2021 NFL draft: Our style comp for Bama's Mac Jones? A 3-time Super Bowl QB

Eric Edholm
·8-min read

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

29. Alabama QB Mac Jones

6-foot-3, 217 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.00 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Elite processor with passing touch who oozes self-confidence, even if he possesses merely average physical traits

Games watched: Missouri (2020), Georgia (2020), Mississippi State (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Ohio State (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 162 nationally), Jones initially committed to Kentucky before flipping once Bama offered him. He redshirted during the Crimson Tide’s championship season of 2017, operating on the scout team. Jones saw limited action in 2018, completing 5 of 13 passes for 123 yards and a TD in 14 games. In 2019, Jones earned the backup role and replaced an injured Tua Tagovailoa, starting four times (12 games total), completing 97 of 141 passes for 1,503 yards with 14 TDs and three interceptions and running 16 times for 36 yards and one TD.

In 2020, Jones set school and national records as a Heisman Trophy finalist (losing to teammate DeVonte Smith), leading Alabama to a 13-0 season and a national title. Jones completed 311 of 402 passes for 4,500 yards with 41 TDs and four INTs, also rushing 35 times for 14 yards and one TD. After earning his undergraduate degree in 2.5 years with a 4.0 GPA, plus finishing his master’s degree, Jones declared for the draft and attended the 2021 Senior Bowl, where he was named the top QB on the American team but did not play in the game after tweaking an ankle injury.

Upside: Extraordinary efficiency as the trigger man for one of the best offenses in college football history. Turned in the highest single-season completion percentage in NCAA history in 2020 with a passer efficiency rating higher than LSU’s Joe Burrow in his brilliant 2019 campaign. Completed 61.8 percent of his throws 15-plus yards downfield (with 72.4 percent being on target).

Showed up in big games — stepped up in bowl win over Michigan in 2019, led shootout wins in 2020 (including SEC title thriller vs. Florida) and was a monster in the CFP, earning Offensive MVP of the national title game (36 of 45 passing, 464 yards, five TDs) vs. Ohio State. Filled huge shoes following Tagovailoa and exceeded all external expectations.

Alabama QB Mac Jones was brilliant in 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Alabama QB Mac Jones was brilliant in 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Advanced understanding of fronts, coverages and progressions — fast, natural processor. Facilitator who operates the offense as it’s designed. Manipulates safeties and linebackers with his eyes and play-action fakes.

Great touch — throws a very catchable ball. Very accurate when going vertical — puts ideal loft and timing on his passes. Great decision making. Doesn’t wilt under pressure. Career 56-7 TD-INT ratio. Only five career fumbles — three in 2020. Decent feel for when to throw the ball away and fight for another day.

Underrated feet in the pocket — ex-tennis player who reacts to pressure, maneuvers the pocket well and keeps his options open while scanning the field. Undercut some talk of his athleticism by turning in good pro-day workouts — 4.82-second 40-yard dash, 32-inch vertical jump, 116-inch broad jump, 7.04-second 3-cone drill. Smart scrambler who picks good spots to take free yards. Good QB sneaker when you need 1 yard.

Great red-zone efficiency — doesn’t take unnecessary risks. Puts the ball in spots where only his receiver typically has a shot at the ball, such as this beauty against Georgia, the final dagger in a big win:

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Highly competitive. Confident and self-assured — has the “it” factor. Used to trash talk to Nick Saban (!) while running Bama’s scout team in practice as a third-string freshman. Unafraid of competition as he picked Alabama with Jalen Hurts entrenched as a freshman starter and Tua Tagovailoa signed in the same recruiting class. Held off competition from heralded recruit Bryce Young prior to the 2020 season.

High-floor prospect with few major concerns. Answered questions about supporting cast by standing out at the Senior Bowl in unfamiliar surroundings. Disciplined worker who bided his time and grew behind the scenes before taking over. Career 16-1 mark as a starter.

Team captain and natural leader to whom teammates gravitated. Asked which Bama QB they’d pick if they could, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith reportedly said they preferred Jones over Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft. Smith reportedly told one team this, according to an SI report. Waddle said it on NFL Network.

Downside: Average size and physical tools. Arm talent is average — underthrows some deep balls and can’t always drill the deeper sideline balls. (Also had some shaky overthrows at his pro day vs. no defense.) Can’t truly rip the ball — reliant on touch, timing and good protection up front to make that work.

Athleticism doesn’t compare to several other QBs in this class. Can’t ask him to be an extension of the run game. Sub-par short shuttle time (4.39 seconds) more indicative of his athletic profile.

Played in a nearly pristine scenario. Operated in QB-friendly offense — wasn’t asked to make a ton of difficult throws. Surrounded by a rare supporting cast, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, a banner offensive line, robust run game and other notable weapons. Faced low pressure rate. Could require similar surrounding cast in NFL to reach his peak.

Not as effective when he has to go beyond his first read. Not a jazz player — reads the notes as they’re written. More of a system quarterback who is still learning how to create when things break down — requires structure to thrive. Won’t take big risks with tighter-window throws — happy to take shorter, safer options. Didn’t do much outside the pocket. Scrambling ability limited to short pickups as last-ditch option.

Average play strength — can’t wrestle or wiggle his way out of sacks once defenders’ hands get on him. Needs to learn how to slide — fast. Poor technique could lead to a leg injury (more than one shaky slide in the Notre Dame game).

Battled immaturity and confidence issues early in college career. Arrested and charged with DUI and possession of a fake ID in November 2017 following a car accident, leading to a one-game suspension (LSU). Hot-tempered early on — tennis player competitiveness that rides the razor’s edge at times.

Relative lack of game experience — only 17 career starts. Turns 23 the week prior to the 2021 NFL season.

Best-suited destination: While it seems Jones appears locked in as the No. 3 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers, we could envision him fitting in as a high-floor, middling-ceiling starter for multiple teams that run a timing/rhythm offense that features good yards-after-the-catch options and a strong offensive line and run game.

Did you know: Jones’ father, Gordon, was a touring tennis pro in the late 1970s and early 80s. He once beat Hall of Famer Yannick Noah in a singles match. Jones' mother, Holly, played college tennis at Mercer. Mac’s oldest brother, Will, played soccer at Mercer and his older sister, Sarah, played tennis at College of Charleston.

Player comp: Style-wise, there’s strong Kurt Warner vibes in Jones’ play. Whether he reaches the plateau that Warner did during a Hall of Fame career remains to be seen.

Expected draft range: Top-10 pick, as high as No. 3 overall.

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