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Mac to the future

2021-DraftArticle-PDC2

The wait for the quarterback of the future has come to an end. Now we'll have to wait to see if the new guy is worthy of such a label.

The Patriots sat tight at 15 and were able to select Alabama's Mac Jones, and without having to sacrifice any additional picks were able to finally begin the arduous process of replacing Tom Brady with a guy they hope will be The Guy going forward.

The pick came as a mild surprise, mostly because a lot of pre-draft hype had Jones going to San Francisco with the third overall pick. When the Niners chose North Dakota State's Trey Lance at 3, it set the stage for the Patriots to be in position to select a quarterback.

The two candidates were Jones and Ohio State's Justin Fields, and Bill Belichick had a decision to make. The first set of minefields were at picks 7-9 where Detroit, Carolina and Denver stood, respectively. All three were possibilities in the quarterback market, but all three also already acquired veterans so they decided to pass. That left another group that included Dallas, the Giants, Philadelphia, the Chargers and Minnesota at spots 10-15. No one in that group figured to take a passer either, but all represented prime trading partners for those behind New England.

That turned out to be the case as Chicago moved to 11 and grabbed Fields. The Bears coughed up a fifth-round pick plus a first- and fourth-rounder in 2022 to slide up from No. 20. Presumably it would have cost the Patriots less than that to move just four spots from 15 to 11, but we'll never know if that was in the cards.

Instead, Belichick opted for one of his close friend Nick Saban's proteges in Jones.

'I talked to Coach Saban and every year they always have a lot of players in the draft," Belichick "Coach Saban is always very helpful in his evaluations. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him professionally but also personally. He does a good job of projecting what they'll be like on this level because he's been on this level and he knows the demands. Whether it's evaluating players, scheming or anything related to football there's no one I'd rather talk to then Nick."

Jones opened the pre-draft process as a potential second-round pick but quickly rocketed up the board with a strong postseason showing – both in the playoffs where he led the Crimson Tide to the national title and at the Senior Bowl and his Pro Days. Soon he was projected in the first round, and many felt he would go as high as third to the Niners.

When that didn't happen the path was there for the Patriots to grab him. On the surface, it's easy to see what Belichick and Josh McDaniels liked. He showed great poise and decision making at Alabama, where he took full advantage of a bevy of top-rated talent at his disposal.

Wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith both went ahead of Jones after being on the receiving end of many of his accurate throws. How accurate? Try a 77 percent completion rate, which even at the collegiate level is an eye-popping number.

Jones consistently gets rid of the ball quickly and manages to put it in spots where his playmakers can do their thing. The results were a virtually unstoppable offense at Alabama with Jones deftly running the show.

While there's no doubt Jones will be the Patriots quarterback someday, it's unknown whether that day will come in 2021. Cam Newton remains the de facto starter while Jarrett Stidham also returns as the backup. There are also lingering rumors tying Jimmy Garoppolo back to the Patriots as San Francisco weighs its options moving forward, and it's possible more competition could still be addled, although adding a first-round quarterback may put an end to that.

Jones joked about joining the pair of Auburn alums, but stated several times how he planned to do what he could to help out in the quarterback room.

Jones told reporters he was secretly hoping New England would be his next home, and Belichick explained that until someone plays better than Newton he will remain the starter. Jones wasn't interested in looking that far ahead, but spoke glowingly of the organization as a whole.

"Honestly, New England's just a great place," Jones said. "In watching them the past years, they do everything right. It's all about the team. That's kind of what I grew up knowing is being a good teammate and then obviously winning. It comes down to winning football games and New England's done that."

Someday the job of continuing that winning will fall on his shoulders.

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