alex Barbour March 29, 2021 0 comments
Add yet another name to the top-loaded quarterback class with Mac Jones. Succeeding Tua Tagovailoa, Jones had huge shoes to fill. He filled them and then some. Having one of the best years in college football offensively, Jones warrants first-round consideration without a doubt. His combination of accuracy, poise, drive, and processor brings up names like Jimmy Garoppolo and even Tom Brady. With an amazing surrounding cast of first-round talents, the question remains: will Jones be able to play at such a high level when the talent he plays against is so much closer to his own receivers? Let’s find out if Jones is a college phenom or the real deal.
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Name: Michael McCorkle “Mac” Jones
Class: Redshirt Senior
Weight: 214 lbs
Jones’ report gets off to a shaky start. If someone were to look at the highlight tape, this would be closer to a nine. What watching every snap shows is how Jones stumbles. His accuracy numbers were outstanding on paper (76.6 percent for 2020), and that is to be commended; however, the tape says otherwise. From manufactured screens to misplaced yet catchable balls, Jones was able to stuff the stat sheet without showing what actually happened.
Ball placement is a big inconsistency: one play he will throw it right to the facemask of the player (as he usually does within 10 to 15 yards of the line of scrimmage), but then he will make throw after throw at range that is misplaced. Down-field placement is by far Jones’s worst. Most of his deep shots were either way under-thrown or overthrown. Luckily for him, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are two of the greatest talents in the NCAA.
To make it more understandable, most of these deep balls were bailed out by the receivers getting insane separation combined with great contested catching ability. Another major problem lies in the fact that his receivers gain unusual amounts of separation, so there is a little amount of tape of Jones actually having to throw into a tight window (he has around a third in comparison to Joe Burrow in his final year at LSU). This was obvious when time and time again defenders dropped interceptions that were misplaced in a tight window. This is a major red flag. Only time will tell as to whether Jones gets more comfortable making NFL throws.
Throw Power (6.25/10)
Jones demonstrated at his pro day that he has NFL range. His throw power is solid, but his arm strength is not. Jones could not “rope” the ball past 15 yards downfield, and that is scary. Even the mid-range throws looked like they needed extreme torque from Jones to get it to the target on time. That raises potential elbow and shoulder injury concerns long term.
When off-platform, scouts can really see how Jones lacks any sort of arm strength: his balls just die way too quickly. The zip is fine in short to mid-range for the most part, but the long balls are always rainbowed, and that is a major concern with rangy safeties at the next level. Even some of the throws to wide-open targets did not have enough “juice” to reach the receiver before defenders arrived.
This was a major shocker. Many college quarterbacks do not have much in terms of anticipation, but Jones had some expectations for it. Given how wide open his targets are on a down-to-down basis, it is not surprising that he does not make those types of throws. This said, Jones did not even throw with anticipation on a curl route. Sure, Waddle can get wide open on a curl, but the NFL will not allow that to happen very often.
Against Georgia, Jones threw a curl after the receiver began to break, and another defensive back left his man to literally have the ball go through his hands and be caught. NFL defensive backs will not allow that to happen on a regular basis, either. This area needs to be a major emphasis for whatever team drafts Jones, or else he will prove to just be another Alabama phenom and nothing more.
This is by far the most polished trait Jones has. Unlike Trey Lance, who does half-field reads, or Justin Fields, who is primarily a first-read quarterback, Jones can read the entire field and move through progressions well. He even went through three progressions then switched to the other side of the field and made a completion to his fourth read. That is NFL-caliber play.
The only issue with that is the question of how long will he have at the next level to go through four reads before running. Jones had a stellar line with amazing weapons at Alabama, but the NFL rarely has ten percent of the talent gap that the Crimson Tide have over every team they play. Jones should be perfect day one at the next level with his processing power.
Decision Making (7.5/10)
Usually, especially from a clean pocket, Jones makes the right read. Now, usually, the reads are easy to make: his receivers are usually wide open (thanks to their talent or scheme). That cannot discount the fact that he does make good reads often, however. One play that stuck out was a screen that was covered. Rather than playing hero ball, Jones threw the ball to the dirt. That is hard to do when the eyes of the world want him to be a magician. That is NFL maturity.
This category is not close to perfect, however. Jones rarely faced real pressure, but when he did, there appeared to be some major red flags with his processing. There were too many forced balls to check-downs or first reads with the defender in the former Crimson Tide’s face. This lead to multiple turnover-worthy plays.
