With the hype train picking up around the 2021 NFL Draft’s quarterback class, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones could very well be off the board by the time the New England Patriots can bring him to Foxborough with the 15th-overall pick.
But a slew of NFL Draft experts, like ESPN’s Mel Kiper, have raved about Jones’s potential fit with the Patriots, even likening the Crimson Tide quarterback to a young Tom Brady.
Current Senior Bowl Executive Director and former Patriots scout Jim Nagy is jumping on that bandwagon.
In an interview with WEEI on Wednesday, Nagy talked about what he saw from Jones in practice during Senior Bowl Week and how he projects to the NFL as a passer.
“The more I watch Mac the more I like him,” said Nagy. “He’s really been a one-year starter and when you watch the SEC tape from this fall, did a ton of good things. He’s a guy that really knows how to play the position. And then you go to the College Football Playoff and he took it up another notch. His best football is still ahead of him. Everyone acts like he’s this polished, finished product and he’s really not.”
Jones led a dominant 13-0 Alabama squad to a national championship this season, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2020.
Though some scouts have expressed concerns about Jones’s relative lack of mobility, Nagy says Jones’s strengths should allow him to flourish in the NFL without elite athleticism.
“The game happens really slowly for him,” explained Nagy. “He goes through progressions as confidently as I have ever seen a guy, all the way down to his check downs. When he’s in a muddy pocket and things are collapsing around him…his ability to know where his backs are and get the ball out and avoid negative plays [is great].”
Jones’s ability to process plays and make correct decisions, Nagy points out, has helped a number of elite quarterbacks with more pedestrian mobility, such as Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and, yes, Brady himself, excel at the professional level.
Nagy also believes bringing in Jones would allow Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to return to the familiar play-calling style employed for Brady after a year of run-heavy offense with Cam Newton under center.
“They saw the play style [Brady] played with, and that is very similar to how Mac plays,” Nagy said. “He’s got a very similar ability to feel pressure, eyes in the back of his head quality, to sidestep guys and retreat and buy himself enough space to make throws — that is Mac’s game.”
The Patriots have reportedly been heavily scouting the 2021 draft class’s top quarterbacks, including meeting with Jones at the Senior Bowl. Whether the Alabama prospect falls to the Patriots at No. 15 overall or is taken earlier, by the Patriots via trade or by a team ahead of them, remains to be seen.
But Nagy believes he’s seen enough to know what Jones brings to the table: “Everything you’re hearing about Mac from his study habits, from his mental acumen to his study habits, he’s smart off the charts.
“I’m not comparing Mac to Tom in thinking Mac’s going to win seven Super Bowls. But you can win in the league with Mac’s skillset.”
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