According to ESPN’s Todd McShay (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are projected to select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 21st overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft—although the team is still playing January football right now:
21. Indianapolis Colts
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama*
A fifth quarterback! Only once in the common draft era have five QBs been drafted in the first 21 picks: 1999, when Tim Couch led a pack of five in the opening 12 selections. The top end of this signal-caller class is special, and the Colts are squarely in the mix for one of them, with 39-year-old Philip Rivers finishing up his one-year deal. Jacob Eason is the only name on the Colts’ 2021 QB depth chart at the moment. Jones puts excellent placement on deep balls, anticipates well and shows poise in the pocket. His 4,036 yards and 36 touchdown passes both ranked second in the nation this season.
The 6’3”, 214 pound redshirt junior quarterback completed 275 of 357 passing attempts (77.0%) for 4,036 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions during 12 starts in 2020—earning All-American, First-Team All-SEC, and the Davey O’Brien Award respectively.
Highest-graded QBs in 2020:— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 4, 2021
1) Mac Jones, Bama - 95.5
2) Zach Wilson, BYU - 95.4
3) Justin Fields, Ohio St - 93.3
4) Spencer Rattler, OU - 92.7
4) Grayson McCall, Coastal - 92.7 pic.twitter.com/gsfaqpVZcL
Of course, throwing to Heisman Trophy winning wideout DeVonta Smith certainly helps.
So what’s the scouting report on Jones?
If you watched Jones at the end of last year, you saw a player that was confident, decisive, and had lots of pocket savvy. He has arm strength limitations, but his timing and awareness help him overcome that.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) October 11, 2020
Excited to see him next week.pic.twitter.com/jAVyklOlRg
The touch is really, really impressive.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 24, 2020
Mac Jones was already an NFL prospect entering the season, but he's clearly elevated his play in 2020. His pocket movements and confidence as a passer are outstanding. https://t.co/TDeLyFx9tE
In certain respects, Jones sounds a lot like Colts current veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, who doesn’t have the biggest arm anymore, but has had success with his pocket presence, confidence, accuracy, and anticipation. However, Jones does throw a good deep ball (much like prime Rivers used to in San Diego).
That being said, if the Colts are going to select a quarterback in the first round, doesn’t the team want the quarterback with the big ‘live arm’? (Especially since North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance goes two picks before Jones here).
To me, and this is just my honest opinion, but if the Colts are going to do something drastic at quarterback, the team would be better off taking the franchise’s left tackle of the future, a pass rusher, or cornerback and trading for the Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford—rather than forcing a first round selection on Jones (or at the very least, there are more naturally gifted rookie passers to potentially trade up for or choose from).
However, there is something to be said for the Colts potentially bringing Rivers back on a similar 1-year deal in 2021 and grooming a top rookie quarterback under him for a final season—before that young passer fully takes over the reins in 2022.
I’m just not sure that top rookie quarterback is Jones, who was a winning and highly productive player at the collegiate ranks (albeit on a stacked Alabama team), but may simply lack the arm talent to be worthy of a first round pick for Indianapolis.