The issue is (as was discussed earlier) that the offensive line for Alabama had far greater of an advantage than any line in the NFL will have over any defense. Pressure is guaranteed at the next level. If Jones cannot gain poise and not panic under direct pressure as consistently as he did, then he may be the bust of the quarterback class. Lastly, Jones also had a few plays where he forced some reads: one time he threw to Najee Harris in triple coverage when Smith was wide open. It makes anyone watching scratch their head when Jones makes a decision like that.
Poise/Pocket Presence (8.25/10)
Apart from panicking under pressure, Jones has amazing poise. He stands strong in the pocket and is not shy to throw while taking a hit. Jones may panic, but he still is willing to sacrifice his body to make a play. The Alabama product also seems very confident in his arm. One play did show Waddle wide open, but Jones seemed to not want to throw it given his lack of off-platform arm strength. That was the only instance of that hesitation, however.
This was a big surprise. Jones really only had three issues, but they could be major issues at the next level. The first was that the Alabama product was very close to heel-clicking on his dropbacks and adjustments. That is dangerous at the next level because heel-clicking can lead to instability and inaccurate throws. This may be the root of the spotty ball placement.
Secondly, Jones has spotty footwork on the move. His pro day seemed to show improvements here, so it may not be as big of an issue as was on tape, but there were a few scary throws that had no rotation power at all. That definitely exposed how poor Jones’s arm strength is.
Lastly, and arguably the most important issue is Jones’ release. The release times varied way too often. Some were very quick and had nice zip to them (which shows signs of hope for his projection if coached properly), but some of the same throws had very long and clunky releases. This led to many batted balls at the line of scrimmage, which may be intercepted in the NFL. Long throws also showed this same very long release. Why this is so important is that Jones lacks the zip to get the ball to the target, and having a slow release makes the time to target even longer. Safeties and cornerbacks can key in on this and disrupt a play that may have been a touchdown.
Jones tested well at his pro day for his 40-yard-dash (4.68 seconds). That definitely contradicts his playstyle, however. The score gives credit to the raw athleticism as well as hope that the number can be implemented into his play at the next level, but it also factors in that Jones is far from a threat as a runner. Just like Rondale Moore in 2020, Jones plays far slower than his numbers state. At the end of the day, people watch these prospects in pads, not in shorts. The play speed needs to matter more than the testing numbers. All the NFL community can hope is that Jones had an epiphany on how to run, which translated over to a nice 40 time and which will hopefully translate to his play.
Play Extension (3.25/10)
As stated before, Jones has the tools, but he does not play the way his numbers suggest. The pocket was usually clean at Alabama, so there was little to see in terms of Jones needing to extend the play. When he did, however, it was not great. As stated before, his on-the-move mechanics are poor (not to mention his arm strength) compared to more versatile quarterbacks. Even when he runs, Jones looks very uncomfortable. The bottom line is that while he can extend plays, the Alabama product should be kept as far away from having to do so as possible.
Competitive Toughness (4.25/5)
Jones fights hard every down. His only issue is a glaring incident that happened years ago: Jones was arrested for DUI with a fake ID after causing a car crash that had no injuries. One may worry that without Nick Saban’s consistent guidance, this issue may arise again. After all, the NFL usually has less competition at the quarterback spot than any other position. Alabama always had competition in that regard, so Jones had to be his best. Everyone hopes this will never return, but it must be noted that it did happen and it may return one day.
Jones was injured twice in just the FBS Championship and the Senior Bowl. One was to his ankle and the other to his knee. The scary thing is that these were essentially non-contact injuries. Jones fought through his knee injury (that occurred when trying to slide while running) during the championship game, but he was sidelined at the Senior Bowl due to his ankle. Hopefully, these injuries do not become a consistent problem and derail his career.
This was far more of a rollercoaster than expected. Jones certainly has the traits to be solid at the next level: he has flashes of accuracy, he has range, he has (numbers-wise) mobility, and he has a great processor. If he can develop anticipation, consistency with ball placement, and improve his mechanics, Jones will be a solid NFL quarterback. The ceiling may not be high with his arm strength, but the floor seems to be high enough for him to bring a team to the Super Bowl if trained properly.
Again, the issue remains: it appears as if the surrounding talent uplifted the quarterback rather than the other way around. That is worrisome. The Alabama product is farther from a day one starter than most people think, but time will tell as to whether Jones lives up to the hype or is just another quarterback that peaked in college.
Final Grade (63.25/100): Late First Round
Player Comp: Jimmy Garoppolo