Patriots: Should Sean Payton’s pre-draft interest in Mac Jones worry New England?
By Mike Luciano
The New England Patriots announced that, at some point, the Mac Jones era will begin, as they selected the former Alabama star and national champion with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While not a perfect prospect, Jones did have one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
He might not be the best athlete in the world, but his tremendous accuracy and production in the SEC rightly got teams interested, and Belichick thinks that his ability to deliver the ball on time anywhere on the field could kickstart another tremendous decade of Patriots football.
The Pats were far from the only team with an interest in Jones, who was at one point projected to get picked as high as No. 3 by the San Francisco 49ers. Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints reportedly made some phone calls about trading up as high as No. 16 in an effort to land him, too.
Payton loved Jones, so that should be a sign that New England landed a star, right? Well, if you take Drew Brees out of the equation, Payton isn’t the best evaluator of young quarterbacks — and actually has hardly any experience in doing so! — which could raise a red flag here.
The Patriots need to stick to the Mac Jones plan.
Cam Newton has been anointed as the starter this season, and barring Newton somehow failing to play well despite the improved talent around him, Jones will likely end up on the bottom of the depth chart. Alabama’s offense is NOTHING like what New England ran last year, and the adjustment to running an NFL quick game might be tough for Jones to swallow at first.
The Saints have drafted just three quarterbacks since Brees became the starter. While they wouldn’t have had much of an opportunity to play, the combination of Sean Canfield, third-round pick Garrett Grayson, and Tommy Stevens combined for zero passing yards in the pros. Reaching for a UDFA talent in Ian Book in the fourth round doesn’t help matters.
Furthermore, Payton is trying to plug a square peg into a round hole by convincing himself and others to the point of delusion that Taysom Hill can be a starting quarterback in this league. He’s not the best evaluator of non-Brees talent at quarterback, so his vote of confidence may be more curse than blessing. Brees and Payton have been together since 2006. There’s never been a need to evaluate QB talent or deviate from the offensive system. We’re not saying Payton can’t evaluate such talent effectively, it’s just that he’s had no reason to .. and he’s never drafted a good QB before … unlike Belichick, who took Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Cassel and Tom Brady.
Teams like New Orleans or anyone else that needs a young quarterback might try to trade for Jones if Belichick pulls another Garoppolo and lets him sit on the bench. The Patriots need to stick to the plan and let Jones marinate until he’s ready to go out and dominate the AFC East, which we’re fully confident is the plan. Jones isn’t playing behind Brady, after all.