The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a blockbuster commerce final week, shifting up from choose 12 to three within the 2021 NFL Draft. Instantly, the thrill started, and other people and insiders put out the names of Justin Fields or Trey Lance and even Mac Jones because the participant the Niners moved up for. Surprisingly, ever because the commerce, the thrill about Jones from media has by no means gone away. Regardless of Fields being the slightly apparent reply, he has undergone a ridiculous quantity of calumniation from media members. This has led to a slightly heavy debate on-line between the 2 of them.
PFN Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline examined this narrative in final week’s Draft Insiders episode.
Tony Pauline summed the controversy up: “You understand you’re taking Mac Jones as a subject common as a result of he can command the offense along with his decision-making. You’re drafting Justin Fields as a result of he’s received nice bodily abilities and you need to develop the remainder of them.”
Trey Wingo, afterward within the episode, mentioned he actually doesn’t see Fields falling that far, “In a worst-case state of affairs for him, I feel he goes 4 and doubtlessly three [in the draft].”
This text primarily summarizes the “debate” between Fields and Jones and which one must be drafted first. Since we’re just about penciling in Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson at 1-2, this text’s going to be 49ers-heavy, however it could possibly apply universally.
Is Mac Jones an excellent match for the 49ers?
By means of absolutely the naked minimal — sure. There’s a variety of disingenuous narratives about why Jones suits the San Francisco offense. More often than not, when a number of the media analysts talk about the match, they level out, “Jones is correct and he’s actually poised within the pocket.” When requested to elucidate any additional in regards to the match, it will get pushed to “have a look at how Kirk Cousins/Matt Ryan performed with Shanahan.” It’s primarily evading the principle query at hand to strengthen a well-anchored perception.
So, I made a decision to dig into how these narratives actually look and take them one after the other. I’ll be doing the identical for Fields.
The issue with Jones and being “pro-ready”
There’s a blatant misinformation piece being thrown round that Jones is essentially the most pro-ready quarterback on this draft. 5 years in the past, that may be true. Ten years in the past, it additionally might need been. Within the 12 months 2021? Not fairly. Consider current quarterbacks who have been named “pro-ready.” These phrases popped up for guys like Jake Fromm, A.J. McCarron, Matt Barkley, Teddy Bridgewater, and even Josh Rosen.
Learn the scouting experiences on all of those quarterbacks and a few frequent denominators crop up. They’re correct, maintain the soccer, have clear mechanics, and browse and dissected defenses effectively for essentially the most half. This sounds nice — that’s most of what quarterbacks must do.
On the weaknesses facet, nevertheless, you’re going to get issues like “common to below-average athlete” and “restricted arm expertise” and “struggles to make tight-window throws.”
“Professional-ready” has taken on a brand new that means
They’re “pro-ready” within the period of West-Coast-heavy offenses within the 90s and early 2000s. That stereotype has pervaded into trendy analysis, regardless of having a number of current misses on the place. These quarterbacks who can’t adlib out of construction simply aren’t pro-ready anymore. Defenses are getting quicker and extra complicated. A contemporary quarterback has to work the play after which create if the play breaks down. Jared Goff was primarily solid out by Sean McVay as a result of he couldn’t do something if the play broke aside.
Quarterbacks who grew up watching Joe Montana (like Tom Brady and Drew Brees) emulated their video games round him, and it labored. Now, we’re seeing QBs who grew up eager to be Favre or Vick and even Aaron Rodgers and emulating their video games after him. These guys aren’t essentially the most excellent mentally or mechanically, however they function out of construction and play free and aggressive with unbelievable arm expertise. Groups are attempting to chase Patrick Mahomes. It’s an enormous cause why Wilson is so extremely regarded on this draft cycle.
It’s a distinct recreation, and that’s no fault of Jones
Jones is a throwback to a distinct period. It’s okay to say that. It doesn’t imply he’s “pro-ready.” The “protected quarterback” to financial institution on lately isn’t an correct however bodily restricted rhythm thrower.
Nearly 27% of NFL throws the final two seasons have come off-platform. Jones was barely at 17% — one of many lowest charges in faculty soccer. Whereas with the ability to throw off-platform isn’t essentially the important thing to profitable (see Mahomes within the Tremendous Bowl), it’s an efficient equalizer. How unhealthy would that recreation have been if Mahomes was a statuesque pocket passer? Have a look at Buffalo’s offense with Josh Allen or the newly-revitalized Packers offense with Rodgers. The sport’s finest at present are those that create and might win outdoors of construction, and we all know Jones isn’t that man.
The way in which Jones should win and succeed on the NFL stage is to ascend to a mastery of the psychological recreation much like Brady, Brees, and Manning. That takes time, and groups aren’t that affected person anymore.
The rise of “out of construction” signal-callers
Take Mahomes. Mahomes is a transcendent and generational expertise. He’s gained an MVP and been to back-to-back Tremendous Bowls. Even he nonetheless isn’t elite at studying defenses. Mahomes led the NFL in dropped interceptions with a ridiculous 16. Guess what? No person actually cares as a result of Mahomes is a ridiculous expertise and creator. Josh Allen was among the many worst QBs in interceptable passes within the NFL final season. It didn’t cease him from being a possible MVP.
Each of them are a number of years into their NFL careers and nonetheless aren’t excellent to the extent of Brady or Brees or Manning. But, their staff takes that as a result of they create a lot offense on their very own deserves.
Rosen received shipped out of Arizona a 12 months in. Darnold’s on his approach out of New York. Dwayne Haskins didn’t even final two seasons in Washington. Groups aren’t affected person with creating guys, and people guys struggled to create performs sufficient to offset their errors.
Does Jones match San Francisco schematically?
I discussed this above, however there’s some odd discourse about Jones’ match with San Francisco. Jones is labeled as a match for San Francisco’s offense as a result of he’s correct and strong within the pocket.
Yeah, title me the scheme that doesn’t match that. Operating a boot off of play-action and throwing within the pocket isn’t precisely unique to Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Diving into the numbers, Jones’ match with San Francisco will get a bit of murkier. Sports activities Information Options has a mind-boggling 58% of Jones’ performs as RPOs, screens, or play-action (27% RPO+screens, 31% play-action). To place a quantity to that, they’ve charted that break up outdoors of these performs to only 181 “customary” performs. For comparability’s sake, Fields had 231 performs (makes an attempt+dashing makes an attempt) within the six regular-season video games he performed in 2020. 181 performs is a tiny pattern dimension. How certain are we he can learn a full subject rapidly with out that Alabama offensive line? Strain received to Jones a full 6% decrease than common.
The 49ers are stingy with RPOs. In 2020, with three completely different quarterbacks, the 49ers ran 24 RPOs mixed and 12 of these have been within the 10 video games with Nick Mullens. In 2019, Professional Soccer Reference charted Jimmy Garoppolo with 24 RPO performs within the 16 video games he began. Simply 5.7% of Jimmy G’s throws in 2020 and simply 4.8% of his 2019 throws got here off RPOs. That’s a far cry from the 27% price of Mac Jones.
Jones is comfy with play-action
As acknowledged above, Jones is comfy with play-action. 31% of his 2020 performs have been off of play-action. The Shanahan offense is pretty play-action-heavy. About 28.5% of Garoppolo’s 2020 throws have been off of play-action. Mullens had 26.3%, whereas C.J. Beathard was a 15.3%. Shanahan understands the worth of play-action and setting it up with the run recreation. It’s the simplest throws to scheme to your quarterback and units up large performs downfield effectively.
Once more, although, is it simply because Shanahan is play-action heavy that makes Jones a scheme match? As a result of he has to land in that scheme to achieve success? It says so much about Jones’ analysis then, doesn’t it?
Is he actually Kirk Cousins or Matt Ryan?
First off, go away the Matt Ryan discourse on the door. They aren’t comparable gamers stylistically. Even in faculty, Matt Ryan had Boston Faculty No. 2 total within the nation in 2007 with simply three teammates who have been drafted into the NFL. There’s probably going to be a minimum of three teammates of Jones who’re first-round picks this 12 months. They’re solely comparable in the truth that they each play predominantly within the pocket.
Shanahan gained with Ryan, however remember the fact that Ryan had been taking part in for seven seasons and eight earlier than the 2016 marketing campaign. Ryan was Rookie of the Yr and made three Professional Bowls earlier than Shanahan confirmed up — Matty Ice was already profitable. The 2016 offense mixed an elite play-caller with an already well-established quarterback throwing to Julio Jones and had a superb run recreation behind Devonta Freeman. Sure, Shanahan gained with Ryan, however he didn’t develop Ryan.
So what about Kirk Cousins? Shanahan labored with Cousins in Washington, proper? Shanahan left Washington earlier than the 2014 season, becoming a member of the Cleveland Browns. Within the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Cousins performed in simply eight video games and began 4, going 1-3. Kirk posted extra INTs than TDs and posted a 56.1% completion price. Cousins was solely the starter due to RG3 getting damage. Cousins didn’t “take off” in Washington till 2015 in Sean McVay’s second 12 months.
