There was a real chance that Mac Jones would wind up as a top-three quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft — in fact, he was the favorite to go at No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers for a time in late April.
But the Niners passed on him, as did the Falcons at No. 4, the Panthers at No. 8, the Broncos at No. 10, the Bears at No. 11 and some other potentially QB-needy teams mixed throughout. It wasn't until pick No. 15 that Jones was selected by the Patriots, and his fall may have occurred for a number reasons. There was a lot of other intriguing quarterback talent on the board. Jones didn't seem to flash the same athleticism or arm strength, and he had a much better supporting cast in college than his counterparts. And the list of reasons goes on, as does the list of critics, including Bucky Brooks and Colin Cowherd.
And look where we are now. Jones just led the Pats to an absolute demolition of the Browns, with an incredible 92.5 offensive grade on Pro Football Focus, and it doesn't even seem like a question as to which rookie quarterback is the leader of the pack to this point. Here's where they all stack up on PFF, out of 36 eligible quarterbacks:
5. Mac Jones (87.0 grade)
28. Justin Fields (64.6 grade)
31. Zach Wilson (59.5 grade)
33. Davis Milles (59.3 grade)
35. Trevor Lawrence (56.9 grade)
N/A. Trey Lance (59.0 grade, but not enough snaps)
Wow. That's not even close. And for everyone who was critical of Jones or skeptical of his abilities coming into the 2021 draft — which was a whole lot of people, for what it's worth — multi-time Pro Bowl defensive back Tyrann Mathieu would like to have a word.
"Mac Jones wasn't trendy enough for y'all at first huh now y'all love him.... Man, y'all funny!!! Day in and day out!!! Y'all should be on Comedy Central," Mathieu tweeted, adding more upon Dan Orlovsky's agreement with his take. "He don't throw side arm or run fast so people knocked him.... dude can play QB! Period."
Mathieu plays with Mahomes, who is, in fact, known for some ridiculous throws at ridiculous angles and some good athleticism to boot, but he clearly realizes that production at the football position isn't all about that. And speaking of Mahomes, who just came off a brilliant Week 10 outing, he's sitting at No. 21 on that same PFF list above. Go figure.
Mathieu has been complimentary of quarterbacks before, which is a refreshing sight to see for a player so determined on ruining an opponent's passing game. Early in the season, Mathieu said he was impressed by Trevor Lawrence's postgame interview after Week 1 — not quite what you want to be impressed with for a No. 1 overall pick and generational QB prospect, but that's okay — and praised Matthew Stafford as "really underrated" during the veteran quarterback's final year in Detroit.
For Jones, this is probably one of many compliments he's received in recent weeks, but anything that comes from a player of Mathieu's caliber and experience shouldn't be taken lightly.