BOSTON — The New England Patriots have selected former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 15 pick of the NFL draft, their biggest move to date to bring in a player to possibly be a long-term replacement for Tom Brady.
It was believed the Patriots would have to trade up to get one of the consensus top five quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. It turned out Jones fell right into their lap.
After Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance came off the board in the first three picks, top-rated prospects Justin Fields and Jones were still up for grabs.
The Bears moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 in a trade with the Giants to select Fields, leaving only Jones available. He becomes the first quarterback selected in the first round during Bill Belichick’s 21-year tenure in New England.
Jones has been high on the Patriots’ list for some time, as evidenced by the pre-draft scouting they did on him. They sent scouts to the Senior Bowl and both Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attended Alabama’s pro day.
Jones, who played under Belichick’s longtime friend and former coaching colleague Nick Saban, earned the Davey O’Brien Award in 2020 as the top quarterback in college football.
Lauded for his accuracy and ability to command Saban’s system in his lone year as the Crimson Tide’s full-time starter, Jones arrives in New England coming off a season that saw him lead Alabama to a national title while completing an NCAA-record 77.4% of his passes for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
He joins a Patriots team that is in transition after finishing 7-9 in 2020 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. One of the biggest reasons was Cam Newton’s struggles to get his footing in the offense after taking over for Brady following his departure in free agency to Tampa Bay.
Newton was re-signed this offseason but returns on only a one-year deal. His backup last season, Jarrett Stidham, was beaten out for the starting job and has underwhelmed in limited action during his first two years in the league.
Jones becomes the 10th consecutive player to win the O’Brien award and be selected in the first round of NFL draft. He is also the third former Crimson Tide quarterback to be chosen in the first round since 1967, following Tua Tagovailoa (taken fifth in 2020) and Richard Todd (sixth in in 1976).
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL