NFL draft analyst ‘fascinated’ by Mac Jones’ stock, explains why No. 3 pick is possible

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NFL opinions of Mac Jones vary if you put stock in mock drafts.

Clearly, some are more informed than others but there’s an increasing buzz about an early pick for Alabama’s 2020 starting quarterback. In the last day alone, projections range from No. 20 to the Chicago Bears with the San Francisco 49ers trending for a much more desirable slot.

ESPN’s Todd McShay is among those now forecasting he’ll go with the No. 3 overall selection in a class heavy on quarterback talent. Back in January, McShay’s first mock draft had Jones at No. 21 but he’s moved up with every update. He was 12th in the second version, then ninth and now No. 3.

Jones is among the four Alabama products in the top-nine picks of McShay’s fourth mock draft released last week. DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Patrick Surtain also made that early first-round status in a draft packed with offensive talent.

Trevor Lawrence is the clear No. 1 but the water muddies from there. BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance all have top-5 talent. McShay on a Monday teleconference with reporters said he moved Jones up to No. 3 based on the intel he’s getting “from the people in and around the San Francisco situation.”

“Honestly, I’m fascinated to see where he goes,” McShay said, “and if he winds up in San Francisco, I think it’s a perfect spot for him since he has one of the best offensive minds in the game in Kyle Shanahan to help develop him quickly but if he winds up going to New England at No. 15 or somewhere else, we’ll see how that plays out.”

That said, he can see the mobile Lance fitting into the play-action-heavy 49ers attack so this is an inexact science. McShay, who admits he’s not a big stats guy, said there were a few numbers he couldn’t ignore with Jones. The three numbers he follows with quarterbacks include QBR while under pressure, when being blitzed and downfield accuracy.

“And he’s No. 1 in all three categories,” McShay said Monday. “He’s got a 78.3 QBR when pressured, 97.3 QBR when blitzed and he completed 61% of his throws 21-plus yards downfield. So it matches up with what you see on tape.”

Mobility will be a factor, an issue Jones wanted to show wasn’t a downside to drafting him in last week’s second Alabama pro day. Each of the other top-flight quarterbacks are known for the ability to escape the pocket and Jones didn’t have many instances in 2020 where that was required.

“And he has a solid arm,” McShay said, “but doesn’t have the arm strength that those other four guys have so physically he’s not bringing to the table what you’d get with the other four quarterbacks but mentally and from an accuracy standpoint, he’s as good as any quarterback in this class so it’s going to be interesting.”

Having a well-established offensive line and veteran receivers was a benefit Jones enjoyed at Alabama and McShay said he’d benefit more than the others from having a similar situation in the pros.

“He has a chance to be a really good pro,” McShay said, “but he needs more protection and support around him to than maybe the other guys, especially early in his career because he can’t get himself out of trouble with his legs.”

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.

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