The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a quarterback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.
Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect at the most important position in the game.
Every year there are players, for whatever reason, who see their stock sky rocket approaching the draft. Sometimes it is a great Pro Day workout, sometimes it is a blazing time at the NFL Scouting Combine, which won’t be happening this year, or maybe it is just teams are doing their homework and liking what they see.
Either way, Alabama’s Mac Jones would certainly fall into the category of player who is watching is stock rise, at just the right time.
But should his stock be rising?
During the NCAA Football season, Jones was considered a Day 2 prospect in the NFL. He is your traditional quarterback. Pocket passer, smart, limited athleticism and a good enough arm.
What I just described usually screams Day 2 pick, but for whatever reason some mock drafts, take them for what they’re worth, have Jones going as high as the Top 10. If Jones were available at pick No. 24, when the Steelers select in the first round, should they pull the trigger and take Jones, even if he is a project player?
I did some digging on Jones, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.
Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Jones. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!
Let us know your thoughts on Jones in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
After the injury to Tua Tagovailoa during the 10th game of the 2019 season, Jones was forced to enter the lineup as the starting QB moving forward. Showing positive signs during the team’s final three games, he entered 2020 as the unquestioned starter even though the program signed a highly-touted 5-star recruit to be the heir apparent. During his junior season, Jones displayed many of the traits that he demonstrated during the three-game backstretch of his sophomore campaign. A bit of a slender thrower, Jones doesn’t possess a hint of definition or muscle in his body structure. A clear leader and very smart player at the position, he understands where all options are when going through progressions. Having a clear understanding of object reads that involve run-pass options as well as multiple level progressions, he’s well seasoned with the verbiage and variety of concepts that will be required of him on the next level.
Containing average arm strength, he’s an underrated deep passer that’s able to layer the ball into adequate spots for perimeter targets. As an anticipatory thrower, he’s well above average with “about to be open” throws of where he releases the ball while estimating where targets are going to be. Balance and savvy within the pocket are top-tier traits, as he’s an excellent mover within the pocket and knows how to create windows of opportunities to release throws with a cleaner view than previously offered. Jones isn’t a passer that will make a living creating off-script plays outside of structure, but he has enough mobility to take advantage of the grass offered to him. Jones is a passer that will need the three P’s surrounding him (playmakers, play-caller, protection) at high-tier levels in order to see his full potential on a consistent basis, as he isn’t a thrower that will be able to overcome those elements being at a lower-tier level.
Ideal Role: Lower tier starting QB.
Scheme Fit: West Coast or Erhardt-Perkins offensive system—quick rhythm-based throws with periodic deep shots down the field.
- Accurate passer
- Pocket composure
- Good decision maker
- Ball placement
- Throws a very catchable ball
- Good timing
- Shows anticipation
- Quality field vision
- Able to loft in touch passes
- Natural feel; instinctive passer
- Leads receivers for more yardage after the catch
- Moves eyes through progressions
- Good internal clock
- Mastered his offense
- Hard worker
- Good character
- Good fit in a west coast offense
- Has had success against good competition
- Quality arm strength, but not elite
- Not a running threat
- Enough size but not especially big
- Limited experience; 1-year wonder
- Might only be a game manager in the NFL
Summary: Jones was thrust into the starting lineup for Alabama in 2019 after Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury, and Jones was solid in his debut. He completed 69 percent of his passes that season for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. Jones took his game to another level in 2020, showing a lot of development as the entrenched starter. In 2020, Jones completed 77 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading the Crimson Tide to another National Championship.
Jones might top out in the NFL as a backup quarterback. He has a quality arm, but does not elite arm strength and is not a running threat for the next level. Jones has ability in terms of moving his feet in the pocket, so he is not a statue, but he will not be a dual-threat quarterback in the pros.
Continuing where former Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left off, Jones exceeded most expectations throughout the 2020 season. On time and comfortable, Jones does an outstanding job staying in rhythm, excelling in short game in structure. Jones is among the most accurate quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, finding success at multiple levels of the field. He has outstanding touch, showing the ability to threaten the field vertically with notable ball placement and trajectory. Jones quieted some concerns about the physical profile, hitting virtually every size threshold for the position.
As a one-year starter for the Crimson Tide, evaluators will question his experience level with limited live reps. While Jones excels in structure, his tools are marginal and that might affect his chance to achieve a ton of upside at the position. Jones is a statue who is a middling athlete, struggling to challenge the team outside of structure when things break down. His arm strength is only average, showing almost no evidence of tight-window throws on film velocity. When confronted with heavy interior pressure, Jones has almost no ability to work out of trouble. He quickly loses his platform without the mobility to extend laterally or within the pocket. Among the biggest risers in the 2021 quarterback class, Jones has obvious limitations that make his ascension as an NFL starter cloudy. In the right situation, he could be successful to a degree, his lack of physical tools may translate more appropriately as a high-end backup/spot starter role. Even if the latter is the case, Jones has the type of consistency, accuracy and timing to appeal heavily as a part of a quarterback room.