Bill Belichick and Mac Jones could return the Patriots to the top.
After the New England Patriots failed to qualify for the postseason in 2020, finishing with a losing record for the first time since the 2000 season, it would be fair to think the greatest dynasty in the NFL has come to an end. However, before he even considers retirement, Bill Belichick will likely want to put the Patriots in a position to win for years to come and, on the back of two seasons without a playoff win, he can make a move to do by drafting Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Following a 7-9 finish that left the Patriots with the 15th overall pick in the first round, the consensus top-four quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance — will be out of their reach.
Jones, though, could potentially even be had in the second round, and while his upside may be limited compared to that quartet, he possesses a skill set that Belichick can use to turn the Patriots back into perennial contenders.
That may seem a bold statement, but it is less of an outlandish claim when you look at Jones’ body of work from a 2020 season in which he has guided the Crimson Tide to the National Championship game.
What are Jones’ strengths heading into the NFL?
Intelligent and poised with a lightning-quick release, Jones is an anticipatory thrower who processes extremely quickly when going through his reads and has demonstrated excellent accuracy throwing to all levels of the field.
That combination is one with which most coaches should be able to work and, while it is too early to call Jones an upgrade on Cam Newton — who is expected to part ways with New England — there is reason to believe Jones can step in and provide greater consistency on a game to game basis given the ups and downs Newton experienced in 2020.
Is that consistency enough to immediately turn the Patriots back into contenders? In a vacuum, no. But when you consider that the Patriots still went 7-9 in a year that saw them lose Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon to opt-outs, the picture starts to look rosier for New England.
There are other issues to resolve on offense. David Andrews and Joe Thuney are unrestricted free agents who will not come cheap while there is a clear need for greater talent in the Patriots’ receiving corps.
But the return of Hightower and Chung should greatly aid a defense still blessed with talent at all levels that saw players like Chase Winovich and Josh Uche begin to emerge in 2020.
Much hinges on that blend of youth and returning experience coalescing next year but, if that happens and the Patriots revamp the offense around a composed pro-ready prospect in Jones, New England fans can begin to start thinking about a return to the top of the mountain.