Earlier this month, ESPN's Todd McShay had the Patriots taking Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 15th overall pick in his most recent mock draft, but acknowledged it was unlikely Fields would fall that far as someone would almost certainly trade up for him if he started to slip into the bottom half of the top 10.
On Tuesday, fellow ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft, and he also has the Patriots taking a quarterback at 15. And Kiper's pick is much more likely to still be on the board at 15.
Kiper has the Patriots selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones as the fifth quarterback to go in the first 15 picks. He unsurprisingly has Clemson's Trevor Lawrence going to the Jaguars first overall, followed by BYU's Zach Wilson going fourth to the Falcons, Fields seventh to the Lions, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance eighth to the Panthers.
Jones is coming off a monster junior season, his first as Alabama's full-time starter, in which he helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 record and a national title. He threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In the national championship game against Ohio State, he completed 36 of 45 passes for 464 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. The completions and yards were both title game records, and the five touchdowns tied Joe Burrow's record set a year earlier.
While scouts praise Jones for his decision-making, anticipation and accuracy, the knocks against him include not being very mobile and not having an elite arm. There are also questions about how much of his success and big numbers are attributable to simply being on the most loaded team in college football.
Here is part of Kiper's write-up on the Patriots taking Jones: "They don't pick this high often. Why not go and get your guy and build around him? Now, that changes if Bill Belichick & Co. can make a deal to get a veteran quarterback on the trade market or if Jimmy Garoppolo gets cut by the 49ers. But with Cam Newton unlikely to return to New England, Jones could become a signal-caller to groom for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels."
Of note to the Patriots' divisional interests, Kiper has the Jets passing on a quarterback with the second overall pick and instead taking Alabama wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. He also has the Dolphins going wide receiver at No. 3, taking LSU's Ja'Marr Chase.
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