The Washington Football Team has a quarterback question to answer, but Mac Jones shouldn’t be considered. Here’s why.
On September 19, 2018, in a game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones hit Jaylen Waddle for a 94-yard touchdown pass, the second-longest scoring pass in Alabama’s history, and it’s beautiful to behold. It may seem odd, but this is my exhibit No. 1 in why the Washington Football Team should not select Jones in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.
But first, let me make clear that I do not think Jones is a bad quarterback. The play to Waddle shows off two things he does very well. He makes quick decisions and he makes accurate throws. Those are genuine assets for any would-be NFL QB.
Coming into this season, in what looked to be a year jam-packed with enticing college quarterbacks, Jones was considered by most to be a mid-round prospect. His stock has risen steadily throughout the year as he presided over one of the greatest offenses the college game has ever witnessed.
And with dominant performances in his final two games, Jones’ stock has never been higher. There’s a very good chance at this point that he will not even be on the board by the time the Washington Football Team makes its pick at No. 19.
But if he is, it would be a big mistake to choose him. Again, Jones is not a bad player. But he is an extraordinarily over-valued player right now.
That play against Louisiana captures it all. Jones has a clean pocket. Waddle is running a short in-route, but there is not a defender within five yards of him. And then, with his world-class speed, Waddle runs untouched to the end zone. And so, a relatively easy throw that travels under 15 yards in the air turns into a 94-yard touchdown.
I’ll say it one more time, and then I’ll shut up about it. I am not faulting anything Jones does on this play. He does exactly what he is supposed to do. But he is quarterbacking a team of elite talent and he looks all the better as a result.
Think this only happens against the Lafayettes of the world? Check out this throw to Waddle against Texas A&M from earlier this season. Again, perfect pocket. Again, a receiver running five yards clear of the defense. Again, a receiver whose speed turns it into a long touchdown. If anything, this is not as good a throw as the earlier one because Waddle has to wait for the ball. But he is so open that the very slight underthrow didn’t matter. And he is so fast that even with the slowdown, no one could catch him.
Jones has obviously benefitted from throwing to the likes of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. He has handed the ball off to Najee Harris. He has played behind a line that includes Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, and Deonte Brown. None of those facts prove that Jones will either succeed or fail at the next level. They just suggest that scouts must consider how his particular skills will translate when the talent he plays against is equal to, or perhaps even better than, the talent he is playing with.
When I watch Mac Jones, I do not see a first-round talent.
His arm is okay. He does not move very well. In the 2021 NFL Draft, that scouting report should not fill the Washington Football Team with confidence.
There was a time when the things that Jones does well – accuracy, decision-making – were undervalued. Several decades back, everyone wanted the huge arm. The guy who could hit an iPad mini at 75 yards (they didn’t have iPads back then, but you get the point.) They wanted Jeff George. If he could run too – like a Randall Cunningham – so be it. But he had to have that arm. If he never actually knew where to throw the ball, that didn’t seem to bother GMs.
But the game has evolved. The emphasis on passing might make you think that the big-armed quarterback is more important than ever, and it is true that no one makes it without a good arm (Which is why someone like Ian Book, who was extremely productive in 2020, is barely going to get a passing glance from most NFL teams).
But a major byproduct of the rules, which encourage passing, has been to force defenses to grow more and more aggressive in defending the pass. There have always been ferocious pass rushers in the NFL, but in 2020, it seems that every team has several of them. Getting pressure on the quarterback has never been as important.
And that, in turn, has meant that to be an effective modern quarterback, you have to be able to move.
Think of the all the QBs in today’s NFL. Well, at least all the ones you consider to be quality starters. How many can not move? Now, of those that can’t move, how many are under 35? That lets out the grand old men – Brady and Brees, Rivers and Ryan and Roesthlisberger. It even lets out Aaron Rodgers, who though he rarely runs, I would suggest moves very well.
There are a few, like Matthew Stafford or Jared Goff, who I don’t think move all that well. You may have another example or two in mind.
I would suggest to you that both Stafford and Goff have significantly better arms than Mac Jones. So does Derek Carr, who incidentally, has been looking to become more of a running threat under Jon Gruden.
The others, from Mahomes to Wilson to Allen to Murray to Watson to Prescott to Tannehill to Jackson – they can all run.
Mac Jones can’t. And his arm isn’t good enough to bail him out of that deficiency.
I was having this discussion with a friend who is very much into PFF (Pro Football Focus) rankings. He told me that Justin Herbert, the best rookie QB in the league in 2020, has a very poor PFF Run rating. It is about the same as Tom Brady’s. Doesn’t that suggest that the ability to run is not as important as I am saying it is?
Setting aside the fact that Herbert, to me, anyway, has a much better arm than Jones, I offer the following tape in my defense. This is Herbert’s highlight reel from last year’s Rose Bowl, in which he ran for three touchdowns. Don’t tell me he can’t run. He is just playing in a system that doesn’t encourage it. But he can move when he has to.
Mac Jones can’t. To me, he is not a first-round talent.
If Jones were to somehow fall into the second round, I might be convinced to take him. But I see a third-round talent at best when I watch him.
Things are going to shift around a lot between now and the actual draft. Zach Wilson is moving up. Kyle Trask is falling. No one really knows what to make of Trey Lance. As I said, Mac Jones’ stock is on the rise and he probably will not be an option for the Washington Football Team. But I always think of that very insightful essay that Nick Lowe wrote about quarterback prospects and the draft. I’ll quote Lowe’s brilliant summation:
And so it goes,
And so it goes,
And so it goes,
And so it goes,
But where it’s going, no one knows.
If it ends up going to a place where Mac Jones is available at No. 19, the Washington Football Team should not take him.