But there’s a fifth — and very real — first-round quarterback prospect in this year’s class: Alabama’s Mac Jones.
It’s not that Jones is completely ignored in the first-round conversation. Most mock drafts have him coming off the board somewhere near the end of Round 1. But he isn’t viewed as a franchise quarterback who teams will mortgage the future on.
Then there’s former New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, who compared Jones to Saints Hall-of-Famer, Drew Brees.
“What are the two most important components of a star quarterback? They have the ‘it’ factor. And they’re accurate. That’s who [Jones] was,” Weis told ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Weis added more context to his evaluation of Jones.
“If you’re looking for a guy that’s going to be running for 30 yards on a regular basis, that’s not your guy. But he can move in the pocket, and from the pocket, and run the ball when he absolutely needs to.
“When you talk about Trevor Lawrence, what makes him so special is that he can do everything Mac Jones can and he’s athletic. [Justin] Fields, really good player. Zach Wilson, really good player. The kid from North Dakota State [Trey Lance], really good player.
“But this guy, [Jones], he’s the one making all the plays. All he does is win and throw completions.”
It’s hard to disagree with Weis’ take. Jones isn’t a sexy quarterback. He doesn’t offer a threat with his legs and he grades as a player who’s less likely to win outside of structure than any of the other guys in the big four. But as Weis noted, Jones has enough athletic ability to move within the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield to find an open target. In some ways, that skill set is just as important as having the ability to break the pocket and grab chunks of yards on the run.
In our first mock draft, we have Jones coming off the board at No. 12 overall to the 49ers. I still feel good about that pick and think it’s a realistic projection. Kyle Shannahan favors the Kirk Cousins-type of quarterback, and Jones is in that mold.
Call it a hunch, but I have a suspicion Jones’ draft stock will continue to rise over the next couple of months as teams continue doing their homework on this year’s crop of quarterbacks. His ceiling may not be as high as a guy like Lance, but he’s an easier projection. He’s the kind of quarterback who’s ready to start as a rookie, which isn’t the case for Lance or even Fields and Wilson.
As for that Jones comparison to Brees?
“[Brees] went in the second round because everyone said, ‘He doesn’t take any snaps under center and his arm is not strong enough.’ All he did was play great at Purdue, and complete almost every pass,” Weis said. “How has that worked out?”