2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Mac Jones (Fantasy Football)
As the calendar turns to late February and gets ready to flip to March, it appears we already have a consensus top three QBs in the 2021 rookie class: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson. While there likely isn’t going to be too much change in those QB rankings (in whatever order you prefer), one thing remains clear: there’s a fourth QB in this class that no one is talking about. His name is Mac Jones, the QB out of Alabama. Let’s dive into Jones’ college production profile, his tape and then project what to expect in fantasy football.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
|Games||Completions||Attempts||Completion %||Passing Yards||Yards/Attempt||Pass TD||Int|
The analytics community isn’t going to like Mac Jones production profile. Why? He started just one season in Tuscaloosa as a redshirt junior in 2020. In reality, however, Jones started about a season and a half after he took over for Tua Tagovailoa in 2019 after Tua suffered that devastating hip injury, which essentially ended his college career. When analyzing Jones’ profile, it’s not difficult to see that he truly did have a remarkable final college season in 2020, setting career highs in every statistical category, but just how good was Jones’ final season? He became the first QB in Alabama history to win the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top QB each year, and in 2020, he won it ahead of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Kyle Trask. Jones also finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
When looking at Jones’ production profile, one thing is clear – Jones knows how to take care of the football. He threw a total of seven interceptions in his college career while completing over 74% of his passes throughout his career while playing in the SEC, college football’s premier conference. He also racked up a ton of yardage and found his pass catchers in the end zone over and over again last season. Jones’ 4,500 passing yards led college football, and his 41 passing TD were the second most in the country, behind only Kyle Trask. And while these numbers are glowing, it’s important to add some context to Jones’ magical 2020 season.
Alabama’s offense in 2020 was historic. They scored 630 total points across 13 games, good for an average of 48.5 points per game. Most college football fans would tell you the 2019 LSU Tigers offense was arguably the best in college football history, led by now Bengals QB Joe Burrow. That season, the Tigers averaged 48.4 points per game, making them the highest-scoring offensive unit in college football history. Well, now that honor belongs to the Crimson Tide and Mac Jones. This isn’t to take anything away from what Jones accomplished last year. Rather, it’s important to add context to his profile given how limited it is. After all, Jones had to sit behind future NFL QBs, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Was Jones final season propped up by insane efficiency? Was it an outlier season? Given the small sample size, we may never know, but it’s certainly a fair question for a QB with a limited profile. Even so, what Jones showed on the field in 2020 was elite.
|Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash (HS)||247 Sports|
|6’3″||214 lbs.||4.91 sec||3-star recruit|
For a QB like Mac Jones, I’m not sure the athletic testing really matters all that much. As we’ll discuss when reviewing his college tape, Jones is a pure pocket passer who wins with accuracy. As a result, probably the most important measurable for Jones is his height and weight combination so that he can see over his offensive lineman to scan the field. At 6’3″, Jones should have no issue in this aspect of the game. Other notable QBs who are 6’3″ and playing in the NFL currently include Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford and those guys are pretty darn good pocket passers.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like Jones isn’t a good athlete. His 84.45 SPARQ score as a senior in high school ranked in the top half of his recruiting class at the QB. He’ll certainly need to be athletic enough to navigate the pocket with awareness, but Jones doesn’t have the athletic profile of a Justin Fields to be able to create chunk yardage with his legs. After all, Jones ran for a total of 42 yards in three seasons. In order for Jones to contribute to fantasy football rosters, he’ll have to do it with his arm. Before we break down Jones’ fantasy outlook, let’s dive into his college tape.
What’s On Tape
Games Viewed: Michigan (2019), LSU (2020), Florida (2020), Georgia (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Ohio State (2020)
1. Mac Jones knows when to pull the trigger. His timing and anticipation is top notch.
Thanks to his college production profile, we’ve already established that Mac Jones is an extremely accurate passer of the football, and one major reason why is his timing and anticipation on throws. Rarely was he late with the football, often throwing his receivers open in man coverage and knowing when to pull the trigger when his receiver sits down in zone coverage. In this clip below, for example, Jones identifies his receiver in man coverage and understands he has inside leverage on the corner. Jones sets his feet and throws an accurate ball just before his receiver is out of his break.
2. Jones’ underneath accuracy is arguably the best in the class.
It’s not really all that arguable. According to PFF, who grades QB stats based on depth of target, Jones was the most accurate passer in the country on throws 10 or less yards away from the line of scrimmage. Look, I get it. A nine yard completion isn’t all that exciting, but it’s going to help Jones pile up easy throws in the NFL and keep the chains moving, something that should help keep his NFL coaches very happy. While this is certainly Jones’ strongest point of accuracy, it’s not like he can’t push the ball down the field. He completed 67% of his throws 10+ yards down the field, including a 59% completion rate on throws 20+ yards down the field.
3. Jones has excellent pocket presence, demonstrating an ability to navigate the pocket in the face of pressure, set his feet and throw.
This clip below is a perfect example of Jones’ awareness in the pocket. He senses the pass rush coming from his blind side, calmly slides to the right, steps up, and delivers an accurate football to his receiver just before taking a hit. Given that Jones projects as a pure pocket passer in the NFL where coverages and blitz packages are more complex, he’ll need to continue to grow in this facet of the game in order to avoid taking unwarranted sacks. He’s certainly not going to be the type of QB who can tuck it and run in the face of danger, so his footwork in the pocket will be key for Jones in the NFL.
What’s Not On Tape
1. Jones showed inconsistency in arm strength on sideline throws.
One thing you’ll hear across the NFL Draft community is that Mac Jones may lack elite top tier arm strength. While he was an effective passer on deep passes down the field, one thing that is missing from Jones’ tape is the ability to consistently fire a dart to the sideline when his receiver runs an out route or a comeback. Not surprisingly, this was most evident when the ball was spotted at the far hash and Jones was throwing to the opposite side of the field.
2. Jones rarely had to take a snap from under center.
I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of snaps Jones took from under center in the six games I watched. The Alabama system operated primarily out of shotgun and the pistol formation. While it’s not a knock on Jones’ game by an means, it’s at least worth pointing out that’s it’s missing from his tape. After all, Justin Herbert barely took any snaps from under center at Oregon, and it looks like he turned out okay.
Fantasy Football Outlook
Jones appears to be forgotten man in the 2021 rookie class as far as the QB position goes. According to current ADP, Jones looks like he’s going in the middle of the 2nd round of rookie drafts in superflex formats. In single QB formats, Jones is likely to go in the 3rd round, making him one of my favorite draft values in dynasty formats. According to mock drafts around the industry, Jones is likely to get 1st round NFL Draft capital, suggesting an NFL franchise will give him every opportunity to earn the starting job moving forward.
However, in 2021, it’s unclear if Jones will earn a starting role out of the gate as he’s likely not going to be a top-5 overall selection in April’s draft the way a Trevor Lawrence or a Zach Wilson will be. I could see a scenario where Jones is drafted to a team with a veteran starter to sit for a year or two before taking over the lead role. Because of this, Jones profiles as a QB who may not be on our redraft radar for this season, but that doesn’t mean isn’t a great value in dynasty formats as we could see Jones develop into a reliable pocket passer at the next level.