Mac Jones To Patriots? Mel Kiper Jr. Explains NFL Mock Draft Prediction

New England owns the 15th overall pick in Round 1


Mar 24, 2021

Mel Kiper Jr. projected in his latest mock draft, published Tuesday on, that the New England Patriots will select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

This prediction, which comes on the heels of New England re-signing quarterback Cam Newton and spending big in free agency, is a change from Kiper’s mock draft 2.0. Previously, the ESPN NFL draft guru projected the Patriots would trade up to No. 9 to select North Dakota State QB Trey Lance.

Nevertheless, Kiper believes the Patriots will target a quarterback in the first round. And Jones is the pick right now, based largely on Kiper’s projection that the Carolina Panthers will trade up to No. 3 overall (in a deal with the Miami Dolphins) to select Ohio State QB Justin Fields.

Kiper has four quarterbacks coming off the board to begin the draft: Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets at No. 2, Fields to the Panthers at No. 3 and Lance to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4.

“Think about it, you had Carolina at (No. 8). Matt Rhule had Mac Jones at the Senior Bowl practices, where he was exceptional, right? So you’re thinking if Carolina’s stuck at (No. 8), they would look at Mac Jones,” Kiper explained on Tuesday’s episode of “Get Up” on ESPN. “New England at (No. 15) is that Bill Belichick-Nick Saban connection and obviously looking at a quarterback to maybe get back to the Tom Brady days, OK? He gives you that type of quarterback, which is what Mac Jones is — in terms of his style and how he goes about his business as a pocket passer. So, once Carolina in my mock 3.0 was moving up to get Justin Fields, Mac Jones’ next opportunity to come off the board for me would be New England at (No. 15).”

Kiper predicted last month, in his mock draft 2.0, that Jones would land with the Panthers at No. 8. As he explained, however, the landscape could change with trades, and Jones lasting until the Patriots at No. 15 shouldn’t be viewed as an indictment of the quarterback’s skills.

“He’s not falling. He’s not dropping,” Kiper said of Jones. “It was just because of Carolina at (No. 8) making the move to get Fields. Then who’s the next team to take a quarterback without going crazy with trades? It would be New England, maybe the (San Francisco) 49ers.”

So, what does Kiper have to say to those skeptical of Jones’ potential?

After all, Jones was surrounded by exceptional talent at Alabama, including reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, and he lacks the mobility of some other highly touted quarterbacks.

“To the point about Mac Jones and his limitations, he’s not (2020 No. 1 pick) Joe Burrow. Joe Burrow beat Alabama with his legs. He beat a lot of teams running the football. That’s not Mac Jones,” Kiper said. “Mac Jones is a pocket guy, he’s got great pocket awareness and he can slip, slide, dip and all that, but that’s not what he’s gonna do. He’s not gonna be Joe Burrow.

“Now, you think about Mac Jones, where was he back in August? He was a late-round pick. Now, he’s the 15th pick. That’s a pretty heck of a jump. So to act like he’s falling or there’s questions, yeah, everybody’s not gonna love all these quarterbacks. It’s just there’s a team that’s picking at that point I feel that needs to take a quarterback, number one, and like that quarterback enough to take him at that spot, number two. In this case, I think middle of the first round is where Mac Jones will fall.”

The Patriots have Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala on their quarterback depth chart beyond Newton.

Maybe they’ll acquire another QB via free agency or trade — the Jimmy Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson rumors continue to swirl, of course — or maybe the draft is part of Bill Belichick’s overall master plan.

Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images
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