Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones has fared even better so far this spring than he did last fall. That’s pretty impressive considering that the highly regarded NFL draft prospect’s final college football season concluded with coach Nick Saban’s sixth national championship in 12 years.
Jones is headed to the NFL next month, almost certainly as a high pick in the first round of the draft. He can thank the Miami Dolphins for pushing him closer to the top of the first round than he was a week ago.
Mac Jones is coming off a monster season for the Alabama Crimson Tide
Mac Jones’ career at Alabama was jump-started late in 2019 when he had to step in following the season-ending injury to Tua Tagovailoa. He made four starts, completed 68.8% of his throws, and recorded 14 touchdown passes.
That experience served him well in 2020. Jones, who originally committed to the University of Kentucky out of high school, navigated the pandemic-affected season without a hitch, throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He capped his career with 464 yards and five touchdowns through the air as the Crimson Tide routed Ohio State, 52-24, for the national championship.
At season’s end, Jones won multiple honors that included the Davey O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Jones, who completed 77.4% of his throws in 2020, was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which was won by teammate DeVonta Smith.
Who are the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft?
The Miami Dolphins made trades Friday with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, but it was the latter that garnered the most attention. That’s because the Dolphins, who possessed the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft courtesy of a trade with the Houston Texas, dealt the pick to San Francisco. The consensus is that the 49ers made the move to draft a quarterback to replace Jimmy Garoppolo, whether the transition happens in 2021 or ’22.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been the presumed No. 1 pick for two years now, and there’s no indication that the Jacksonville Jaguars intend to go in a different direction even though they have Gardner Minshew (for now). The New York Jets are also presumed to be set to take a QB at No. 2, and they may have their heart set on Zach Wilson, who wowed scouts at the BYU pro day.
Given his background in San Francisco, it’s not a stretch to suggest that new Jets head coach Robert Saleh had been sharing some intel on the subject of draft options with his old team before the 49ers moved up in the draft.
With a pair of QBs likely accounted for atop the draft board, two of NFL insiders are pointing to the 49ers taking Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 3.
“Kyle Shanahan trying to control his own fate. You trade up to 3 for a QB who is NFL-ready right now, not a project,” NBC and Pro Football Talk analyst Chris Simms tweeted. “And to me that says Mac Jones.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen followed with a tweet concurring with Simms.
The Miami Dolphins have changed Mac Jones’ life by $13 million
The Miami Dolphins obviously weren’t looking to take a quarterback, or else they would have never traded down to No. 6 in the 2021 NFL draft. The Atlanta Falcons might be looking for the heir to Matt Ryan, but no one will be sure until they pick at No. 4. The next team in the draft order that would definitely be looking for quarterback help is the Carolina Panthers.
So, if Mac Jones is indeed the third-best QB in the draft (Trey Lance and Justin Fields might disagree), then the Panthers at No. 8 could have been his logical landing place. But that’s no longer the case if Chris Simms and Chris Mortensen are right. And if they are right, then Mac Wilson’s checking account just improved substantially.
With rookie salaries tucked into very narrow ranges, players know what to expect in the way of the four-year contracts. Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, taken at No. 3 by the Detroit Lions last spring, got a $21.94 million signing bonus and $33,528,544 guaranteed. Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons landed a $12.59 million signing bonus from the Arizona Cardinals and $20,664,055 guaranteed from the eighth spot.
The financial fallout of the pandemic has dinged projected payouts for the 2021 NFL draft, but Spotrac.com pegs the No. 3 slot as worth $32,224,055 and the No. 8 position to pay $20,032,983.
If the draft goes as anticipated, that adds up to an extra $12.2 million in Mac Jones’ pocket courtesy of the trades the Miami Dolphins pulled off last week.