QB | Alabama Crimson Tide | 6-2 5/8 | 217 lbs.
NFL QB Expectations
Over the last three NFL seasons, QBs have been tasked with targeting their receivers on three particular patterns at a higher rate than those sexy Go routes. The most frequent of which is the Out — 18% more than Gos. Not to be confused with the Speed Out, you can distinguish between the two by the squared-off break — a hard cutting 90° angle for the traditional Out. The second most frequent route — 12% more common than Gos — is the Hitch (also referred to as a “Curl,” “Hook,” or “Stop”). Next, we have the Crossing pattern — 11% more — where the receiver will drive toward, cross midfield at various depths. While these three routes may not elicit the same level of viewing excitement as the beloved Gos, the third-level work accomplished by the deep targets are entirely dependent on the underneath patterns keeping secondaries honest. To close out the most important routes required by the NFL QB to master, we have the collection of routes I will refer to as Flatwork (Speed Outs, WR Screens, and Slide routes). These will most often involve Slot WRs and TEs working at a depth within five yards of either flat. These five patterns account for over 75% of the average route profile for NFL QBs.
Unlike many of the top QB talents seemingly coming out of nowhere to reach their NFL dreams, Mac Jones has been mentored by former University of Oklahoma OC Joe Dickinson (1998) since he was 11 years old. Jones first caught the attention of former Oklahoma State University QB Daxx Garman during a Florida DeBartolo Sports Camp. Garman introduced Dickinson to Jones, whose physical build — his father, Gordon Jones, played tennis at Florida State University — instantly stood out to Dickinson. Dickinson continued to coach Jones while he attended high school at Bolles. As is the case for most attending top-ranked schools during their freshman year, Jones rode the pine for the late coach Corky Rogers. Rogers finished his coaching career with the third-most wins in HS history (433), and the most wins and championships in the state of Florida (10).
During his coaching career, Corky instructed a list of players that includes Edgar Bennett, LeRoy Butler, Hayden Hurst, Jason Spitz, and Dez White. While Rogers won a ton of games, one little detail overlooked by Rogers’ staff was failing to consistently enter player statistics into the appropriate databases. The statistics I have been able to locate for Jones while playing at Bolles required grueling searches through various online sources. In spite of my best efforts, the statistical timeline is incomplete. No record of his completion percentages or rushing data could be located for either his junior or senior years, and his INTs from his final season are also missing. What I do know is that Jones continued to ride the bench during his sophomore year, seeing sparse time while passing for 229 yards, completing 36.4% of attempts, and throwing three INTs (0 TDs).
During his Age 17 season, Jones finally received his opportunity to lead the Bulldogs’ offense as a junior. What we do know is that he passed for 2,150 yards, 26 TDs, and six INTs while taking Bolles to the Florida State Regional Finals in 2015. The success lifted his team from being the 754th-ranked HS nationally as a sophomore to 176th as a junior. Jones led the Bulldogs to the Florida 4A State Championship, 209th-ranked HS the following season. He threw for 1,532 yards, and 29 TDs. He also drew the ire of Rogers for using his social media account to self-promote to scouts.
(Interestingly enough, the Bolles offense was built around the same Delaware Wing-T as Trey Lance’s offense at Marshall HS. If you’d like to learn more about the Delaware Wing-T, you can read about in Lance’s profile here, and the general evolution of the option offense within Justin Fields’ profile here.)
Jones became the first Florida 4A to commit to Alabama since Derrick Henry (Yulee HS) in September of ‘16. He spurned a commitment to the University of Kentucky for the opportunity to play for legendary HC Nick Saban. However, all did not go as planned in the beginning for Jones — his refusal to follow the script as the scout team QB. Rather than targeting receivers where the coaching staff predicted their opponents would look to attack, Jones would always target open receivers. In addition, his playful personality in practice struck a nerve with Saban in several instances. Former Tide RG Richie Petitbon nicknamed him “The Joker” during his true freshman season due to that animated personality.
Saban saw a different side of Jones. When Jones didn’t play up to his own standards, he would completely lose his temper. In Jones’ own words: “If I missed a throw or threw an interception, it'd be hard to move on from it. I'd complain about how I suck." Saban handed him a second nickname, “McEnroe.”
