How good is Mac Jones?
That’s a simple question with a complicated answer. On the one hand, the New England Patriots quarterback ranked 28th among 31 qualified QBs in total QBR last season and looked like one of the NFL’s worst starters at times.
On the other hand, Jones was hamstrung by a “dysfunctional” offensive system led by first-time play-caller Matt Patricia and fared far better as a rookie under Josh McDaniels.
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So, where does Jones rank among his peers in 2023, where he has a competent offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien? NBC Sports Chris Simms is unveiling his annual Top 40 QB Countdown and has Jones ranked No. 20 overall — just ahead of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at No. 21.
Here’s No. 25 through 20 on Simms’ list:
25. Kenny Pickett (PIT)
24. Baker Mayfield (TB)
23. Justin Fields (CHI)
22. Jimmy Garoppolo (LV)
21. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
20. Mac Jones (NE)
For Simms, what separates Jones from Tagovailoa are his ability to stay relatively healthy — Tagovailoa has missed 16 games over the last three seasons — and his leadership ability, which Simms believes is underrated.
“He’s got more s— to him than people realize,” Simms said of Jones. “I know he looks like ‘Johnny Abercrombie & Fitch’ … but there’s confidence and s— talking in Mac Jones, from everybody I hear. He’s got incredible leadership skills that way.
“The durability and that aspect right there were definitely a part of the nudge of why I gave him the edge over Tua.”
While Jones doesn’t boast elite arm talent, Simms believes he certainly isn’t a “pea shooter,” as Rex Ryan labeled the Patriots QB in 2021.
“Even though the arm isn’t a ‘wow’ arm, it’s above NFL average,” Simms said. “And because of the other things we talked about — his anticipation, his accuracy, his ability to hang in the pocket and see the field — he makes a number of unbelievable power throws.”
Again, the stats don’t jump off the page for Jones: He completed just 288 of 442 passes for 2,997 yards in 2022 with 14 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and a pedestrian 84.8 passer rating. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa racked up 3,458 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns in just 13 games with an NFL-best 105.5 passer rating.
But Simms believes both QBs were largely a product of their surroundings, for better or worse — and that Jones has the potential to be very good (if not elite) quarterback under the right circumstances.
“Do I look at Mac Jones and think he can be a top-six or -seven quarterback if it all goes right? No, probably not,” Simms said. “Could he be like nine, 10 or 11 for like 10 years in a row? Yeah. I could see him being there.”
Check out Simms’ full breakdown of Jones on the NFL on NBC YouTube page below.