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Alabama NFL Draft 2021 Prospects: Mac Jones’s Wild Ride

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From afterthought to the No. 3 pick? It could happen.

NCAA Football: Alabama - A-Day
So many trophies...
Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

In beginning, Mac Jones was an unassuming and almost forgotten player on the Crimson Tide Class of 2017 recruiting class. Little did fans know what he would become.

In June of 2015, the three-star Florida native camped at Kentucky and immediately received a scholarship offer. It was only his second offer after East Carolina. He would commit to the Wildcats a month later. All was quiet as he played his junior season at Bolles School in Jacksonville. It was so quiet that even Florida, FSU, Miami and other in-state schools did not notice him.

Much to the chagrin of UK head coach Mark Stoops, he would soon get plenty of attention. At a 7-on-7 camp in early 2016, he was hitting everything and started to open some eyes.

Soon after the offers poured in but nothing from the big schools. Then in April, a big one dropped. A REALLY big one.

As the bigger offers poured in, Jones would collect many trophies for his camp performances. He would become the only two-time MVP of that year’s Rivals camp series, earning top honors in both Orlando and Atlanta.

Almost.

By the time June rolled around, Alabama already had a quarterback commitment from a guy named Tua Tagovailoa. Even with the 5-star committed to sign with the Tide, Jones was undeterred and made his pledge to the Crimson Tide that summer. On Signing Day, Jones’s LOI was dismissed by many as a depth move. Apparently, the Bama staff felt differently.

Mac Jones is a different kind of animal. He is not egotistical or a prima donna who rolled into campus and expected to be a starter just by putting the pads on.

As a freshman, he came in and worked behind Tua and the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts. He studied, learned, and worked as hard as anyone on the practice field. Even though he was scout team quarterback, he played every down like it was the Super Bowl.

“There’s not too many people that go back and forth with Coach Saban,” former teammate Jared Mayden said In November 2019. “I remember the first time I saw him do that was his freshman year on scout team. He was throwing bombs, and Coach Saban said - I think he was throwing it to Tyrell Shavers - he was like, ‘Man, stop throwing it to him all the time.’ And he was like, ‘Well, tell your defense to stop it.’ ”

In his second season, he received his first playing time in mop up duty in 14 games. He did not do much to phone home about except one fantastic play. In the stats sheets it looks like a bomb. In reality, Mac hit Jaylen Waddle on a quick slant and the speedy wide receiver took it 94 yards to the house for the second-longest touchdown pass in school history.

After Jalen Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, Jones moved up a notch to second team behind Tua Tagovailoa. However, there was no time to relax for another Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother Taulia, was creeping up behind him. With the promotion came more playing time and not just handing off. The experienced helped Mac as he earned his first major playing time after Tua exited the Tennessee game with a left ankle injury in the second quarter and the Tide leading 21-10. With the star quarterback on the sidelines, this game could have been a disaster. With Jones at the wheel, Alabama did not miss a beat winning 35-13.

The next week, Jones would get his first career start versus Arkansas and the Crimson Tide cruised to an easy 48-7 win. Mac was 18 of 22 passing for 235 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks.

Start the video about one minute in.

In the next game two weeks later, Tua would go down for good. Against Mississippi State, the junior went down hard and broke his hip. This was now Mac’s team.

After a brief appearance against Western Carolina, it was Iron Bowl time at Jerdin-Hair Stadium and it would be a dogfight. With the score knotted at 10-10 in the second quarter, Jones dropped back to pass from his own 14 and floated a ball right into the arms of an Auburn defender who returned it for a touchdown.

“I’ve been making that throw since I was 5-years old, a hundred thousand times,” Jones said of his first interception, “and I missed the throw to Jerry (Jeudy) and they picked it off and scored. It was a bad throw and it was my fault.”

At that point, he could have mentally folded up his tent and went home. Instead, he carried on and twice came back with touchdown passes before the end of the half. But it wouldn’t be an Iron Bowl in Auburn without some freaky bounce of the pigskin. Down 31-30 and knocking on the door, Jones would throw a pass behind Najee Harris that would oddly roll across the running back’s back and into the hands of a Tiger who would return it for the second pick-six of the day. Most people would say, this game - despite the loss - is what impressed them the most about the Bama field general. Two pick-sixes against your hated rival would destroy the best of men, but Jones came back on the next drive and threw his third touchdown of the day, and later his fourth. With Auburn up 48-45, the Crimson Tide had one last drive in them. Alabama would get down to the 11 yard line but Joseph Bulovas missed a 30 yard field goal.

Former Bama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian recently told Albert Breer of SI.com that this game was the one in which Jones earned his and the team’s respect. Despite the adversity, Jones continued to fight and gave his team a chance.

“But doing that — he earned a lot of respect for me,” Sarkisian said. “And I think he earned a lot of respect from his teammates, from the resiliency that he showed, the mental and physical toughness that he showed. And then we went on to beat Michigan in the bowl game. But that game always kind of stands out to me, not because we won, but more so of just him. I learned a lot about him in that game.”

You don’t need 13 paragraphs to know what happened next. With WRs Jeudy and Henry Ruggs off to the NFL, Jones merely led his Crimson Tide team to an unbelievable all-Power 5 13-0 record and a National Championship. And it wasn’t even close. Only the SEC Championship Game would have a final score margin inside of two touchdowns. Many observers believe this to be the best Crimson Tide team of all time. We will leave that debate to you, but it certainly is the greatest Alabama offense ever and perhaps greatest college football offense of all time.

The Consensus All-American would collect the Davey O’Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and Manning Award. At this point, some guys would shut it down and do nothing while waiting on their name to be called at the 2021 NFL Draft. Not Jones. Although he would not play in the game, he attended the Senior Bowl to participate in practice and meet with NFL personnel. He would later participate in two Alabama Pro Days. It is unclear as to whether he drove NFL coaches to the airport afterwards.

Nick Saban believes Jones will be successful at the next level.

“Mac played behind some really, really good players here, and he persevered, which is a great example for some players,” Saban said. “He didn’t, ‘Oh, I’m not going to start here so I’m going to go some place else.’ He stayed, he worked hard to develop and improve, and he improved every year, mentally and physically and turned out to have one of the greatest years of any quarterback this past season.”

“I think that the team that picks me is going to realize they don’t have to worry about me being the first guy in and the last guy out,” Jones told reporters. “I’m going to sit and watch as much film as I can and do all the right things. And then obviously the tape speaks for itself.”

If you saw a “Way Too Soon Mock Draft” last May, it was very likely that Jones was not listed in the seven rounds of predictions. Fast forward to today and he is potentially the third overall selection. At the very least, he probably won’t last past 15.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars -Drafting Sunshine.
  2. New York Jets - Drafting the BYU beanpole.
  3. San Francisco 49ers - Need a QB
  4. Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan is an old man.
  5. Cincinnati Bengals - Joe Burrow
  6. Miami Dolphins - Tua
  7. Detroit Lions - Is Jared Goff damaged goods?
  8. Carolina Panthers - Need a QB
  9. Denver Broncos - Drew Lock is not the answer.
  10. Dallas Cowboys - What will Dak Prescott be when he comes back from his shattered ankle?
  11. New York Giants - Daniel Jones is not exactly killing it.
  12. Philadelphia Eagles - Jalen Hurts or Joe Flacco? Ugh.
  13. Los Angeles Chargers - Justin Herbert
  14. Minnesota Vikings - 32-year old Kirk Cousins is not getting them to a Super Bowl.
  15. New England Patriots - Cam Newton (1-year contract) is not a long term answer.