Shanahan has been an outspoken advocate for Cousins as a participant. But, even he mentioned Cousins wouldn’t be how he drew up his excellent quarterback: “There’s quite a few quarterbacks like that, however that’s the one one I’ve been related to as a result of folks thought I used to be attempting to carry him right here, which I used to be on the time. It’s not as a result of that’s the way you draw it up. If you happen to’re going to attract it up, you’re going to attract the largest, quickest, strongest, and finest quarterback within the pocket. So, I feel that’s fairly ridiculous to say that.”
Is Jones the form of quarterback Shanahan needs?
This speaking level additionally doesn’t keep in mind that Shanahan drafted RG3 in 2012. He additionally labored with Johnny Manziel in Cleveland and Donovan McNabb in Washington earlier than RG3. The “he labored with Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins years in the past, in order that’s the quarterback he likes” is a poor speaking level, too.
Mike Shanahan himself mentioned after the 2012 NFL Draft that he and Kyle each favored Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill. Mike even mentioned they have been eager about drafting Wilson within the third spherical however went in a distinct path with G Matt LeRibeus. Wilson most likely would have been their choose at 102 over Cousins if he was nonetheless on the board.
Jones is basically in the identical mould as Garoppolo, the place he can function the San Francisco offense however gained’t elevate it. He’s not the quarterback that makes these big-time throws that flip momentum. He’s not a playmaker at quarterback. Have a look at the highest quarterbacks within the NFL, and all of them are. If a staff trades as much as the third total choose, likelihood is they need a quarterback that may be probably the greatest within the recreation.
If Jones is such an elite, pro-ready QB, why is he not being projected second total to the Jets? In any case, they only employed Robert Saleh from San Francisco and Mike LaFleur, the Jets offensive coordinator, is from the Shanahan tree. LaFleur labored with Ryan in Atlanta, too. Mike’s brother, Matt, was the Washington QBs coach with Cousins, so why are we not him there? Why is it him solely with San Francisco this begins, and it’s “he suits the Shanahan scheme”? LaFleur was employed to carry the Shanahan scheme to New York.
Shanahan needs change
Shanahan misplaced the Tremendous Bowl as a result of Mahomes uncorked a move off his again foot to Tyreek Hill that sealed the sport and flipped the momentum Kansas Metropolis’s approach. It’s a throw that neither Garoppolo nor Jones may ever hope to make. Josh Allen roasted the 49ers final season to the tune of 32 of 40 for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns. After that recreation, Shanahan was upfront with how his evaluations of quarterbacks are altering.
“How I consider every thing is all the time altering. Issues change, folks change. You begin to see you’ll be able to win soccer video games with any sort of quarterback so long as they’re adequate and you may be adequate in tons of of various methods. So, I consider quarterbacks when it comes to looking for individuals who can have an opportunity to be a kind of elite-type guys and there’s a number of other ways to do it….. You’re simply looking for a man who is healthier than about 98-percent of the folks on this planet or on this nation and whenever you discover that, you get him and also you regulate to him.”
Shanahan explicitly acknowledged that his strategies to judge quarterbacks have modified. He mentioned that months in the past. And but, there’s this pervasive standard knowledge that appears to suppose Shanahan will return to the identical ol’ tune and dance.
If Garoppolo had been traded like Jared Goff in Los Angeles, would we imagine this identical narrative? No, it’d be assumed that Shanahan needs a brand new sort of QB. If we saved that thought course of true, why would McVay commerce for Stafford when he had Goff? Why would Andy Reid commerce up for Patrick Mahomes if he had Alex Smith? Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll in Buffalo buying and selling up for Josh Allen once they went 9-7 and will have caught with Tyrod Taylor?
Do Shanahan and the superb 49ers entrance workplace strike you because the group to commerce three first-round picks and a third-rounder to stay with the identical outdated, usual?
So how good is Jones?
It’s unlucky for Jones that he’s being drawn into this media buzz and hype. It creates a variety of untruths and narratives that aren’t in his tape.
Right here’s what we will positively say about Jones. He’s extraordinarily correct within the brief and intermediate areas. Jones passes with precision, with the power to place the soccer the place it must be for essentially the most half. He displayed a capability to throw with anticipation and throw guys open because of this. There are situations on tape the place he correctly identifies blitzes and adjusts for it. He has good footwork within the pocket to make minute changes to offer him that additional half-second to get the ball out.
If Shanahan needs a change, Justin Fields is that man
The factor is — each energy of Jones is amplified with Fields. Fields is likely one of the most correct passers I’ve ever evaluated (since 2014). If Jones’ accuracy makes him a scheme match with San Francisco, why is Fields not thought of as such?
