Second-Year Scouting Report: Mac Jones


The fantasy season is quickly approaching, so we will continue giving love to the second-year players in fantasy football. Everybody loves taking chances on their favorite rookies in fantasy football (how else do you prove your takes are right on social media?), which often leads to overshadowing players who we have seen perform at the NFL level.


An interesting prospect is Mac Jones. While Jones was arguably the best rookie quarterback last season, he doesn’t get much love in fantasy circles because of his role in a run-centric offense and his lack of rushing ability. Are those fair knocks? Does he have a chance to grow as a fantasy player in his second season? What should we do with him in fantasy drafts? You’ll find the answer to all those questions below.

Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots

Eyes rolled during the 2021 NFL Draft when multiple teams that arguably needed quarterbacks (looking at you, Carolina) passed on Mac Jones and allowed him to fall to the New England Patriots with the 15th pick. Jones was exceptional during the 2020 season with Alabama, completing 77% of his passes for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions en route to another National Championship. During the draft cycle, Jones became somewhat of a litmus test for Alabama quarterbacks. Was he talented, or was he a product of the exceptional talent (DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris and John Metchie) around him? Ultimately New England bet on the talent.

Fantasy managers were not as optimistic as the New England Patriots. Jones landed on a team that had a returning starter (Cam Newton) at quarterback and featured a run-first team. New England also invested a lot into the tight end position (Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith) and second-tier free agent wide receivers (Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne). Those factors contributed to Jones being drafted around QB22. 

Mac Jones QB New England PatriotsWhat Went Right

Jones impressed so much during training camp that he beat out Newton for the Patriots starting quarterback job. The rookie would go on to complete 67.6% of his passes for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Jones established a strong rapport with Jakobi Meyers (126 targets, 83 receptions, 866 yards and two touchdowns) and Henry (75 targets, 50 receptions, 603 yards and nine touchdowns) on his way to a solid rookie season. More importantly, Jones showed enough arm talent and accuracy throughout the season to prove that he had what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.

In his rookie season, Jones showed an excellent ability to read defenses and get the ball out fast. According to FTN’s advanced metrics, Jones was eighth among quarterbacks (minimum 12 games) in completion percentage against the blitz (67.4%). He also flashed excellent touch, generating 24 highlight passes (passes only receivers can catch), which was good enough for 14th among quarterbacks in 2021. Just three of Jones’ 27 sacks came from him holding the ball too long and missing open wide receivers.

What Went Wrong

Unfortunately for fantasy managers, Jones was a better NFL quarterback than fantasy quarterback during the 2021 season. New England opted to protect Jones during his rookie season by employing a two-headed running back approach with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Jones had just five games where he had more than 35 passing attempts during the regular season. The lack of passes ultimately led to just two games with over 300 passing yards and seven games with two or more touchdowns. For a pocket passer like Jones, that just isn’t enough to generate fantasy upside. He ultimately finished as the QB21 in fantasy scoring, averaging 14.05 fantasy points per game.

Prognosis Heading Into 2022

It will once again be difficult to trust Jones as a fantasy quarterback heading into the 2022 season. On one hand, Jones proved that he is an NFL-caliber quarterback in his first season and will head into his second year with most of the same receiving weapons. New England even added a deep-threat receiver in the second round of the draft (Tyquan Thornton) to open up the offense and allow Jones to make plays downfield. Most rookie quarterbacks take a jump in their second season, especially when they have consistency in personnel. Unfortunately for Jones, several factors are once again capping his fantasy upside.

For one, their offensive coordinator last season (Josh McDaniels) is now the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. Even more curious, the Patriots haven’t announced an offensive coordinator to replace him yet, which makes it very difficult to predict what the offense will look like next season. Early reports are some combination of Bill Belichick, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia splitting the duties, which certainly doesn’t provide clarity. The Patriots also seem likely to remain a run-heavy offense next season. Harris and Stevenson return, and New England used draft picks on two running backs (Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris). All signs point to the Patriots continuing to focus on running the ball in a league where passing is considered the norm.

It is tough to justify drafting Jones in 1QB leagues given his lack of rushing ability in a run-first offense. However, Jones is an excellent QB2/3 in SuperFlex and 2QB leagues. You know that he will take care of the ball, and he has plenty of options to distribute the ball to in the passing attack. While he doesn’t have a massive ceiling, he will provide a solid enough floor to give good weekly scoring at a non-premium price. Ideally, he is a solid third quarterback who can be confidently started in good matchups.

If New England opts to open the offense up in his second season, he could very easily become a consistent QB2 in that format.


Dynasty Outlook

Jones is much more interesting in dynasty leagues. While he lacks the upside of other quarterbacks in the 2021 class, he showed the ability to consistently play better than any quarterback selected in front of him. While the Patriots offense will likely feature a run-heavy approach, Jones has shown the ability to throw the ball when he needs to and has solid weapons and a good offensive line in front of him. If you ignore pedigree and solely focus on NFL production, Jones has the best chance to still be a starting quarterback on the team that drafted him in four years.

It is impossible to predict how the Patriots offense will evolve throughout his rookie contract. The Patriots have shown the ability to become a pass-centric offense (granted, it was with Tom Brady), which would elevate Jones’ fantasy potential. If you’re a believer in Jones’ talent, or New England’s ability to help him succeed, Jones is an excellent buy in dynasty leagues at the moment. He won’t cost as much as any of the quarterbacks selected ahead of him, but he can deliver the most consistent results. At worst, you’re getting a solid bye-week filler who can provide strong play in the right matchups. 

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