Quantifying Quarterbacks: Mac Jones

·9 min read



Quantifying Quarterbacks is an NFL Draft focused quarterback charting project geared toward providing as much information about as much of a quarterback's recent career as possible. Over 20 data points are recorded for any given pass attempt, ranging from down-and-distance, personnel grouping, play-action, depth of target, accuracy, and much more. Quantifying Quarterbacks charts the entirety of a quarterback's final college season, as well as a smaller sample (four games) from their previous season. All of this charting is done manually by me during and after the college football season. For a more in-depth look at what exactly Quantifying Quarterbacks is, here is a link to last year's final product: 2020 Quantifying Quarterbacks.

Distance (Usage Rate)

Left Outside

Left Middle

Right Middle

Right Outside

Total

10/22 (4 TD)

3/9 (3 TD)

10/14 (5 TD, 1 INT)

12/15 (6 TD, 1 INT)

36/60 (18 TD, 2 INT)

4/5

6/9 (3 TD)

9/11 (1 TD)

4/7 (1 TD)

23/32 (5 TD)

8/12 (2 TD)

17/21 (2 TD, 2 INT)

28/34 (3 TD)

12/16 (2 TD)

65/83 (9 TD, 2 INT)

15/17 (1 TD)

11/16 (1 TD)

13/14 (3 TD)

4/5 (1 TD)

43/52 (6 TD)

9/12 (1 INT)

29/33 (1 TD)

26/32 (1 INT)

11/13

75/90 (1 TD, 2 INT)

25/25 (1 TD)

47/48 (3 TD)

23/23 (3 TD)

21/21

116/117 (7 TD)

71/93 (8 TD, 1 INT)

113/136 (13 TD, 2 INT)

109/128 (15 TD, 2 INT)

64/77 (10 TD, 1 INT)

358/434 (45 TD, 6 INT)

Games Charted: Arkansas (2019), Auburn (2019), All (2020)

CHARTING EXTRAS

Blatant Drops: 15 (3.37%)

Forced Adjustments: 26 (5.84%)

Contested Drops: 11 (2.47%)

Passes Defended: 25 (5.62%)

Explosive: 73 (16.40%)

Throwaways: 11

In many ways, Alabama QB Mac Jones’ charting profile is strikingly similar to that of BYU QB Zach Wilson. The optics of how they each arrived there could not be more different — Jones’ cool, calculated game from the pocket versus Wilson’s free-flowing style of play — but the end result sort of ends up the same. Part of that unexpected similarity in profiles has to do with how much each of them benefitted from their offenses.

The case for Jones’ offense helping him is obvious. Wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are about to be first-rounders, running back Najee Harris will likely match the feat, and tight end Jahleel Billingsley will probably do the same in 2022. The Alabama offensive line also looked better put together in 2020 than it did in 2019, which only further enabled Jones’ success within the pocket. Jones executed the offense to perfection, there is no denying that, but it’s clear he was operating on an uneven playing field.

Both the offense’s unfairness as well as Jones’ execution of that offense show up in how often Jones’ passes were contested or outright defended. Among this year’s top-five quarterbacks, Jones’ rate of contested drops and passes defended are each the lowest of the bunch. The eye test shows that this is equal parts Alabama’s offense constantly having players wide the hell open, as well as Jones playing with safe, sharp decision making and high-quality accuracy. The offense made Jones’ life incredibly easy and he rarely let them down.

That said, if there’s any area where the Crimson Tide offense helped Jones without him having to do much of anything in return, it is how often he threw at or behind the line of scrimmage. 26.29% of Jones’ passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage, which is the highest mark in 2021 by just over 5% (so far). That mark would also be higher than anyone from 2020, and only Gardner Minshew and Jarrett Stidham posted higher rates in 2019. To be fair to Jones, it’s hard to blame Steve Sarkisian for wanting to just get the ball right into the hands of his playmakers, but it’s worth keeping in mind when looking over Jones’ raw statistics.

