Friday featured a MAJOR shakeup to the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, with the 49ers moving from No. 12 to No. 3 in a deal with the Dolphins. Miami then turned around and immediately jumped from No. 12 up to No. 6 in an ensuing trade with Philadelphia. Is your head spinning yet? I’m here to help!
Below you’ll find a four-round mock draft that reflects Friday’s trade frenzy, with San Francisco pouncing on a quarterback in its new draft slot. And actually, I don’t see the Niners being the last team to move up for a signal-caller — not when there’s a fifth QB shooting up draft boards. And before we get to the picks, I want to quickly explore that emerging storyline …
The X-factor in Round 1 is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
I’ve seen former NFL executives say Jones’ draft-position floor is No. 8 overall, as Carolina worked well with the ‘Bama product at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. I’ve also seen projections of Jones going to the Patriots in the mid-first and the Saints/Buccaneers late in Round 1.
It’s truly unknown at this point how high he will be selected.
In this mock, I project Chicago moving up from the 20th spot to No. 11, snatching Jones from underneath other teams looking for a young starter. The organization that picked up Andy Dalton as a bridge quarterback and previously acquired Mike Glennon and Nick Foles will not be dissuaded from looking at Jones despite his average athleticism.
That average athleticism actually surprised some at the Heisman Trophy finalist’s pro day on Tuesday. His measurements and test results came in very similar to the numbers Raiders starter Derek Carr posted when he came into the league out of Fresno State — and Carr has no issues operating an NFL offense. Jones’ 32-inch vertical exceeded expectations, and his other tests showed he is at least a passable athlete for the position. He threw well, displaying a tight, accurate ball to all levels of the field. Jones playfully interacted with his teammates, but was still business-like in his approach. There’s a lot to like about the 22-year-old’s intelligence, attitude and work ethic.
Jones is clearly not a quick-twitch athlete in the pocket, even though he can move around to find space to operate. His ability to efficiently operate an NFL offense and deliver well-placed throws on time, however, portend a long NFL career. Though some scouts will consider Jones “maxed out” — as they do many Alabama prospects because of the excellent coaching they receive in Tuscaloosa — he has areas of his game on which he can improve. His arm strength will grow as he works in an NFL strength and conditioning program, as will his overall physique so he can be strong working through traffic in the pocket. Jones will also continue to work on his foot quickness within the pocket to quickly shift his frame and find passing lanes.
Until I hear something more concrete, I’ll roll with Jones to go in the top 15 selections. Finding a quarterback with his intangibles and productivity should not be taken for granted by teams needing a young player at the position — especially given the team-building benefit of having a solid starter in place during his affordable rookie contract.
OK, enough dilly-dally. I know what you came here for. On to the picks!