Drawing comparisons to Tom Brady, some think Patriots should target Alabama's Mac Jones
Bill Belichick is already on the clock.
With Brady gone, the franchise turned to quarterback Cam Newton on a one-year deal, and he went 7-8, missed the playoffs and generally didn't live up to the Patriots' standards.
Now that Newton's contract is up, what do the Patriots do? Does New England select a quarterback with the No. 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Colin Cowherd doesn't think so, believing the Patriots should stick with Newton for one more year.
"Not. Listen, stay with Cam for a year – defensive players come back."
It wasn't all bad with Newton, who led the way with his feet, helping New England's potent rushing attack rank fourth in the league (146.6 yards per game). His 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for fourth-most in the league among all players.
On the other hand, Newton's passing stats left much to be desired. Among all qualified quarterbacks, Newton ranked last in average passing yards per game (177.1), with more games posting fewer than 125 yards (six) than he had with at least 200 yards (five) and just two games with at least 300 passing yards.
In addition, Newton threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (eight, including three in Week 17). Only the two New York teams scored fewer offensive touchdowns than the Newton-led Patriots, and New England's 20.4 points-per-game average was the franchise’s worst since 2000.
So despite Belichick's praise of Newton, it might be in the Patriots' best interest to return to what they know and go after a less mobile signal-caller, according to NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper. Kiper believes the Patriots should target Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who he compared to – wait for it – Brady.
"I was comparing more Mac Jones to what Tom was when he came out of Michigan, not what he was when he became the greatest of all-time. ... Tom Brady has certainly helped Mac Jones and those comparisons have certainly helped Mac Jones as well."
When it comes to running the ball, Jones is much more like Brady than Newton. In his senior season with the Crimson Tide, he had 35 carries for just 14 rushing yards and one score on the ground.
"He’s tremendously accurate to all levels. He doesn’t have the ‘wow’ arm, like Brady didn’t either coming into the league. And like Brady, he’s not real mobile, not a runner. But biding time, slipping and sliding, he did it in the championship game. So there are some similarities there."
Jones used his intangibles and the talent around him to lead the Crimson Tide to an undefeated record and National Championship, recording the highest completion percentage (77.4), completions (311), passing yards (4,500), passer rating (203.1) in the nation.
However, not everyone is convinced Jones would return first-round value, as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields and BYU's Zach Wilson are ranked ahead of Jones on most mock draft boards.
But there is one NFL gambling analyst, Jason McIntyre, who believes Jones is the perfect fit for the Pats.
Jones has one more thing going for him in New England, as Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Belichick have a long-standing relationship after crossing coaching paths many years ago in the NFL.
Now, the clock is ticking.