3. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Mac Jones’s inclusion may come as a surprise given he still has to earn the starting quarterback job over true freshman, Bryce Young. Between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, Nick Saban has demonstrated he isn’t afraid to start a freshman quarterback, however, COVID’s impact to spring ball should help incumbent, Mac Jones hold onto the starting role by Week 1.
If Jones can hold onto the starting role, he will have plenty of NFL talent surrounding him this season. Like the playmakers Burrow had at LSU, the Alabama offense once again features two receivers that could both be selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Behind an NFL caliber offensive line and a backfield boosted by the return of Najee Harris, Jones should have the opportunity to showcase his abilities as a possible NFL quarterback.
While Mac Jones wasn’t confused for Tua or has the impressive offer sheet of Young, Jones showed flashes during his brief stint as a starter to close out the 2019 season. Jones threw for over 1,500 yards and an impressive 15-3 touchdown to interception rate in a four-game starting stretch over Mississippi State, Western Carolina, Auburn, and Michigan.
While his two interceptions against Auburn ultimately proved costly, Jones threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns and followed up with an impressive 327 yard, three-touchdown, zero interception, and 213.5 quarterback rating in a Citrus Bowl win against Michigan. His initial performances and high completion percentage should provide a solid foundation entering the 2020 season.
Jones can be looked at as a possible Joe Burrow breakout candidate of the year for several reasons. First off is his obviously talented supporting cast. Alabama is arguably the most visible program in the country and if the Tide go undefeated behind solid play, Jones could pick up attention as a strong option in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In addition to the talent around Jones, the traditional pocket passing quarterback has former NFL offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian calling an NFL style offense. Jones has an uphill battle to be perceived as an NFL style quarterback, but if he can improve his reads and hit Waddle and Smith downfield, Jones could pick up draft buzz this fall. That will all start with winning the starting gig.