NFL Coach: Mac Jones 'Most Advanced' QB in the Draft; Trevor Lawrence 'The Best'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) warms up before the start of their Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Roger Steinman/Associated Press

An anonymous NFL quarterbacks coach said Wednesday that Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is the "best" signal-caller in the 2021 NFL draft, but also noted they would take Alabama's Mac Jones if they had to win "right now."

The coach explained to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic why Jones is the "most advanced" QB in the star-studded 2021 class:

"In my mind, if I had to win right now, this year, he's the most advanced quarterback of any of them. I think Trevor's the best. I'm cosigning on him, but his system adjustment will be much bigger than Mac. Jones is gonna walk in Day 1 and just have to flip terminology because he's gonna know pro football. He's been coached by Sark [Steve Sarkisian]. He understands run checks, understands moving protections—not that these others don't, but he's on a different level.

"The question is, are Mac Jones' physical tools worthy of being a top-five pick or even first-round? I don't know that his physical abilities warrant that, but if you tell me that I have to win now, I think his physicals are good enough. How many guys in the history of football in 12 games against top college competition threw for 4,500 yards, throw 41 touchdowns and only four picks and completed 77 percent in a pro system? Some guys at pro days don't do 77 percent on air."

What makes this year's group of incoming quarterbacks, five of whom could come off the board inside the top 10, intriguing is the wide range of their skill sets.

Lawrence has been an elite prospect since high school and lived up to the hype every step of the way. He's the likely Rookie of the Year favorite and presumptive No. 1 pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jones' experience with the Crimson Tide makes him another potential instant-impact option who could also have a long, successful career as a backup if he can't establish himself as a franchise QB thanks to the traits mentioned by the quarterbacks coach.

Then there's a fast riser in BYU's Zach Wilson, a dual-threat playmaker in Justin Fields and a high-upside wild card in North Dakota State's Trey Lance.

The NFL coach's comments add another layer to the discussion. If an NFL team was playing a playoff game tomorrow, would they pick Jones over the other four standout prospects?

It's a hypothetical scenario with no barring on the draft, as front offices are focused on the next 10 years, not one game, but you could make an argument in favor of Jones based on his play for Alabama.

He's coming off a two-game playoff run for the Tide in which he threw for 761 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions in wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State to complete a perfect 13-0 season.

Perhaps that makes him an ideal fit for the San Francisco 49ers, who reached the Super Bowl in 2019 but slid to 6-10 last season amid unsteady quarterback play.

The Niners traded up to No. 3 in the draft, signaling their likely interest in adding a QB, and someone like Jones who can hit the ground running with an otherwise talent-laden roster makes sense on paper.