Analytics suggest Alabama QB Mac Jones is a legitimate early-round 2021 draft prospect

October 15, 2020

When the 2020 college football season began, few NFL draft analysts had Alabama quarterback Mac Jones circled as a potential early-round prospect. Sure, his performance in relief of Tua Tagovailoa in 2019 was promising, but his upside appeared limited to that of a quality college quarterback and fringe NFL prospect.

That narrative is beginning to shift now that the calendar’s flipped to mid-October. Jones has been one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country so far this season, and the analytics support his case to be considered among the top prospects at the position in the 2021 draft.

Check out this nugget from Pro Football Focus, which has Jones graded as the top quarterback in the SEC entering this weekend’s games.

Jones has posted the three best PFF grades of his career to kick off the season, resulting in a 93.6 PFF grade for the season. That mark is the best among Power 5 quarterbacks — even higher than Trevor Lawrence. He has displayed pristine ball placement and thrown 82.4% of his passes accurately, 22.5 percentage points higher than the next-best SEC quarterback. No one has had more open throws created in the conference than Jones (69% of passes have been to an open receiver, highest in SEC by five percentage points), but even on the few throws he’s made into a small window he has been pinpoint. With this version Jones at the helm, Alabama will be in contention with teams like Clemson and Ohio State.

Jones (6-3, 214) is completing an incredible 79.5% of his passes this season and has thrown for more than 400 yards in two of his three games. He’s tossed eight touchdowns to just one interception, too.

Granted, Jones is benefitting from throwing to two first-round talents in Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, but so did Tagovailoa. It didn’t stop the Dolphins from taking him fifth overall.

This isn’t to say Jones will be a top-10 pick or even a first-rounder this year. In fact, he might opt to return to Alabama for another season and instead wait until the 2022 draft, when he won’t compete with the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance at the top of the quarterback rankings.

It’s unlikely Jones will continue at his current pace for the rest of the season, but it’s fun to have another quarterback slowly enter the early-round conversation as the 2020 marches on.

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