49ers NFL Draft 2021: Giving quarterback Mac Jones his due
By Peter Panacy
NFL Draft: Mac Jones’ positive traits for 49ers
One of the reasons why NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco thought Mac Jones would be head coach Kyle Shanahan’s preferred choice over someone like Justin Fields or Trey Lance was because of Shanahan’s preference for accuracy, pocket poise and decision-making processes over pure athleticism and elusiveness:
Jones had a 77.4 completion percentage for Alabama last season, so there’s some merit to the accuracy argument. But it’s also important to acknowledge Jones had one of college football’s better offensive lines in 2020.
That said, while Jones isn’t overly elusive, he’s shifty enough within the pocket anyway when facing pressure and doesn’t display any of the happy-feet tendencies San Francisco’s current starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, often displays when he’s facing pressure.
Like Garoppolo, Jones’ arm strength doesn’t always equate to good accuracy. Where Jones is going to find his best ball placement is on those short- and intermediate-area routes between the line of scrimmage and the 20-yard line.
From Pro Football Focus, Jones was the most accurate passer in the nation on throws from zero to 10 yards last year and had an 85.1 completion percentage in this area of the field.
That’s where the bulk of the 49ers’ passing efforts have gone during Garoppolo’s tenure since 2017.
And what’s arguably even more important is the timing of Jones’ throws. While going through is reads, balls are often placed right at the window where the toss needs to be when a receiver hits an open mark.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein explained:
"He displayed nice improvement as he grew into the position from 2019 to 2020. His accuracy and ball placement stand out and he throws a very catchable football with consistent touch on it."
Garoppolo is considered a system quarterback, and Jones is already showing signs the 49ers could put him in a system where he could thrive, too.