Can Mac Jones do enough at the Senior Bowl to impress Panthers?

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Mac Jones
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Mac Jones /

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones will get the chance to impress the Carolina Panthers coaching staff at the 2021 Senior Bowl.

The Carolina Panthers got a huge boost to their 2021 NFL Draft plans when the coaching staff was selected to coach at the Senior Bowl. This will give Matt Rhule and others an early chance to work with some top college prospects they might be selecting later this spring, which will prove invaluable with so many changes to the NFL Scouting Combine amid COVID-19 fears.

One such player who will be one of the more talked about names at the Senior Bowl is Mac Jones. The Alabama star turned in a campaign for the ages that culminated in a sensational display to guide the Crimson Tide to a convincing National Championship win over Ohio State this season, with the player finishing third in the Heisman Trophy vote and winning the 2020 Manning Award which recognizes the top college quarterback in the country that year.

This has led many experts to believe that Jones might enter the first-round discussion providing he impresses in the build-up to draft night. While his game does appear to have some limitations at the next level, one cannot ignore the outstanding film he’s generated with some exceptional playmakers around him in 2020.

Carolina is under increasing pressure to take a signal-caller of the future with one of their top-end selections. The expensive Teddy Bridgewater experiment already looks like a failure that needs to be rectified by new general manager Scott Fitterer and other decision-makers at the earliest possible opportunity, although his contract dictates he’ll still be around next year.

It would be a huge surprise if Justin Fields and Zach Wilson were still around at No. 8 overall if Trevor Lawrence is the first player taken, as expected. So the Panthers need to look further down the pecking order if they cannot put a package together for a bombshell trade to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

The Carolina Panthers should approach Mac Jones with caution.

Jones is sure to be on the shortlist after a final college campaign that saw the player complete 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards through the air, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a sensational passer-rating of 203.1.

However, the Panthers should approach with caution.

The prospect was playing behind an elite offensive line, had a projected first-round running back alongside him in Najee Harris, and exceptional wide receivers such as Jaylen Waddle and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith getting open at will on the outside.

Jones does not have what you’d call elite arm strength or athleticism to be considered a top-10 pick. But teams do tend to panic when it comes to selecting quarterbacks to avoid missing out completely.

Whether Carolina falls into this bracket or not remains to be seen.

Taking Jones at No. 8 – which was predicted by Pro Football Focus in a recent mock draft – would be met with derision by the team’s fanbase. And Jones would be something of a wildcard despite shining after emerging from Tua Tagovailoa’s shadow.

Getting a good look at Jones during Senior Bowl practices will be critical for the Panthers.

It looks like the signal-caller will be taking full part despite taking a knock to his leg in the title game. What he does on the field and how he behaves when others are under center could tell us plenty about his chances of ending up in Carolina.

On the face of it, drafting Jones at No. 8 would be a huge reach and one that could compromise the future of the franchise. But stranger things have happened in the NFL and his pedigree coming into the assessment period speaks for itself.