Make Way for Alabama Quarterback Mac Jones as a Top Pick

A look at when and where numerous draft experts believe former Alabama Crimson Tide players will be selected during the 2021 NFL Draft
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There's always a point during draft season in which the evaluators and mockers start to figure how aggressive teams will be to select quarterbacks, and where is the line is being drawn for the top tier of talent. 

Even though there was no combine, it's happening early this year, in part because there's the potential for a lot of movement at the position with trades and free agency. 

Consequently, the talk about former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is quickly changing from possibly being a first-round selection to a potential top-10 pick. 

"I think he has all the traits that you're looking for," said Sports Illustrated and FanNation analyst Jim Mora Jr. "I think that there will be those who over-analyze him because that's what we do, we over-analyze this time of the year, we're looking for the faults. But I look at the positives. I know he had a lot of weapons around him and a great offensive line. But he'll have the same thing in the NFL.

"I think he'll be tremendously successful and I cheer for guys like that."

The top tier features five quarterbacks this year, led by Trevor Lawrence. Those around the NFL would be shocked if he doesn't end up with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the top selection. 

However, there's also Zach Wilson of BYU, Justin Fields of Ohio State, Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Jones, who was the best quarterback during Senior Bowl practices.

Each is different, and will appeal more to certain coaches and general managers, depending on their schemes and personnel and what they want to get out of the position. 

Jones is hailed as a Tom Brady-esque type quarterback. He's competitive with a strong football IQ, accurate to all levels, anticipates throws and has a toughness about him even though he doesn't get hit a lot. 

"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," added Mora, a former head coach at the NFL and collegiate levels. "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."

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. feels the same way about Jones, noting that he's efficient, has good energy on the field and quickly recovers when things don't go well. 

He also likes that Jones "didn't miss a beat" when wide receiver Jaylen Waddle got hurt against Tennessee, or when Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith was sidelined during the national championship game. 

"As far as his feel, and his instincts in the pocket and all that, I think it showed really well in the Ohio State game," Kiper said during a teleconference with reporters this week. "They cut that game to a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter and he had a third down from his own 35-yard line, and he got pressured. He stepped up and moved around and got the ball to [tight end Jahleel] Billingsley for a long run after the catch ... it pretty much put the game away. 

"Mac Jones isn't going to run, he isn't going to beat you with his legs like Joe Burrow can, but he can slip and slide, and feel pressure, and move around in the pocket enough to buy time, get the ball and keep his vision down field."

In his latest mock draft, Kiper has Jones going eighth overall to Carolina, but he feels a lot stronger about when he could be drafted over where, as there are still too many variables of how things could play out. 

The Panthers have an obvious need at the position and could be in the mix to trade for a proven starter like DeShaun Watson. The other options would be to move up for Wilson or Fields, or stay put and take Jones or Lance. 

Either way, Kiper doesn't see Jones dropping out of the top 15 any more. 

"I just think that's not going to happen," he said. "The quarterbacks always get forced up higher than they probably should, but in this case I don't necessarily think they are getting forced up. That's where they're graded out to go, and where they should go."

One final thought on Jones from Mora, on an intangible trait that will resonate a lot with successful teams: "He's at his best when his best is needed."

Tracking the Mock Drafts

The 2021 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 29-May 1, and with there being no combine this year due to pandemic concerns opinions figure to vary more than usual.

BamaCentral will be keeping up with the draft experts and what they're saying about former Alabama players.

Here's a look at the Crimson Tide players who are being projected as first-round picks, plus our first look at some big boards and position rankings. Check back regularly for updates:

The Draft Bible (On FanNation) 

Ryan Roberts did this week's Mock Draft Monday and explored some trade possibilities, beginning at No. 2, that could dramatically alter the look of the first round: 

6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Eagles 

This is the back end of a deal: The Philadelphia Eagles trade their 2021 first-round pick (No. 6 overall), a 2021 third-round pick (No. 84 overall) and defensive end Derek Barnett to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 selection. Roberts has the Eagles taking Justin Fields to challenge Jalen Hurts for the starting job. 

