New England Patriots: Mac Jones proves he’s at the top of his QB class

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots moved into an early three way tie a top the AFC East after winning their first game of the season against the New York Jets yesterday. While they currently sit in third due to the Buffalo Bills having the best divisional record, and the Miami Dolphins currently owning the tiebreaker after beating the Pats in Week 1, the season is still young, and there’s a lot of football left to be played.

Yesterday was also Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones‘ first career NFL victory. While Jones may not be one to rest on his accomplishments, crossing that off his checklist is certainly a big first step in his development process. In fact, Jones is the first quarterback from his draft class to pick up a win, which is another huge accomplishment.

It may not seem like it, but when you consider that Jones was the fifth quarterback taken when the New England Patriots made him the 15th overall pick, it makes the feat much more impressive. Four quarterbacks were taken ahead of Jones, and none of them have won a game yet.

(Depending on how you look at it, Justin Fields did fill in for an injured Andy Dalton to help the Chicago Bears win, but he didn’t start and didn’t do much during his time on the field, so it doesn’t count here.)

Despite being billed as the San Francisco 49ers pick at number three for most of the predraft process, Jones was overlooked for the most part. He doesn’t have the potentially game changing physical traits that Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson have. He also isn’t the dual-threat quarterback that Trey Lance or Justin Fields is.

But Jones is an elite pocket passer who has a great feel for the game, and he’s outperformed the four other quarterbacks that were drafted ahead of him in the 2021 NFL Draft. He may not be the most exciting player to watch at times (yesterday’s game certainly was a drag at times), but he consistently does what his team needs him to do to put them in position to win. It may be just two games, but it’s clear Jones is a step ahead of the rest of his quarterback class.

How Mac Jones of the New England Patriots has stood out among a crowded rookie quarterback class

Of the five quarterbacks that were projected to be first round picks, Jones was argued to be the most NFL ready of the bunch. Through the first two games, a combination of his success, and lack of success from the other quarterbacks, has made that bold prediction come true.

Let’s first take a look at how Jones has done. Through two games he’s managed to complete 51 of his 69 pass attempts for 467 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t numbers that are going to jump off the stat sheet, but considering they came from his first two games at the NFL level, they are quite impressive.

Jones has been as advertised so far. His decision-making and accuracy have stood out so far, and he has kept his mistakes to a minimum. In both games, he put the New England Patriots in position to win, and while they ultimately only ended up winning one of those games, they probably deserved to win both.

Nonetheless, Jones record through two games sits at 1-1, which is better than the four other quarterbacks drafted ahead of him. Looking at the numbers from those four quarterbacks only proves how far ahead of his peers Jones is.

We will start by acknowledging Trey Lance, who the 49ers traded up to get, only to have him sit behind Jimmy Garappolo to start the season. Lance was used as a gadget-type player in Week 1, and actually completed his only pass for a touchdown. But he didn’t register a snap for San Fran in Week 2, so by virtue of him not getting much action, Jones has done better than Lance.

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The other quarterback that has been used sparingly is Fields in Chicago. He was similarly used as a gadget player in Week 1 for the Bears, and ended up picking up a rushing touchdown in their loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Fields was pressed into action yesterday afternoon when Chicago’s starter, Andy Dalton was forced out with injury.

While Chicago won, it wasn’t because of Fields. Playing nearly three quarters, Fields posted a pedestrian statline, completing just six of his 13 passes for 60 yards and an interception, while also running 10 times for 31 yards. Dalton led Chicago’s only offensive touchdown drive, and Fields benefitted from a pick six to help build up a 17 point lead that he was barely able to hold onto.

Fields was certainly unimpressive in his first real action, and depending on whether Dalton is forced to miss time, we may see just how big the gap between Jones and Fields is. Fields offers more as a runner, but he struggled to complete passes yesterday. It’s not for a lack of weapons though, as Chicago’s offense features top talent with guys like Allen Robinson and David Montgomery running alongside him.

The two other quarterbacks drafted ahead of Jones were also immediately given the starting job, but have failed to pick up their first wins yet. New England Patriots fans got a firsthand look at Jets quarterback Zach Wilson yesterday, and he sure looked like a prime Jets quarterback with the amount of picks he threw throughout the game.

Wilson ended up getting picked off four times by New England’s defense, leading to an ugly day for the BYU product. Wilson’s first two passes went to players in blue rather than white, although in fairness, both were catchable balls that his receivers tipped right to New England Patriots players.

His second picks showed how inexperienced Wilson is. He underthrew a pass intended for Corey Davis right into the hands of J.C. Jackson, and ended up turning a drive that should have resulted in at least three points into none. Wilson’s fourth was a pass that would have been accurate had it been intended for Devin McCourty, and it may very well have been considering there wasn’t a Jets player anywhere near the ball.

Wilson has the physical traits to become a really good quarterback, but they need to be honed in before he gets there. A canon of an arm is nice, but it means nothing if you can’t hit guys on your own team. Wilson was solid in his rookie debut in Week 1 (20/37, 258 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT) but yesterday showed how much more poised Jones is than his counterpart on New York.

That brings us to the number one overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence was considered to be a surefire stud right out of college, and there was never any doubt the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to select the former Clemson prodigy first overall.

Yet through two games so far, Lawrence has yet to look the part. He has certainly been given the opportunity to air the ball out, but he’s failed to beat a couple of mid-tier teams at best in the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos through his first two games.

Lawrence started of his NFL career with an up-and-down performance against the Texans. He finished 28/51 with 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions that would end up killing Jacksonville.

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Where there were some positives against Houston, there weren’t many yesterday against Denver. Lawrence only managed to complete 14 of his 33 passes (just a completion percentage of 42) while throwing a touchdown and two picks. Coincidentally, both Lawrence and Wilson are tied a top the league in interceptions right now.

It’s still early, and things can always change, but it’s clear that as of right now, Jones is a step ahead of the rest of his quarterback class. While there wasn’t as much hype for Jones as the other quarterbacks drafted ahead of him, it’s clear he’s got what it takes to succeed in this league. It’s still very early, but the New England Patriots might have ended up with the best quarterback in the draft at the 15th overall pick.