Is Patriots' Mac Jones the Best Bet to Win NFL's 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award?
Fresh off a 45-7 beatdown of the Cleveland Browns, the New England Patriots had social media buzzing. Suddenly, rookie QB Mac Jones became the belle of the ball after throwing for 198 yards and three scores.
Sweeping statements were made about his credentials compared to his rookie peers, including how he has been the best of the talented bunch selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Jones delivered several impressive throws that highlighted his continued understanding of NFL defenses, the Patriots' playbook, and his talent.
In total, Jones has accumulated a nice 69% completion rate, 2,333 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 7.2 yards per average attempt. DraftKings has him with the second-best odds for the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and you should consider taking him at +125 return now.
The Best Rookie Quarterback?
Never possessing the strongest arm, Jones overcomes his limitations with pristine placement and timing when he's at his best. Arguably the most impressive highlight of the weekend was courtesy of Jones on this 26-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne.
Jones benefits from thus far outperforming and producing his rookie quarterback peers, playing on a winning team, and playing a far more valuable position than his main competition for the award, Ja'Marr Chase. He has five games with a 100 passer rating compared to zero combined between Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields.
Many fierce proponents of Jones developed throughout his 2020 season at Alabama. I liked Jones for what he was, a confident, highly accurate, and reliable passer in a loaded offense. It made sense he was a first-round pick for a team wanting a plug-and-play passer in a quick-trigger offense.
Tom Brady Part II?
In some ways, Jones does resemble early-career Tom Brady. Neither were the sole creator for their team but made the most out of the few meaningful throws they're asked to make each week. This slow development eases them into bigger roles, and the team hopes they can later become more than the high-floor passers they are.
It worked for Brady as he expanded his game and became insanely acute with detail. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has done well integrating Jones into the unit and finding his strengths as the season has progressed. The Patriots prioritize two tight end sets and the running game to give Jones advantageous passing situations and pre-snap looks.
The granular look at Jones isn't quite as optimistic as maybe the stats and pundits are. His passing distribution shows an offense taking the game out of his hands as often as possible. For example, 11 of his 23 attempts this past week were within two yards of the line of scrimmage.
Many of his passing charts look similar, and the more varied weeks still show a passer unable to consistently throw accurate passes beyond 20 yards. He has just eight completions at 20 yards or deeper, and the majority of those were exactly at the mark. Jones doesn't need to become Aaron Rodgers to win the OROY award or be a great quarterback, but it's an area of weakness moving forward in this season and down the line.
Is Mac Jones The OROY?
For now, Jones is the best OROY bet. Chase has been the better overall playmaker, but Jones has built the narrative, and Sunday was his coming-out party. The Patriots are set to win a Wild Card spot if not win the AFC East outright, and locking in a playoff seed would gift wrap the award to Jones. However, we must keep an eye on the Bengals. If Joe Burrow and Chase can lead Cincinnati to the playoffs, everything changes.
For now, Jones is trending in the right direction, and he has the Patriots heading the same way. Make your play now if you haven't yet.
Photo: Getty Images