11. DeVonta Smith, WR, Giants 

12. Patrick Surtain II, CB, 49ers

25. Christian Barmore, DL, Jaguars

Second round

34. Najee Harris, RB, Jets

52. Mac Jones, QB, Bears

Third round 

72. Alex Leatherwood, OL, Lions

79. Landon Dickerson, OL, Cardinals 

94. Dylan Moses, LB, Chiefs

NFL Draft Bible positional rankings

QB | RB | FB | WR | iWR | TE | LT | RT | OG | OC | DT | NG | 3-4 DE | 4-3 DE | 3-4 OLB | 4-3 OLB | ILB | CB | iCB | FS | SS

NFL.com

Daniel Jeremiah 2.0 (Published Feb. 16)

10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Cowboys

13. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Chargers

14. DeVonta Smith, WR, Vikings

18. Najee Harris, RB, Dolphins

28. Mac Jones, QB, Saints

31. Landon Dickerson, OL, Chiefs

Top 50

6. Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver

8. DeVonta Smith, wide receiver

14. Patrick Surtain II, cornerback

Of note: "Overall, Surtain is a very similar prospect to Marlon Humphrey when he was coming out of Alabama. I envision similar success for Surtain at the next level."

22. Najee Harris, running back

34. Mac Jones, quarterback

37. Landon Dickerson, offensive line

41. Christian Barmore, defensive line

Bucky Brooks position rankings

QB: 5. Mac Jones

RB: 1. Najee Harris

WR: 2 Jaylen Waddle, 3. DeVonta Smith

Interior blockers: 5. Landon Dickerson

DT: 2. Christian Barmore

CB: 1. Patrick Surtain

Charley Casserly Mock Draft 1.0 (Published Feb. 25)

6. DeVonta Smith, WR, Eagles 

8. Najee Harris, RB, Falcons

His explanation: "The Falcons trade back and still get their top choice -- a dynamic running back whom Arthur Smith can build his offense around. I know we rarely see running backs go this early these days, but Todd Gurley is a pending free agent and Atlanta has to have a strong running game if it's going to get back to competing for a playoff spot."

10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Cowboys

11. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Giants

25. Christian Barmore, DL, Jaguars

ESPN 

Todd McShay post-Super Bowl (Published Feb. 9)

7. DeVonta Smith, WR, Lions 

8. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins

9. Patrick Surtain, CB, Broncos

12. Mac Jones, QB, Bears 

30. Najee Harris, RB, Bills 

32. Christian Barmore, DL, Buccaneers

Top 32 (Published Feb. 19)

7. DeVonta Smith, wide receiver 

9. Patrick Surtain II, cornerback 

11. Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver

20. Najee Harris, running back 

28. Mac Jones, quarterback 

30. Christian Barmore, defensive line

Mel Kiper Jr. 2.0 (Published Feb. 25)

3. DeVonta Smith, WR, Dolphins

8. Mac Jones, QB, Panthers 

10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Cowboys

11. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Giants

24. Landon Dickerson, OL, Steelers 

25. Christian Barmore, DL, Jaguars

Position Rankings (Published Feb. 10)

QB: 4. Mac Jones

RB: 1. Najee Harris

FB/HB: 5. Carl Tucker 

G: 6. Alex Leatherwood

C: 1. Landon Dickerson 

DT: 2. Christian Barmore

ILB: 8. Dylan Moses

CB: 2. Patrick Surtain II

LS: 2. Thomas Fletcher 

2021 NFL Draft order

No., Team, Record

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-15
  2. New York Jets 2-14
  3. Miami Dolphins (via 4-12 Houston Texans)
  4. Atlanta Falcons 4-12
  5. Cincinnati Bengals 4-11-1
  6. Philadelphia Eagles 4-11-1
  7. Detroit Lions 5-11
  8. Carolina Panthers 5-11
  9. Denver Broncos 5-11
  10. Dallas Cowboys 6-10
  11. New York Giants 6-10
  12. San Francisco 49ers 6-10
  13. Los Angeles Chargers 7-9
  14. Minnesota Vikings 7-9
  15. New England Patriots 7-9
  16. Arizona Cardinals 8-8
  17. Las Vegas Raiders 8-8
  18. Miami Dolphins 10-6
  19. Washington Football Team 7-9
  20. Chicago Bears 8-8
  21. Indianapolis Colts 11-5
  22. Tennessee Titans 11-5
  23. New York Jets (via 12-4 Seattle Seahawks)
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
  25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via 10-6 Los Angeles Rams)
  26. Cleveland Browns 11-5
  27. Baltimore Ravens 11-5
  28. New Orleans Saints 12-4
  29. Green Bay Packers 13-3
  30. Buffalo Bills 13-3
  31. Kansas City Chiefs 14-2
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5

This story will be regularly updated up to the 2021 NFL Draft

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