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ACCURACY AND ENVIRONMENT

Adjusted Accuracy: 81.15%

Outside the Pocket Percentage: 9.89%

Adjusted Accuracy Outside the Pocket: 62.05%

Under Pressure Percentage: 15.51%

Adjusted Accuracy Under Pressure: 68.12%

Most Common Personnel Package: 11 personnel (47.87%)

Shotgun Percentage: 98.43%

Empty Formations Frequency: 6.29%

Play-Action / RPO Percentage: 53.03%

Play-Action Adjusted Accuracy: 76.91%

Designed Rollout Frequency: 5.39%

Some of the assistance Jones got from the offense shows up in this section, as well. Jones’ play-action / RPO rate of 53.03% is astronomically high. Even if we assume the NFL’s play-action / RPO rate is increasing, over 50% is not a realistic number in the pros. From 2019 and on, the only other QBs to clear the 45%-plus mark in this area are Drew Lock, Kyler Murray, and Tua Tagovailoa. That’s not the worst company, honestly, but it’s still worth recognizing much of Jones’ production came easier than other QBs, which is especially concerning when Jones does not have the playmaking element those other QBs had/have.

What’s interesting about Jones, though, is how different his under pressure versus outside the pocket splits look. When pressured, Jones is genuinely exceptional. Not only is Jones’ accuracy rate under pressure the best mark between 2020 and 2021, but the film backs up that production. Jones shows outstanding poise in the pocket. He remains cool, calm, and collected with bodies around him and has the pocket management skills to create space in the pocket as necessary. Moreover, Jones is not at all scared to take a shot to the ribs if it means getting a good throw out, which is an absolutely necessary trait for someone who can not move outside the pocket to make plays.

When Jones does need to break the pocket, he is painfully average from a production standpoint, at least relative to his peers in this class. And that’s with him having one of the best supporting casts in college football history. Jones’ 62.05% adjusted accuracy outside the pocket is actually slightly above average compared to the 2020 class at large, but currently ranks last among the top-five QBs in 2021. Wilson is the only other QB to come in below 65%. Jones also played from outside the pocket far less than his peers. Only 9.89% of Jones’ attempts were thrown from outside the pocket, which is about 4% lower than the next-closest in this class (Lawrence).

The issue with Jones is less about willingness and more about ability. Jones is not scared to move and play outside the pocket, and he often bails in a timely manner when absolutely necessary. However, Jones is by far the worst athlete among this year’s top quarterbacks and probably finds himself below the rising standard in today’s NFL. Jones also does not have a particularly strong arm, so testing windows beyond 10 yards while on the move is just not something that is in his toolbox.

All of that being said, Jones’ overall adjusted accuracy mark is still the second-best I've ever recorded. Yes, playing for that Alabama team helps, but Jones does process well and throws a real catchable ball to every level of the field. Sorting out exactly what Jones’ ceiling may be is tricky, but it feels safe to say his floor is quite high. Quarterbacks as accurate as Jones are not easy to come by, even for Alabama.

PASS RUSH

Avg. Number of Pass Rushers: 4.29

Three or Fewer Pass Rushers Frequency: 9.21%

Four Pass Rushers Frequency: 57.53%

Five Pass Rushers Frequency: 28.54%

Six or More Pass Rushers Frequency: 4.72%

Here is another section where Jones and Wilson share a lot of similarities. Not only do Jones and Wilson share the lowest average numbers of pass rushers (4.29 and 4.27, respectively), but their rates of each different category of pass-rush count are all within 3% of each other. However, in the case of Jones, a huge chunk of his three-man rush rate is from the Arkansas game alone. Jones faced 41 snaps with three-man rushes and 21 of them were just against Arkansas, so it’s likely Jones’ figures look a smidgen more in line with his other classmates if not for the Razorbacks.

SITUATIONAL

3rd/4th Down Adjusted Accuracy: 74.71%

3rd/4th Down Conversion Rate: 52.87%

4th Quarter/Overtime Adjusted Accuracy: 80.00%

Red Zone Adjusted Accuracy: 67.69%

Jones’ numbers here more or less line up exactly with the film. On third downs, Jones is very good, though not elite in terms of getting the ball to his players’ hands. Part of that likely has to do with his somewhat limited arm strength and lack of mobility to move outside the pocket against pressure looks. When the ball did get to his receivers, though, they converted at a high rate, which is wholly unsurprising given the talent on that team.

The fourth quarter numbers are just stupid. Jones only registered 30 chartable passes in the fourth quarter of games, and most all of them were for the purpose of tacking on unnecessary points in blowouts, if he had not already been pulled by then. Don’t get me wrong, Jones still killed it in the fourth quarter, but he was hardly playing with the same stakes as many QBs do.

Jones’ red zone figure is the only one worth any discussion, really. Jones’ red zone accuracy is worse than all but Trey Lance in the 2021 class so far. Granted, Fields and Wilson are only hovering between 70-71%, so the difference is not massive, but it’s still notable. It’s not too surprising that Jones falls just below many of his peers with significantly stronger arms, though.