But things turned from comical to serious when he was involved in a two-car accident during that first season in Tuscaloosa where Jones was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Only 19 at the time, Jones was also found to be carrying a fake ID, and with Saban suspending him for the behavior. Following the incident, Jones entirely removed partying from his collegiate experience.
Things began to turn around for Jones just prior to his redshirt freshman season. All of the important attention had been centered around the QB battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. With Tagovailoa sidelined with a hand injury, Jones turned heads during the Bama spring game, putting 289 passing yards, and a pair of TDs on their second-team defense to earn the Dixie Howell co-MVP award. While Jones would mostly see the field as the holder on field goals and extra points — a job he maintained throughout his career — he was able to rehabilitate his image in order to step into the starting role midway through his redshirt sophomore season.
It was pleasantly surprising to see Jones record a 7.04-second 3-Cone time (67th percentile compared to Combine QBs over the last eight years) and 116-inch Broad Jump (76th percentile) at his first Pro Day. Unfortunately, you can be guaranteed Jones will never utilize that athleticism to generate anything close to resembling a ground game. Jones accumulated all of 119 rushing yards on 49 official rushing attempts during the entirety of his Tide career. He managed to score a pair of TDs but, from my film study, he forced only a single broken tackle. Taking a look at the remainder of his athletic profile provides the answer. During his pre-college testing, Jones was measured with a 4.91-second 40-yard dash (25th percentile), 4.33-second Pro Shuttle (51st), and 30.9-inch Vertical Jump (40th). He improved on his 40-time (4.82, 47th percentile) and Vertical (32.0, 49th), but regressed on the Shuttle (4.39, 39th). All of that is to say Jones offers average athleticism.
How should we view Jones’ length measurements, athletic testing toward predicting future success? I’ll save the thorough breakdown for a future date. With the QB position, as a whole, the most significant factors take place on the field. Most of the top QBs forego testing entirely, knowing good-and-well that their film speaks for itself. However, the NFL game is evolving at an alarming rate. The drastic increase in Read-Options, Run-Pass Options (RPOs), and Play Action Rollout/Bootlegs have placed mounting interest in a QBs athleticism. So much so that we may see teams begin to pressure QBs to provide full testing in the near future. In addition, many teams are taking the further plunge toward the collegiate Air Raids in positioning their QBs in the Shotgun on the majority of offensive snaps.
One aspect of the Combine/Pro Day that we do receive from each QB are length measurements. As long as we have successful QBs measuring below the 50th percentile in arm length, wingspan, and hand size such as Kyler Murray (0th/0th/48th percentiles), Baker Mayfield (30th/27th/38th), and Joe Burrow (41st/32nd/29th), the reliability does come into question. However, I’ll present a different way to view those QB measurements in the future. For Jones, he comfortably measured out well above the 50th percentile in each length criteria. With almost identical athletic testing from his prep days to the Alabama Pro Day, we do know he’s been able to add additional weight without sacrificing his athleticism. With the benefit of adding 37 pounds to his sub-6-foot-3 frame, Jones checked one of the significant concern boxes from the prep scouting firms: filling out his lanky frame.
The numbers for Jones from his sophomore year with Bolles are eerily reminiscent of his redshirt freshman season with Alabama. The main takeaway being that he didn’t play much. Delaware Wing-T experience doesn’t mesh all that well with the Crimson Tide offenses that placed him at Shotgun on two-thirds of snaps, and Under Center on well less than 10% during his career. But that 2017 redshirt placed him in the QB room learning from former co-OC, QB coach Brian Daboll. Following the season, Daboll departed to become the OC for the Buffalo Bills. Mike Locksley took full OC control, with Dan Enos filling the role as QB coach for the 2018 season. Jones would be forced to learn under a new OC and QB coach for the third-straight season after Locksley and Enos departed to Maryland. But it was an opportunity to work with Steve Sarkisian, who brought along considerable NFL experience for Jones’ 1.5 seasons as the starting QB.
