Silly Season — aka Lying Season aka Draft Season — is upon us.
And to commemorate the annual occasion, CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson uncorked what could only, politely, be characterized as the most ... unique 2021 mock draft yet to surface on the interwebz.
How silly? Mac-Jones-With-The-Ninth-Overall-Pick silly.
"This all comes down to how the front office feels about Drew Lock, who has struggled with consistency during his two years in the NFL," Wilson wrote in an attempt to justify his stunning first-round projection for the Denver Broncos. "Jones doesn't have Lock's arm strength or athleticism, but he does everything else really, really well. If he impresses at the Senior Bowl this week his stock will only improve."
To be clear, in this simulation, the Broncos pass on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, inarguably a better prospect than Jones, as well as multiple blue-chip defenders, including Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye, and Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Wilson, as is relevant to Denver's interests, has Penn State LB Micah Parsons (No. 3 overall), Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell (No. 4), North Dakota State QB Trey Lance (No. 7), and Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley (No. 8) all coming off the board before rookie general manager George Paton goes on the clock.
Emphasis on "unique."
By most accounts, Jones is a fringe Day 1 prospect who wins with his smarts, ball placement, and plus pocket presence. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds he's built similarly to current Broncos QB Drew Lock (6-4, 227), though Jones' arm is noticeably weaker. A three-year contributor to the Crimson Tide, he completed 413 of 556 passes (74.3%) for 6,126 yards, 56 touchdowns and just seven interceptions across 30 career games.
Jones busted onto the national scene in 2020, his junior campaign, throwing for 4,500 yards, 41 TDs and four INTs, leading the program to a National Championship and finishing third in Heisman voting. He was nearly flawless during the title game victory over the Buckeyes: 36-of-45, 464 yards, five TDs, zero INTs.
"It’s important not to scout the helmet; every passer is different. But it is a known fact that sometimes, talent at a school can disguise a quarterback’s shortcomings. Jones might not be the best example, as he does have some redeeming traits. His problems are exacerbated by added pressure in the NFL. Thus, Mac Jones’ NFL Draft projection becomes a little more complicated," Pro Football Network's Ian Cumming wrote of Jones in his scouting report.
"For now, I see Jones as a solid mid-round quarterback, who will probably end up being a Day 2 pick. With that being said, I could see an NFL team convincing themselves to pick him late in round 1, and if he keeps up his current trajectory, more teams will be comfortable banking on his high floor. But Jones’ athletic limitations and off-script inconsistencies collectively cap his upside, and he’ll never challenge the top four quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft."
For what it's worth, longtime team insider Woody Paige predicted in December that the Broncos would nab Jones, and Jones has done well to boost his trendy stock with solid showings amid this week's Senior Bowl practices.
However, it's unlikely that Denver burns its top draft selection on a signal-caller and even unlikelier that Jones is taken ahead of some of his other counterparts — namely Fields.
But, hey, crazier things have happened.