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From Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

The Mac Jones Era Begins

I have a confession – this was the first NFL Draft I’d been invested in and excited for in two decades. For Patriots fans during the Brady era, the Draft has never been the potentially franchise-altering crossroads that it is for so many other teams. The Pats hadn’t had an original pick in the top half of the draft since 2003. They hadn’t needed a quarterback since drafting Drew Bledsoe #1 overall in 1993. Pats fans got used to Bill Belichick’s penchant for trading down to stockpile picks because of their consistently low draft position – in 5 different drafts this century, the Pats didn’t even make a first-round pick. Thanks to Brady and Belichick, the dynasty was largely built on savvy free agent signings and trades, or finding valuable scheme fits in the late first round and beyond. The Mac Jones pick bucked that trend.

Keeping Their #1

The Patriots held the #15 overall pick, their highest in 18 years. Tom Brady is off winning Super Bowls in Tampa Bay. For the first time in his New England tenure, Belichick spent lavishly in free agency to improve on last year’s 7-9 team. The Cam Newton experiment was a failure and although he returns to compete for the starting job, it was glaringly obvious the Pats needed a new QB not only of the future, but of the present. Luckily the 2021 QB class was one of the most heralded in decades with 5 top prospects projected to be future franchise cornerstones. And after months of wild speculation and smokescreens, trades and rumors, and the most wide-open draft boards in years, the Pats landed one of those 5, Mac Jones, without needing to trade up.

Mac has been long rumored as a Patriots target because of his experience in a pro-style offense, his football IQ, and his development under Alabama coach Nick Saban, a close friend of Belichick’s. Outside of #1 overall pick and wunderkind Trevor Lawrence, he’s seen as the “safest” of the QB prospects with the highest floor – but also potentially the lowest ceiling because of his relative lack of physical talents. If you’d told Patriots fans 3-4 weeks ago that we could land Mac at #15 without sacrificing draft capital, they’d be ecstatic. So why does this feel anticlimactic?

A Minor Letdown?

I think it’s how the draft played out. Lawrence and Zach Wilson went 1 and 2 as expected. The 49ers, who traded into the 3 spot a month ago and (if you trust media reports) apparently didn’t make their decision until the last possible second, took Trey Lance after weeks of rumors that they wanted Mac. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, and Broncos all took non-QBs with picks 4, 7, 8, and 9. Justin Fields, possibly the most talented and accomplished of the group (non-Lawrence division) who many thought should go #2 overall, had been slipping down draft boards in recent weeks for unknown reasons. Was it possible he could fall all the way to #15?

Not believing that, I internally screamed for Belichick to trade up for him. Uh-oh, the Eagles moved up a couple spots to pick 10 – could they take Fields to compete with Jalen Hurts? Nope, they just wanted to steal WR Devonta Smith from the Giants.

Suddenly only 4 picks stood between the Patriots and their savior, all from teams who didn’t need a QB. For the first time ever, my heart was pounding during an NFL Draft. I couldn’t believe we were going to get Fields. And then – trade alert! The Chicago Bears move up to 11 and take… Justin Fields. Chicago fans go wild. I deflate. The Patriots take Mac 4 picks later, but some of the luster is gone. Even though by many accounts this was the dream scenario for Belichick & Co., I can’t help but feel let down.

A Victory Nonetheless

NFL Draft 2021 first round: Mac Jones says he 'secretly wanted to go to the  Patriots all along' - The Boston Globe
From Tony Dejak, Associated Press

But I’m choosing to be positive. Mac Jones is walking into the ideal situation for a rookie QB: a revamped offense with brand new weapons including the best tight end tandem in the league. An excellent offensive line. No expectations to start from day 1 and the ability to learn from Cam Newton, a consummate professional and renowned teammate. An accomplished, creative OC in Josh McDaniels who excels at highlighting his players’ strengths. A franchise with an established winning culture. And Bill Belichick, the greatest coach in NFL history, who values intelligence above all else and who doesn’t answer to any other coaches, owners, or dumb fans like me.

So I’m excited for the Mac Era. I can’t wait to dissect every piece of news from training camp and overreact even before his first NFL snap. I can’t wait to watch him fill Brady’s shoes. In closing, I leave y’all with a meticulously researched list of Mac Jones pros and cons that I put together during the draft while several margaritas deep. Hope this helps any other skeptical Pats fans join me on the bandwagon.

Pros:

  • For months, has been called the closest thing to Tom Brady
  • 2020 Heisman Finalist
  • Might develop a chip on his shoulder after dropping to #15 while being rumored to go at #3 a month ago
  • Called the Patriots “the greatest franchise in NFL history”
  • Vouched for by Belichick confidant Nick Saban
  • Hot girlfriend
  • Hot mom
  • Didn’t have to trade up to get him
  • Hot dad
  • He’s not Jarrett Stidham
  • In Bill We Trust

Cons:

  • Benefited from being surrounded by elite talent at Alabama
  • “Closest thing to Tom Brady” also translates to “can’t run and has a weak-ish arm”
  • No Alabama QBs have played well in the NFL in 50 years
  • Is basically the complete opposite of Cam Newton and Patriots may need two different offenses
  • He’s not Justin Fields
  • He’s not Trey Lance
  • His draft night haircut looked stupid
  • Was a child model
  • Mac is short for McCorkle, his middle name. Zach Wilson’s middle name is Kapono, Hawaiian for “righteous.” Advantage – Wilson
  • Got his Croc stuck in an elevator and almost lost his foot the only time he visited Boston
  • Wore (wears?) Crocs
  • Got a DUI before he was famous enough to get it swept under the rug
  • He walks like this