Redshirt Freshman Season (2018)
(Quick note: the easiest way to view these games from YouTube — while also avoiding the ads — is to download the files using a YouTube Downloader. My recommended media players are QuickTime (Mac) or VLC.)
The 2018 season was spent as a holder on place kicks. Cam Akers completed as many passes (5) with Florida State as Jones did during the season. But you can view his breakout performance from the Tide’s Spring Game in the link provided above. I’ve also included footage from the Louisiana game in Week 5. He only attempts two passes, completing one. But, with the benefit of a 49-0 lead, Jones hooks up with Jaylen Waddle on a nine-yard Slant, where Waddle showcases the athleticism that should lead to him being drafted as the WR2 in less than a week. It was the second-longest TD reception in Alabama history. You can find that play at 13:04 in the video.
Redshirt Sophomore Season (2019)
Jones received his first career start two weeks prior to the scary hip fracture suffered by Tua Tagovailoa against Mississippi State. Tagovailoa sat out Week 9 opposite Arkansas while dealing with a high-ankle sprain the previous week at Tennessee. The Razorback game highlights some trends displayed throughout his career, and one outlier. His pinpoint underneath-to-intermediate level accuracy, questionable accuracy beyond 30 yards, love-interest with the Crossing Route, lingering concerns when defended by a Cover 3 scheme, and working from an extremely safe pocket. After making multiple extremely inaccurate deep throws earlier in the game, the outlier is provided when Jones connects with Jerry Juedy on one of the only 40-or-more yard completions of his career (1:25:16).
The freely available footage for the Mississippi State game skips too many of Jones’ most important plays. You’ll also be spared from viewing Tagovailoa’s injury. Absolutely nothing of value was provided by the Western Carolina cakewalk the following week — a game that allowed Jones’ to complete the second-longest throw of his career (44 yards). But the final two games of the ‘19 season are simply must-view properties toward Jones’ evaluation. Auburn put more pressure on Jones, and at triple the rate while blitzing than he would see the rest of his career. We simply see a different player, making a laundry list of eye-opening mistakes. We even see him scramble for positive yardage on a couple plays. However, at the conclusion to the 3:34 run, he proves how far out of his depth he’s ventured when he takes an eye-squinting hit from Safety Daniel Thomas rather than just stepping out of bounds.
Wish I could show several other important plays missing from the compacted footage, but we do get the play at 7:55. Jones still has plenty to prove facing the Cover 3 scheme. But he has enough on the Cover 2 fronts he’s gone against that we can refer to it as his coverage kryptonite. On the play, he simply fails to read how closely the FS responsible for the field-side is watching Juedy. An overthrow seals his fate on the pick-six by Smoke Monday. Jones’ immobility is showcased at 15:43, where EDGE Big Kat Bryant has zero trouble slamming him to the ground. The Play Action Bootleg design calls for Jones to sprint to the flat to deliver the ball to Najee Harris. Jones ends up making the exact same decision continuing with this throw during the hit that has been used by Justin Fields’ detractors/smoke-screeners. The result is a second pick-six to the benefit of LB Zakoby McClain.
Any questions surrounding Jones’ toughness can be eliminated by the play at 1:04:33 in the Citrus Bowl facing Michigan. Attempting to escape LB Josh Uche after running over RG Deonte Brown, Jones’ angle places him directly into the path of 6-foot-6, 278-pound DT Aidan Hutchinson. While Hutchinson is flagged on the high hit, the 15-yard penalty did nothing for the shattered molar tooth suffered by Jones from the faceplant into the ground. Michigan calls a timeout after the play to avoid another penalty. Alabama coaches use the opportunity to try to convince Jones to come off the field. He refuses. As a whole, his performance in the game fell well short of his best showing. But the simple fact that he played most of the game with his mouth gushing blood certainly earns my respect.
