Mel Kiper Jr. gave the New England Patriots his stamp of approval Friday.
The Patriots on Thursday night stood pat in the first round and selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This led to Kiper including New England among his Round 1 “winners” in a piece since published on ESPN.com.
Why? Well, not only does the pick represent good value for the Patriots. The ESPN NFL draft expert also believes Jones has many of the same traits that allowed Tom Brady to thrive for so long in New England.
“And so I love this fit, and Bill Belichick & Co. didn’t have to trade up to get Jones,” Kiper wrote. “Since the buzz the past few weeks has been around San Francisco’s interest in Jones, I really didn’t think he’d make it to the middle of Round 1. He’s going to compete with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham (both of whom played at rival Auburn) for the QB1 job now, and I think he has a chance to play early. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will coach him hard. Now, can the Patriots upgrade at pass-catcher on Day 2? Their next pick is No. 46.”
Three quarterbacks were selected to begin the draft: Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers. After that, another QB didn’t go until the Chicago Bears moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 to choose Ohio State star Justin Fields.
Jones was the fifth signal-caller off the board, landing with New England despite a ton of pre-draft speculation over whether Bill Belichick would need to trade up to nab his franchise quarterback of the future. And the Patriots since have received serious praise, which Kiper added to while taking stock of the first round.
Belichick said in explaining the decision to draft Jones that Cam Newton remains New England’s quarterback. We’ll see how long it takes for that to change as the Patriots look to rebound in 2021 after an underwhelming 2020 in which they posted a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs.