Where does Mac Jones rank in a re-draft of 2021 QB class?

Where does Mac Jones rank in a re-draft of 2021 QB class? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Mac Jones is still a work in progress. The jury is still out on whether he’s the Patriots’ franchise quarterback of the future, and he’ll need to bounce back from a disastrous 2022 campaign to prove New England should keep him past his rookie deal.

Compared to his contemporaries, however, Jones is looking better by the day.

Jones was one of 10 quarterbacks selected in the 2021 NFL Draft and one of five taken within the first 15 picks. Here’s a quick refresher of those five picks:

It’s safe to say a lot has changed in two and a half years.

While Lawrence is on the path to becoming an elite QB after a rocky rookie season, the other four QBs all have major question marks. Wilson has more interceptions (22) than touchdown passes (17) through two-plus seasons and lost his job to Mike White last year. Lance appeared in just eight games over two seasons for the 49ers before they traded him to the Dallas Cowboys in late August.

And then there’s Fields, who threw the Bears’ coaching staff under the bus Wednesday in a bizarre press conference after throwing two interceptions in Chicago’s Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fields was a dynamic dual-threat quarterback at times last season but still went 3-12 as a starter, and his inconsistent start to Year 3 has called his long-term future into question.

So, does all that turmoil mean Jones is actually the second-best QB in this class? Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran shared his re-draft of the 2021 QB class Wednesday on Arbella Early Edition and indeed slotted Jones at No. 2. Here’s his top five:

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars

  2. Mac Jones, Patriots

  3. Justin Fields, Bears

  4. Davis Mills, Houston Texans (initial draft selection: No. 67 overall; third round)

  5. Zach Wilson, Jets

  6. Trey Lance, Cowboys

As Curran pointed out, the Niners were very close to taking Jones over Lance, as head coach Kyle Shanahan reportedly thought the Alabama product would fit well in his offense.

“Had Kyle Shanahan taken Mac Jones at No. 3, as so many people opined he wanted to do, we probably wouldn’t be talking about Brock Purdy,” Curran said. “We’d probably be discussing Mac Jones and his potential of getting the San Francisco 49ers into January and February.”

Jones thrived as a rookie under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, finishing second in NFL Rookie of the Year voting with 3,801 passing yards, 22 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while guiding the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a playoff berth. So, there’s an argument that the 25-year-old can be an above-average NFL passer in the right system, and that his disappointing 2022 season was more a reflection of poor coaching (led by first-time offensive play-caller Matt Patricia) and a lack of offensive weapons.

Now that Jones has another seasoned play-caller in Bill O’Brien, expectations are raised once again — and the results so far have been mixed. Jones leads the NFL in pass attempts but ranks 29th in yards per attempt, partially a product of the “quick game” O’Brien has leaned on to work around major issues on the offensive line.

Then again, the bar is low as far as the 2021 class is concerned; it’s essentially a battle for second between Jones and Fields, with neither QB positioned to catch Lawrence and a steep drop-off outside the top three.

Check out our full discussion of the 2021 QB class in the Arbella Early Edition segment below.

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