Mac Jones was the fifth quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, but after being named the New England Patriots’ starting QB last week, he’s firmly entrenched in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler recently spoke to a handful of executives, scouts and coaches around the NFL to gauge their predictions on a number of topics, including individual awards for the 2021 season. Jones and Lawrence evidently were popular picks for the aforementioned honor.
“Many evaluators agree that Jones has the best supporting cast among the three rookie starting quarterbacks,” Fowler wrote in a piece published Tuesday on ESPN.com. “Lawrence and Zach Wilson (New York Jets) — April’s top two picks, respectively — can make more splash plays, but their offenses might still be a year away.”
Jones was a Heisman Trophy finalist at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to a national championship last season. There were questions before the draft about how he’ll fare at the NFL level — after all, his supporting cast at ‘Bama was stacked — but the Patriots seemingly have positioned him to succeed right away.
New England added several playmakers over the offseason, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Plus, the Patriots’ rushing attack figures to be extremely formidable behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.
It’s fair to wonder whether Jones, the 15th overall pick, can stretch the field vertically and complete passes downfield. But one NFL executive expressed faith in Jones’ ability to take advantage of opposing defenses that focus too much on the run, which in turn could lead to Rookie of the Year recognition.
“I think New England will be balanced. Eventually, teams will stack the box and force Mac to beat them,” an NFC exec said, according to Fowler. “I think he does.”
The Patriots are showing a lot of confidence in Jones by releasing Cam Newton last week while handing him the keys to New England’s offense. Now, it’s up to the 23-year-old to show he belongs and that the Rookie of the Year chatter is far more than just preseason hype.
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