The New England Patriots were patient during the 2021 NFL Draft. They didn’t trade up to get a quarterback, and they wound up getting Mac Jones at No. 15, the guy many thought was the best fit for their system. While Jones slipped past a few teams who might have been inclined to draft the Alabama star, the New Orleans Saints were reportedly poised to jump ahead of the Patriots to select the quarterback.
According to The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi, the Saints, charged by the blessing of legendary coach and quarterback guru Sean Payton, were trying to jump the Patriots in line to select Jones.
“[New Orleans] was trying to get above New England to get Mac Jones.”
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The Saints settled for another quarterback later in the draft, but they took some flack for their decision.
The Saints Reached for Notre Dame’s Ian Book
After the Saints couldn’t get Jones, they chose to address the position in the fourth round with a selection of Notre Dame’s Ian Book. Many experts criticized the Saints’ choice. The CBS Sports Fantasy Football panel, including former NFL quarterback Danny Kanell slammed the pick.
The choice was given a grade of a D+ by CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler was a little nicer with his summary of Book, but as you can see following his summary, he has the Notre Dame alum projected as a fifth or sixth-rounder.
A three-year starter at Notre Dame, Book had his most efficient season as a senior in offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ scheme and showed noticeable growth in his final year. A two-time team captain, he posted a 30-5 career record (15-0 at home) and leaves South Bend No. 2 (behind Brady Quinn) in almost every passing category, including yards (8,948) and touchdowns (72). Although undersized, Book is a gutsy dual-threat passer with quick feet and natural throwing skills on the move. He is hesitant with his reads from the pocket and he is at his best on three-step drops, which call for quick timing throws. Overall, Book needs to improve his trigger and touch as a pocket passer, but he is an instinctive, athletic play extender and proven winner. He projects as an NFL reserve capable of locking down a backup job. GRADE: 5th-6th Round
Based on how experts project Jones and how many of them see Book, the Saints seemed to have settled for a much lesser talent.
Jones Could Wind Up Wishing the Saints Drafted Him
When is Jones going to see the field with the Patriots? Some believe he is one of the most NFL-ready players at the position in this year’s crop of rookies.
While that may be the case, Jones’ playing time will be directly tied to three things, and two of those things are out of his control.
First, if Cam Newton plays well, Bill Belichick has already made it clear, he will be his starter. Newton is only under contract for one season. However, what happens at the end of the upcoming year if Newton has a fantastic 2021 campaign and leads New England deep into the playoffs?
Some might think that’s a stretch, but it’s not crazy to think Newton and the Patriots’ offense could be drastically improved. The team has more weapons in the passing game (Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne), an improved offensive line with Trent Brown, and budding star Mike Onwenu, plus a retooled defense.
If the Patriots are really good in 2021, will Belichick turn the keys over to a rookie just because he drafted him in the first round? That doesn’t sound like a Belichickian move. If the Patriots win 11 or more games with Newton, Jones might find himself sitting longer than he’d like.