49ers NFL Draft 2021: Giving quarterback Mac Jones his due
By Peter Panacy
NFL Draft: Mac Jones’ negative traits for 49ers
Yes, Mac Jones benefited from one of the most explosive offenses in college football last year, and potentially four of his Crimson Tide offensive teammates could be first-round selections this year.
The Niners offense has weapons, too. Either way, let’s not hold that entire argument against Jones. Rather let’s extrapolate his ability to shoulder an offense on his own.
Jones should be considered an orchestrator of an offense, but he’s nowhere near a playmaker such as Justin Fields or Trey Lance. Playmaking doesn’t necessarily have to involve just scrambling for 18 yards on a 3rd-and-15 when nobody is open and then being able to pick up the first down, no.
In addition, it would be coming up with that improbable and often improvisational play in those clutch moments.
As far as improvisation goes, Jones isn’t it. If he’s forced to vacate the pocket, especially if it’s an off-script play, the data doesn’t suggest success.
This, from USA Today’s Touchdown Wire:
"This is where Mac Jones might have a problem — especially if he’s drafted by a team with an iffy offensive line, and targets who can’t separate from coverage most of the time. In 2020, per Sports Info Solutions, Jones had just 21 dropbacks in which he eventually left the pocket. On those dropbacks, he completed just nine of 19 passes for 99 yards, 71 air yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, two sacks, and a quarterback rating of 80.8. Every single one of those dropbacks came under pressure; that is to say that the Crimson Tide called no plays whatsoever in which Jones left the pocket intentionally."
The data can prompt a conclusion where Jones could thrive in a system where the pieces are all in place, and the context is running smoothly. Interestingly enough, that was the same argument made for Jimmy Garoppolo both in 2019 and last year, particularly when San Francisco started to suffer an overwhelming number of injuries.
Garoppolo wasn’t seen as someone who could carry the 49ers offense on his own anyway, and the idea of Kyle Shanahan’s offensive line or other skill players either suffering through more injury attrition and/or eventually departing in the coming years due to team turnover casts some doubt here.
That leads to the key question Shanahan and the Niners have to ask themselves about Jones: What kind of signal-caller should San Francisco target?