Redshirt Junior Season (2020)
W4 at Missouri | W5 vs. Texas A&M | W6 at Ole Miss | W7 vs. Georgia | W8 at Tennessee | W9 vs. Mississippi State | W12 vs. Kentucky | W13 vs. Auburn | W14 at LSU | W15 at Arkansas | SEC Championship vs. Florida | CFP Semifinals vs. Notre Dame | CFP Championship vs. Ohio State
Jones put enough on tape during the ‘19 season for lofty expectations coming into the season. Both Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith returned to school, and the O-line would return sans Jedrick Wills Jr.. With talent oozing across their annual roster, Bama is always playing in next-man-up territory. Evan Neal shifted from LG to fill Will's absence at RT. One of the top OGs from the 2018 recruiting class, Emil Ekiyor Jr. broke out for an excellent season at RG. The Crimson Tide unit would collect the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s top O-line following the season. To be clear, attempting to detail all of the highs-and-lows from Jones’ season would take multiple days. With less than a week until the draft, my time is better spent providing as many profiles as possible considering the time required to view the film.
The approach I’ll use is pointing you in the right direction toward the games where you can find the most revealing footage on Jones. You definitely want to check out the Missouri game (Week 4) just to watch one play (17:34). Jones hits Waddle for the longest throw of his career, both in distance of throw (49 air yards), and from scrimmage (41 yards). Jones put together the most throws in impressiveness and number in the Texas A&M (Week 5), Mississippi State (Week 9), Auburn (Week 13), and LSU (Week 14) games. You can also find a trio of coverage busts — unrelated to the tosses mentioned impressing me — in the Mississippi State, Auburn, and LSU games. Auburn discovered the massive improvements Jones made from the previous season working against Man coverages. We see the good from Jones facing the Cover 4 scheme in the Georgia game (Week 7). The bad Jones working against a Cover 4 which also led to a tie for his most mistakes are found in the Mississippi State game. Both games (Georgia and Mississippi State) saw the most pressure applied on Jones.
Since the Mississippi State game also offers you the Crossing Route-bonanza from Jones, I highly recommend checking it out. The FCS Championship against Ohio State challenged him with his most Cover 3 dropbacks, leading to several mistakes. Why the Buckeyes didn’t throw more Cover 3 shells at Jones is beyond me. Arkansas (Week 15) unveiled a collection of snaps using the Cover 3-Cloud scheme that is growing in popularity, mostly seen in the Big 12 in the past. It forced Jones to make his most read adjustments of the season. Finally, Florida definitely did their homework on Jones, throwing more Cover 2 shells at him than he saw all season. If the Gators actually had a secondary as talented as their pass rush — which generated solid pressure on Jone — UF may have taken that shootout.
It’s my belief that we’ll see five QBs selected in the first six picks. Cincinnati will obviously be the team to buck that trend. Speaking of, why have we heard nothing related to the Bengals looking to trade back a pick or two? It’s entirely understandable that they are eyeing either LT Penei Sewell, TE Kyle Pitts, or WR Ja’Marr Chase. The lack of public chatter does tell us two things:
- With all signs pointing to Atlanta staying put at 1.04, the Falcons will be selecting a QB.
- And that’s precisely the reason that Miami has yet to complete a deal for the 6th pick since, were a team to move up to 1.06, another (i.e., Detroit, Carolina, Denver) could throw draft capital — including their top-10 pick — at Cincinnati to collect the last of the top QB prospects.
Jones possesses an interesting collection of talents to push himself toward becoming a top-15 NFL QB. But he lacks the athleticism usually expected of a top-15 selection. However, the dearth of NFL talent at QB is driving up the price on the signal callers. We may even see one-or-both of Kellen Mond and Davis Mills selected at the end of the first.
After watching all of his film, I can certainly see why Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers are considering Jones at 1.03. Shanahan even made some comments along the lines of preferring to use a less athletic QB in order to throw defenses off when running Play Action Bootlegs. If Shanahan is looking to acquire an accurate QB with the below-average athleticism of Derek Carr, Jones is the guy. Marrying Jones to San Francisco would certainly allow Mac the opportunity to draw upon some of the Delaware Wing-T traits Alabama attempted to wean out of him. And his deep-decificent arm strength would certainly be a boon to Deebo Samuel’s skillset.
