Breaking down Alabama QB Mac Jones, potential fit with Bears originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
As the Bears continue their exhaustive quarterback evaluation this offseason, there’s one college prospect that appears realistically in reach at No. 20 overall:
Alabama’s Mac Jones.
But is Jones a good fit for the Bears? Fit is everything in the NFL Draft, especially for quarterbacks.
With that in mind, here is my evaluation of Jones and his chances of success if he landed with the Chicago Bears in April’s NFL Draft:
Jones might be the most accurate quarterback in this draft class. What he lacks in arm strength, he makes up for in touch, especially on his beautiful deep ball. While he was often throwing to wide open receivers at Alabama, there are plenty of examples of him throwing very catchable balls into tight windows – especially in go-up-and-get-it situations. He’s especially accurate on catch-and-run balls (bubbles, screens, slants), which is very important since the quick game will be crucial with his limited mobility. Despite that lack of mobility, Jones shows decent footwork in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield. With adequate protection, he can anticipate and throw receivers open. The lack of turnovers is also a huge plus. Size is not an issue at 6-2 5/8, 217.
As for the makeup, Jones is a proven winner and he deserves credit for sticking it out at Alabama and seizing his opportunity when Tua Tagovailoa got hurt in 2019. In this heavy transfer world, Jones was patient and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has praised his development. That shows a willingness to be coached. While Jones might be maxed out physically, there’s still untapped potential on the mental side of the game, which is important because he’s going to face more pressure at the next level.
There’s no question Jones benefitted from all the talent around him and the evaluation is tough because he was frequently playing in clean pockets. And when he did face pressure, he didn’t always handle it well. While he has enough mobility to get outside the pocket if needed, his accurate dips considerably when throwing on the run. There almost certainly will be a limitation on off-schedule plays. Jones also has an elongated release and while his arm is good enough for the NFL, it is far from a cannon. You can see when he labors to reach back for more. Jones also had a DUI as a freshman in 2017, but there don’t appear to be any recent questions about his maturity – he’s 22 now.
How does Jones fit with the Bears?
Jones has solid starter potential that you can win with, but the ceiling likely tops out at a Matt Ryan-like career. Nick Foles or Jared Goff might be more realistic comps.
Jones is ideally suited for a heavy play-action offense with movements/shifts to aid pre-snap reads. A strong offensive line and effective running game are a must. That raises some questions about how successful Jones would be in Chicago. Bears head coach Matt Nagy shifted his offense to include more play-action with Mitchell Trubisky, but Trubisky’s mobility was still a necessity behind the Bears’ inconsistent offensive line. The line would have to be much better than it was with Nick Foles, because Jones’ style of play is more comparable to Foles than to Trubisky.
Jones’ success in the NFL will be tied to his decision-making under pressure and ability to read coverages, both of which remain question marks with the abundance of talent he had around him at Alabama. Still, this is a kid who improved each year at Alabama and that development should continue at the next level – if he lands in the right situation.
The Bears still need to prove they can develop quarterbacks and Jones might be a better schematic fit in an offense like the Vikings or 49ers, but the Bears can’t be ruled out. I’d be more comfortable selecting Jones in the second round, but the quarterback draft is usually accelerated and it appears likely the Alabama quarterback will go in the first round.