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Patriots' QB Mac Jones in 2022: 'Very Good' or 'Elite'?

Most experts agree the New England Patriots is poised for improvement in Year 2, but just how much?

Mac Jones is having quite an offseason.

Showed up for OTAs leaner and meaner. Grabbed more of a leadership role during minicamp. Impressed teammates with his improved arm strength and accuracy.

Even jetted off to Bermuda for a beach vacation with his bikini-clad girlfriend.

Having a solid training camp through the first week or so.

But, much more importantly, will the second-year New England Patriots quarterback be better on the field in 2022?

For the most part, Jones exceeded expectations in a rookie season in which he started all 18 games and threw for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. But to gauge how far he needs to jump in Year 2, we need to pinpoint exactly where he is heading into training camp next month.

Former Patriot Rob Ninkovich said recently that Jones was good enough to lead New England to 12 wins in 2022. Former quarterback Scott Zolak says some in Foxboro compare Jones' work ethic and preparation to the one and only, Tom Brady. On his list of best quarterbacks under age 25, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky ranks Jones ahead of the Cardinals' Kyler Murray. Pro Football Talk's Chris Simms places Jones at No. 18 in his overall ratings.

All that, of course, could be muted by the fact that Jones will no longer be under the wing of Josh McDaniels, but instead unproven offensive minds in Joe Judge and Matt Patricia.

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NBC this week revealed its quarterback "tier" rankings for 2022, placing the 32 starters into "elite", "very good", "good", "average" and "below average" categories.

Writes NBC:

The first tier of passers includes "elite" quarterbacks, who are the 2022 MVP favorites, including two surefire Hall of Famers still near the heights of their powers. There are the "very good" quarterbacks, who could in any given year be a top-five player at the position. There are the "good" quarterbacks, who if provided an average supporting cast will take a team to postseason contention. There are the "average" quarterbacks, who if provided an average supporting cast will lead a team to a record of about .500. And, finally, there are the "below average" quarterbacks, who are expected to perform at about a replacement level. 

Not surprisingly, the "elite" list included Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. "Very good" was comprised of Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford.

Which brings us to "good", and Jones.

Says NBC:

After just one year, Mac Jones already entered himself into the conversation with quarterbacks who were viewed as examples of his ceiling prior to last year's draft. He was 16th in ESPN's QBR stat last season, just behind Derek Carr (14th) and Kirk Cousins (15th). He finished as Pro Football Focus' 12th-highest graded quarterback, just behind Ryan Tannehill (ninth) and just ahead of Carr (14th).

Bottom line: It's not unrealistic to think - by season's end of Year 2 - Jones should be pushing to be a Top 10 NFL quarterback.