A few months ago, I compared quarterback Mac Jones to the vanilla ice cream sold at the UConn Dairy Bar.
Very simply put, Mac Jones is the equivalent of the vanilla ice cream that's sold at the Dairy Bar at UConn.
UConn makes fresh ice cream thanks to the cows on campus, and their vanilla ice cream is incredible on its own. But the inevitable truth is that the ice cream needs toppings to truly venture into elite status. Vanilla ice cream can turn into anything from cookie dough to Oreo to husky tracks, and all of those are subjectively better than plain vanilla -- but the plain vanilla is still pretty good.
On his own, Mac Jones may raise the floor of a team, but he won't do much more. He won't single-handedly turn a struggling team into a contender, but he can certainly help a borderline contender find their way to the next level.
The analogy still remains valid, perhaps even stronger than before.
The Patriots have secured one of the highest rated college quarterbacks of all-time, per Pro Football Focus. While it's easy to attribute his production to his supporting cast (a valid opinion), his production wasn't solely due to his supporting cast.
Jones had one of the greatest college football seasons for a quarterback, finishing with the highest QB Rating (QBR) in a season among any quarterback in history (95.8). There's a lot to look forward to with Jones under center, with quite a few caveats as well.
So... Why Jones?
Jones drew comparisons to Jimmy Garoppolo throughout the draft process for his pocket passing, short accuracy, anticipation, and limited arm upside. It's impossible to ignore the similarities and at least partially attribute Bill Belichick's decision to these parallels.
More than likely, Belichick believes that Jones is a "do-over" opportunity to groom Jones into the quarterback that Belichick didn't get a chance to develop Garoppolo into. This is likely Belichick's chance to show the football world what he wanted to do with Garoppolo.
Jones drew most of his production from cerebral pocket-passing and sharp short-to-intermediate accuracy. He has a myriad of traits that can translate to the professional level, including great short touch, the ability to adjust at the line, and anticipation.
At his best, Jones can be a surgical pocket passer that can consistently put together 10+ play drives down the field -- this could certainly be good enough to win an isolated Super Bowl or maybe even two, but it's unrealistic to expect anything close to the dominance of the Tom Brady-era teams.
Jones' greatest weakness is his lack of upside. As I outlined in my scouting report, he would have to develop a Brady-like IQ to facilitate the offense at an elite level. While he may be a top-15 QB for a few years, it is unlikely he develops into a superstar at the position.
Therefore, the greatest concern with Jones is whether he can consistently duel with some of the best quarterbacking talent the league has ever seen, namely Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Additionally, Jones' deep-ball placement received a fair deal of negative attention, especially during his pro day. This is not without basis -- Jones consistently underthrew wide open receivers past 30 yards, often forcing them into tougher contested catch situations. If Jones is to develop into a true franchise quarterback, his footwork fundamentals and overall placement will definitely need to improve.
Elephant In The Room
It's worth addressing Justin Fields. New England fans, including me, were enamored with him, especially with how fast he was falling. While this pick may feel like a backup plan, recent reports say that Jones was New England’s choice all along.
While Fields may have added an additional dimension of mobility to the Patriots' offense, Belichick clearly had his reasons for preferring Jones, and at the very least, Belichick deserves the benefit of the doubt.
I am ambivalent at best about Jones.
While in a vacuum Jones isn't a bad pick, it's impossible to ignore the sheer amount of mental development he will need to be anything close to a consistently elite NFL quarterback. Luckily, it's likely that he will have a year to sit behind Cam Newton and learn more about the mental aspect of the game.
In fact, Jones is going into one of the best situations possible for a young quarterback. With one of the best offensive lines in football, a newly-improved receiving core, an elite squad of running backs, and of course the greatest head coach in the history of the sport, Jones has all the resources he needs to reach his ceiling.
The only question is if that ceiling will be enough.