How Mac Jones’ draft stock skyrocketed overnight
Mac Jones scaled to the mountaintop in his first year as a full-fledged starting quarterback at the University of Alabama, only to devolve into one of the biggest conundrums heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
It’s as if the world caught amnesia and forgot he threw for 4,500 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 2020.
‘Tis the season for coaches, scouts and armchair experts to overanalyze and still get it wrong.
Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of the NFL Draft, where there have been more swings and misses at the quarterback position than a batter on the wrong side of a Nolan Ryan fastball. A few weeks ago, Jones was pegged as the fourth or possibly even fifth-best option on the board.
And then San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made the blockbuster trade to acquire the No. 3 overall pick from the Miami Dolphins. That one move shook away the cobwebs for those that had hastily buried Jones.
This is the same quarterback that didn’t lose a game last season. It’s the guy that helped lead Alabama to the Promised Land and capture the school’s 18th National Championship. It’s the same player coming off a year where he broke the single-season record for completion percentage.
Imagine burying that guy and being wrong.
Enter Shanahan. The hot-shot 41-year-old coach that led the 49ers to the Super Bowl over a year ago is seriously considering making a move for Jones with the third overall pick. He dumped a slew of assets to move up the draft board and traveled all the way to Alabama to attend a workout in person on Tuesday. Can it get any more obvious?
Of course, that doesn’t guarantee Jones as the option for the 49ers. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance are also intriguing choices in their own right. In an era enamored with more athletic quarterbacks, a throwback pocket passer like Jones could easily get left in the rearview for flashier options.
But Shanahan has always been a man that knows what he likes. It’s why the 49ers have constantly been linked to guys like Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins. Shanahan doesn’t need a savior as much as he needs someone efficient enough to run his offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is evidence enough that boring still works in the NFL. No, he isn’t scrambling around the field and throwing no-look passes across his body. He doesn’t need to when his pocket awareness and footwork is off the charts. His brain processes the information at the line of scrimmage, and he gets the ball out fast and accurately. Sure, there are far more gifted athletes than Brady on the football field.
Guess how many of them have won seven Super Bowls.
There’s a reason why Jones is drawing similar comparisons, and there’s also a reason why Shanahan felt the need to unload a bevy of assets this far out from the draft. He isn’t throwing away three first-round picks and a third-round compensatory pick for a roll of the dice.
Jones, Fields or Lance—deep down, Shanahan knew exactly what he wanted when he made that deal. And to think, we’re less than four weeks away from the rest of the world knowing as well.