The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft played out perfectly for the New England Patriots, who selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at No. 15 overall without having to trade up.
But how thrilled exactly is Bill Belichick with the pick?
After all, as NFL draft expert Daniel Jeremiah wondered Wednesday on “The Pat McAfee Show,” wouldn’t the Patriots have been more aggressive if they really loved Mac Jones?
“My first thought was, ‘OK, it’s a good fit.’ He kind of matches the way they like to play,” Jeremiah said. “And then after I had time to sit back and look at it — and I’ll ask you this one — but I started thinking about it and I’m like, ‘They liked him. They didn’t love him.’ If they loved him, they would have gone up and got him.
“If you think about it, obviously the Bears love Justin Fields. They weren’t going to take the chances and rely on fate for him to fall into their lap. You look at the Chiefs went up and got (Patrick) Mahomes (in 2017). You look at Houston, they went up and got Deshaun Watson (in 2017). I think even going back — I think they maneuvered around the board — but even go back to like the Ravens with (Joe) Flacco (in 2008). You end up trying to come up the board because you love the guy. If you love a guy, you’re not going to sit back there and go, ‘Well, I hope he gets here.’ “
Maybe the Patriots were confident no team ahead of them would choose Jones, the fifth quarterback selected in Round 1 last Thursday night. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance went first, second and third overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers, respectively. But then another QB wasn’t taken until the Chicago Bears traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 to pick Justin Fields.
Or maybe the Patriots really did just settle on Jones at No. 15 because of the value, rather than actually being in love with the player. Which obviously would be an interesting way to approach finding your long-term answer at quarterback given the importance of the position.
Ultimately, Belichick’s actions — when Jones starts, for instance — will speak louder than his words in terms of his overall assessment of the rookie. Cam Newton remains New England’s starter for now.
But with Jones being the first QB picked in the first round in the Belichick era, the Patriots are about to navigate uncharted waters in 2021 and beyond. Their path could be telling.