My preferred landing spot for Jones would be in Denver or New England. He’d certainly be a stark contrast to the strong-armed, inaccurate nature of Drew Lock with the Broncos. The Patriots put, in my opinion, the worst offense in the NFL on the field last season without Tom Brady. Were they to acquire Jones, the effect it would have on the blood pressure of OC Josh McDaniels would make the partnership worthwhile. The route profile from Jones’ career is nearly identical to that of McDaniels’ offense from 2019. And, should the Pats trade up to select a QB, the NFL reputation of HC Bill Belichick will be the only guaranteed to remain intact, independent of the results. Five QBs will be selected in the first 10 picks, you can take it to the bank that less than five of those QBs will be considered a hit after a few years.
The Bottom Line
From my count, Jones threw nearly 45% of TDs on less than 30% of dropbacks when the opposing defense rushed more than four defenders last season. As impressive as that may seem, those numbers are extremely deceiving. His O-line only allowed 25% of Jones’ dropbacks to be pressured when defenses rushed more than four defenders. Let’s compare that number to the other top QBs in this draft class: Trey Lance (28%), Zach Wilson (29%), Trevor Lawrence (36%), and Justin Fields (41%). Jones wound up being sacked on 2% of career dropbacks: Lance (4%), Wilson (6%), Lawrence (4%), and Fields (8%). Jones was only forced off his spot on 5% of career dropbacks: Lance (2%), Wilson (11%), Lawrence (9%), and Fields (17%).
What does all of this information even tell us? Does it say Jones is a bad QB, playing with an elite O-line? Certainly not. We are left with the knowledge that, when provided with a clean pocket, Jones is likely the most efficient QB in this class. It also tells us that we have no idea how Jones, Lance, or Wilson will fare going up against the blitz at the next level. NFL defenses rushed greater than four defenders on around a third of QB dropbacks last season. Defenders were able to pressure the QB on around 40%. That equates to a massive 38% increase in pressure provided by the blitz over Jones’ cozy pocket provided by his Tide O-line.
When NFL QBs were provided with a clean pocket last season, they completed 74% of attempts — nearly equal to Jones’ 76.6% FBS record, and earned a 104.5 passer rating. When defenders got home to force QBs off their spots, that tasty completion percentage plummeted by 40%, and passer rating by 43%. Jones attempted a total of four passes the entire ‘20 season when forced from the pocket. And his completion percentage fell by 30% when under pressure. We should expect QB numbers to fall when under pressure. The takeaway is we can also expect massive regression from Jones in the NFL. The defensive level from SEC teams that we’ve come to expect fell well short last season. Jones was provided with an additional 0.87 yards/coverage snap over the 5.77 provided by Big Ten defenses to Fields.
The most complete QBs in this draft class are Lawrence, Fields, and Wilson. While we still don’t have an idea of Wilson’s ability to handle NFL defensive pressure, his big arm will instantly place him alongside Lawrence and Fields into the upper-echelon of NFL QB arm strength. If Lance is able to overcome considerable accuracy issues, he packs along more than enough athleticism to get mew excited over his fantasy potential. But both Wilson and Lance are also facing stacked odds if they intend to continue running toward defensive contact when using their legs.
Mac Jones is in an entirely different category among this QB class. And it goes so far against the grain that he’s even being discussed among the other four. It would be interesting to see if Jones would still be considered inside the top-20 had Alabama not collected the title last season. Judging by Shanahan’s comments, he can be successful with any QB leading his team. I want the 49ers to draft Jones at 1.03 just to see how he intends to make this work.
The perception of a QBs value is a fleeting experience. One day you’re the cornerstone of the franchise, the next you’re being traded for a bag of balls. I’ve viewed the footage from both of Jones’ Pro Days — you can watch the second here — multiple times. And I am not even slightly impressed. Check out the horrible throws made at 3:13, 6:28, 17:52, and 18:29 in the first workout. In the second, you can see DeVonta Smith slow down early in his deep routes in order to make Jones’ throws look to be in-stride. No thank you! Unless I am playing in the very deepest of Dynasty leagues or Superflex formats, I am avoiding Jones outright. Let the other teams in your league deal with that cement-footed headache.