Mac Jones vs. Trevor Lawrence: Should Patriots QB Take 1st Place in 2021 NFL Draft?
Mac Jones was the last quarterback in round one made in the 2021 NFL Draft. There’s no denying, however, that over the course of their rookie half-season, the Patriots’ No. 15 overall pick is the best in the group.
Zach Wilson, who finished 2nd at the Jets, remains on the shelf with a knee injury. Trey Lance, 3rd pick of the 49ers, sat on the bench after Jimmy Garoppolo suddenly became hot. Justin Fields had to wait a while after going through to the Bears’ No 11 and still had a strong finish.
Because Jones, who started Week 1, can only be compared to Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars. The overall No. 1 pick also held the spot throughout that season for Jacksonville.
On every metric, from the Patriots’ strong winning streak to the passing efficiency, Jones is the better QB rookie. Jones started his career 6-4 with a steady 94.1 at 7.2 yards per attempt. Lawrence is 2-7 with a 72.2 bad rating at 6.0 yards per attempt.
Does that mean the Jaguars made the big mistake of taking the wrong QB collegiate championship, Lawrence instead of Jones? With the Patriots in the playoffs under the lead of Bill Belichick and the Jaguars vying for Urban Meyer, that story has become intriguing as Jones continues to improve and Lawrence appears to be retracing. But the real question is, if the situation were reversed, which rookie passer would look better now?
Jones has been in senior coaching with Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels from the start. He also benefits from a solid defensive assist (No. 2 scores, 6 total) and a relentless attack (No. 10, 114.5 yards per game). The Patriots’ attack is still solid against Jones.
Lawrence seems to have at least the dominant weapon going into the season with DJ Chark Jr., Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. are his top three wideband recorders. But he lost that advantage when Chark picked up a season-ending ankle injury in early October and, inexplicably, Jones and Shenault have seen their roles diminish since then.
So now also gives Jones the advantage of supporting offensive skills with wide receivers like Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor, along with his obvious dribbler, Hunter Henry. Lawrence’s best target right now is Dan Arnold and back-to-back starter Jamal Agnew.
Don’t be fooled by Lawrence being fired only 16 times compared to Jones being fired 19 times. The Lawrence’s protection and the Jaguars’ overall containment are above average, but it’s not great. The Jaguars had a good run, however, with James Robinson returning for a second year helping them average 5.1 yards per attempt. With a more aggressive game scenario, Jacksonville will be much higher than the 16th place in the rush of attacks.
But the Jaguars, with Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, restrained Lawrence to show off his big arms. They also sometimes won’t let him run to assist his passing because of his athleticism. While Meyer and Bevell are treating one of the most promising QB prospects in NFL history as a limited veteran badminton option, Belichick and McDaniels are counting on Jones to pocket his mind with complex concepts that they used to throw in the GOAT, Tom Brady. The Patriots, as always, have been more flexible, versatile and creative in getting as many players as possible into the action to help Jones.
The scouting report of Lawrence’s participation in the tournament was off the charts in terms of physical skill. But Meyer and Bevell didn’t serve him with the spirit of his game. Jones doesn’t have the same natural properties but he’s executing in a superior system, which shouldn’t surprise anyone given the semi-seasonal sample size.
The Patriots seem to be much more aware of the type of midfield they have drafted and are playing to Jones’ strengths as well as minimizing his weaknesses. In contrast, the Jaguars were quite surprised with the jackpot they landed at the top.
This is why it’s often good to drop a bit in the draft for a skilled QB, to avoid bad teams and land with better planned offensive teams. Justin Herbert (6th in 2020), Lamar Jackson (32nd in 2018), Patrick Mahomes (10th in 2017) and Dak Prescott (4th in 2016) are great recent examples of this. If any QBs are in the same situation as Lawrence with their problematic offensive training and limited support, they won’t find early success and build on that.
Imagine if Jones was a Jaguar. Without a doubt, he will struggle. Likewise, Lawrence will light it up for the Patriots.
Whenever a team has a QB first overall pick, it works like the Cardinals with Kyler Murray in 2019. They know what they’re getting against Murray’s double threat, know he did. good what and start working to figure out the right. offensive-minded coach for him at Kliff Kingsbury and then quickly, aggressively, upgraded his personnel support.
The Jaguars have no reason not to lift Lawrence soon. All young QBs, no matter how talented, are dependent QBs. They may be trained to rush into the top game or be fast tracked to bankruptcy, squandering something that might be special.
It doesn’t matter if the Jaguars take Jones, Wilson, Lance or Fields. They won’t help any of them nor the rookies. The Bears, receiving limited returns from Fields, need to shift their tentative coaching with his mind huge in 2022 and beyond.
So no Jaguars shouldn’t take Jones instead of Lawrence. They’re going to lose either way, while the Patriots, for Belichick and McDaniels, are already in a win, win, win, win or win with whichever of the highest QB prospects belongs to them.