He sat behind Jalen Hurts.
He sat behind Tua Tagovailoa.
Now, after leading Alabama to an undefeated season and national championship, Mac Jones has a chance to be selected before either of them during the 2021 NFL Draft.
While Tagovailoa went fifth last year to Miami, it was third fastest a Crimson Tide quarterback had been selected in a draft, behind only Harry Gilmer (No. 1 in 1948) and Joe Namath (No. 1 in the 1965 AFL draft).
Jones may top that. The San Francisco 49ers moved up to No. 3 overall, and many believe that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan did so to nab the player nicknamed "Joker."
"I’m not big on stats, but if you look at the analytics the three most important things, to me, are what’s your QBR when you’re pressured, what’s your QBR when blitzed and then what’s your QBR when throwing the ball 20-plus yards down the field," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "He’s No. 1 in all three categories.
"It matches up with what you see on tape."
He continued: "Now, he’s not as mobile as Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson or Trey Lance or Justin Fields, and that’s a knock. He has a solid arm, but he doesn’t have the arm strength that those other four guys have. So physically, he’s not bringing to the table what you get with the other four quarterbacks, but mentally and from an accuracy standpoint, he’s as good as any quarterback in this class.
"It’s gonna be interesting. Honestly, I’m fascinated to see where he goes. If he winds up in San Francisco, I think it’s a perfect spot for him. He has one of the best offensive minds in the game in Kyle Shanahan to help develop him quickly. But if he winds up going to New England at 15 or somewhere else, we’ll see how that plays out.
"I think he’s got a chance to be a really good pro.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
• Winner of the Davey O'Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Manning awards. He's the first Davey O'Brien winner most outstanding quarterback in Alabama history.
• Consensus first-team All-American (AFCA, Associated Press, The Sporting News, Walter Camp). Named second-team by the Football Writers Association of America.
• One of four Heisman Trophy finalists, and finished third behind teammate DeVonta Smith. Was also a finalist for the Maxwell and Walter Camp Player of the Year, also won by Smith.
• Named first-team All-SEC by both coaches and the Associated Press.
• Selected as the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
• Set the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage (77.4).
• Led Division I with a 201.1 passer rating, making him the NCAA passing champion for the 2020 season.
• Despite shortened season, became Alabama's all-time single-season passing yardage leader with 4,500 in 2020. Averaged 346.2 passing yards per game.
What they said ...
Zierlein, NFL.com: Jones has above-average accuracy and a season full of eye-catching production. He displayed nice improvement as he grew into the position from 2019 to 2020. His accuracy and ball placement stand out and he throws a very catchable football with consistent touch on it. He's not much of an improv player but can hurt defenses with his feet once he leaves the pocket. The tape shows too much predetermined decision-making about where he wants to go with the football rather than letting the coverage and his progressions speak to him. While the production looks great, he has clearly benefited from a wealth of riches up front, in the backfield and at wide receiver. He has a tendency to play with some panic when pressure gets after him and could struggle when things aren't optimal around him. Jones has good backup to low-end starter potential.
SI analyst Jim Mora Jr.: "I was lucky, I worked with Bill Walsh for several years in San Francisco, the quarterback guru, and he always talked about the five traits a quarterback needed to have to be successful in the NFL. I watch Mac Jones and I see all of these traits. I see guy with tremendous composure. I see a guy who can make every throw. Bill Walsh never really talked about arm strength, but he talked abut timing and accuracy. I see Mac Jones and he may not be the most mobile guy running, he may not be Patrick Mahomes or Justin Fields, but he can escape pressure in the pocket, he can create windows, he can get out on the edge and remain a threat as a passer, and he can throw with accuracy on the run and that's what Walsh was talking about with mobility."
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: "If you could cherry pick one spot for him to be really successful, it would be New Orleans. I just think he fits in. We've seen this offense function like that with quick decision making, accuracy, being the hallmarks of what we've seen with Drew over the years and those successful offenses. That to me would be a great spot for him."
Draft projection: Top 15 selection, first round.
This is the fifth in a series of Crimson Tide profiles for the 2021 NFL Draft