Alabama's Mac Jones: Preparation, football IQ set me apart from NFL draft's other QBs

Mike Jones

On Tuesday, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones gets another chance to impress prospective employers as he performs at his school’s pro day. But Jones believes that his mental strengths could help him cement his status among the top passers in this year’s draft.

“This quarterback class is really a good class. I’m just blessed to be a part of it,” Jones said during Monday’s pre-workout press conference. “You can watch the guys' tape and see we all have great tape. But what separates me is my preparation and my ability to learn and take from the coaches meetings and my own meetings and apply it on the field.”

Jones is coming off a prolific junior seasonin which he passed for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions while helping lead Alabama to the national championship.

In the championship game, Jones racked up 464 passing yards and five touchdowns as Alabama defeated Ohio State 52-24. That matchup represented a faceoff between Jones and another highly touted quarterback prospect in Justin Fields.

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Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrates with the CFP National Championship trophy after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Many draft analysts project Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to go first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and several rate BYU quarterback Zach Wilson just behind Lawrence and expect him to go second to the New York Jets. 

That leaves a trio of Jones, Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance as remaining first-round projections. But opinions differ on the proper order of those three. 

Jones is considered by many as the most pro-ready quarterback given the style of offense that he ran under then-Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, as well as the responsibilities he handled directing the unit, playing under center and making calls and changes at the line. 

Fields and Lance are more athletic than Jones, and some NFL talent evaluators believe each has a higher ceiling than the Alabama signal-caller,though they may need more time to develop.

But Jones said he isn’t concerning himself with popular opinion. 

“It takes just one team to fall in love with a guy and hopefully I can do that,” he said. “Whatever team wants to do that, that’d be awesome.”

He met with representatives from all 32 teams at the Senior Bowl and is scheduled to hold additional pre-draft Zoom meetings with many of the teams scheduled to pick in the early portion of the first round.

The San Francisco 49ers hold the third overall pick after trading up from 12th overall last week and coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are expected to attend Alabama's second pro day on Tuesday. 

Jones said he sees similarities in the 49ers' offense, which he described as “quarterback friendly” and the scheme Alabama ran last year.

“The 49ers would be awesome to play for,” he said. “But at the end of the day, i can’t think too much about it. It might be a distraction. They’re going to pick who they’re going to pick, and I’m going to go and work just like I did for four years at Alabama, and hopefully it works out in the long run.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports NFL columnist Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.