By all the standards listed about being pro-ready, Fields must be thought of much more so. He’s poised within the pocket. He reads the sector effectively, regardless of experiences on the contrary. Ohio State’s offense had essentially the most QB-demanding scheme of all the 2021 prospects. There aren’t a variety of easy, predetermined reads within the Ohio State offense. Fields really needed to undergo progressions.
He had one of many lowest RPO charges in faculty soccer. 70% of Fields’ yards got here earlier than the catch in 2020. Jones? Simply 47%. Fields is way from a “one-read” quarterback, and the truth that that narrative exists for him however not Jones is negligent and ignorant.
Fields makes the 49ers an elite offense
When drawing up his excellent quarterback, Shanahan mentioned it’d be “the largest, quickest, strongest, and finest quarterback within the pocket.” Properly, what about an almost-6’3″ man who ran a 4.46 at 227 kilos?
As acknowledged above, Shanahan was an enormous fan pre-draft of Tannehill and Wilson. He was a voice behind Washington drafting RG3. Fields is the closest to that mould of dual-threat quarterback on this draft class. If it’s a debate of Fields vs. Jones, Fields wins that case each time.
His mobility and arm expertise add a very completely different ingredient to the San Francisco offense. When Shanahan had RG3, RG3 was fourth within the NFL in EPA/play and third in CPOE. RG3 was seventh within the league in DVOA and eighth in QBR whereas main the Washington offense to sixth place in Offensive DVOA and sixth in Go DVOA. RG3 outpaced Garoppolo’s 2019 season by nearly each metric, regardless of taking part in in simply 11 video games.
Fields elevates the passing offense
One of many largest knocks on Garoppolo is he wasn’t aggressive sufficient as a thrower. In 2019, Garoppolo had an aggressive throw % of simply 15.3, edging out Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota. He not often threw downfield and most well-liked avoiding tight home windows (primarily due to his arm). Assume Fields has that drawback?
Fields is a superb athlete with an awesome arm and the accuracy to nail throws at each stage. He has the athleticism to make large performs along with his legs. He could make full NFL reads and operates the system closest to the NFL of the massive quarterbacks. Fairly frankly, if Lawrence weren’t on this class, Fields can be my choose at No. 1, and there are areas he’s higher at than Lawrence.
Fields isn’t excellent
There are legit criticisms of Fields to knock on. A part of the rationale folks suppose he’s a one-read quarterback is that he holds onto the ball too lengthy for a number of performs whereas he’s searching for the massive play. Naturally, that’s going to ask stress. There are situations the place he turns into primarily too aggressive and trusts his presents to win. He exams home windows he most likely shouldn’t, counting on his arm and accuracy to create the massive play.
The reliance on WR-option routes for a number of performs a recreation additionally makes these performs stand out as a result of Fields can’t make the choice and throw whereas he’s ready on his receiver to decide on.
Fields can appear methodical by means of his reads, however I feel it’s extra of the case I acknowledged above: Fields covets the massive play, so he’ll hold it on that receiver and push the home windows when he may have checked it down or scrambled for yards.
Fields vs. Jones
It’s a straightforward selection, truthfully. I can solely say a lot about this complete state of affairs. Fields surpasses Jones in nearly each space. Jones is being propped up on some shifty narratives that by chance or willfully ignore the state of affairs.
It’s OK to acknowledge what Jones is or isn’t. He’s a hyper-accurate quarterback. He gained’t make many errors and switch the ball over sufficient. Because it stands proper now, his capability to generate large performs is extra depending on his receivers than his personal capability. Sure, the quarterback has to get the ball to the receivers. Watch these two throws, and also you’ll know what I imply.
There’s a disparity between getting the ball to your receivers and making the massive throws. Daniel Jones’ “league-leading deep ball QBR” was boosted by his WRs adjusting to his underthrows very like Jaylen Waddle. There are a number of situations like that within the Alabama tape, however I’ve already proclaimed sufficient skepticism on Jones.
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There’s no actual cause on movie to counsel anyone, Shanahan particularly, ought to take Jones over Fields. Each energy of Jones is outdone by Fields in that space, and Fields’ weaknesses are much less obvious than Jones’. Fields tasks higher to the professional recreation and is truthfully extra “pro-ready” than Jones.
Many are going to learn this as a success piece on Jones and a puff piece of Fields, but it surely’s me being trustworthy. The takes on each side have change into inequitable. Each prospects are affected by a really insane pre-draft discourse about their skills, and it’s portray an unfair image for each of them, for good and for worse.
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