Never in Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach of the New England Patriots has the club utilized its first-round pick on a quarterback up until this offseason. Of course, the presence of Tom Brady for the bulk of that time put less of an emphasis to go up that high for a signal-caller, but even when Brady was still in Foxborough the club wasn’t shy at taking stabs at the position as high as the second round (Jimmy Garoppolo, 2014). While this offseason presented a more logical reason to take a quarterback in the opening round, the weight of Mac Jones’ arrival and being hand-picked by Belichick and company to be the potential franchise cornerstone going forward can’t be overstated.
Of course, Belichick has the heavy hand on who the club brings in during the draft, but Josh McDaniels is another key figure in Jones landing with the Patriots. The club’s offensive coordinator spent extensive time this offseason studying this class of quarterbacks and was asked specifically during a videoconference on Thursday what the club saw in Jones to make that pick.
“Look, Mac, he’s won a lot of games in the last year-plus at Alabama,” McDaniels said, via WEEI.com. “He’s played in some big games, some pressure situations. He takes care of the football. He’s demonstrated an ability to function at a pretty high level in their system and their offense with their terminology. He competed in a league that is I would say is widely regarded as one of the top conferences, if not the top conference, in all of college football.
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“To play the position of quarterback there’s not just one thing you need to do well. He certainly stood out in certain obvious ways relative to throwing the football and command and protecting the ball and not hurting his football team. A lot to look at and digest when you studied him.”
While Jones may not be the athlete that the modern-day quarterback is evolving into, his arm talent is what made him a first-rounder. His 4,500 yards passing during his senior season at Alabama broke a school record and he was lethally accurate in his final season down in Tuscaloosa. Jones’ 77.4 completion percentage was the highest of all time over a single season. That eye-popping accuracy certainly was an extremely attractive trait for New England throughout the pre-draft process.
Naturally, Jones has the promise of being the next great Patriots quarterback, but the jury is still out as to when we’ll actually see him hit the field. Cam Newton, who re-signed with New England prior to the start of free agency, could very well reclaim the starting job to begin the year, which leaves Jones’ debut up in the air. Whenever it does come, however, he will be placed under one of the bigger microscopes in the NFL as everyone will watch to see if Belichick was right in investing his first-rounder on him.