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Patriots pick Alabama QB Mac Jones with No. 15 pick

Alabama QB Mac Jones was selected 15th overall by the New England Patriots in the 2021 NFL Draft

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — The New England Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, hoping they've found their franchise signal-caller one season after Tom Brady's free-agent departure.

The Patriots entered Thursday not knowing if they would have a chance at Jones, who had been widely rumored to be a top candidate for the San Francisco 49ers with the third overall pick. But when the 49ers selected North Dakota State's Trey Lance, it opened the door for a Jones-Patriots pairing, especially after the Chicago Bears traded up to No. 11 to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

Jones was asked on the ESPN broadcast what the roller coaster was like as he had to wait until No. 15 to be selected.

"It was fine. I mean, you just sit around and wait and I'm just so blessed to be a part of a great organization, and it's not really where you get picked -- it's what you do with the opportunity and that's what [Alabama] Coach [Nick] Saban told me, so I'm just gonna follow that," he said.

Later, in a Zoom call with reporters, Jones said the Patriots were the team he "secretly" wanted to be selected by.

"At the end of the day, you kind of want to get the right fit. I feel like, secretly, I really wanted to go to the Patriots all along. So I'm actually really happy it happened," he said.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attended Jones' second pro day in Alabama on March 30. Jones likely came with a high recommendation from Saban, who is one of Belichick's closest friends and trusted confidants.

The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Jones entered the draft after his redshirt junior season, and he didn't make his first career start until late in 2019 when Tua Tagovailoa was injured. He then beat out five-star freshman Bryce Young for the starting job in the summer of 2020, going on to throw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns to help Alabama win the CFP national championship.

Jones played his best in the highest-stakes game, going 36-of-45 for 464 yards and five touchdowns in the title game against Ohio State. That set career highs for completions, attempts and passing yards.

Jones, whose accuracy and decision-making are considered top assets, totaled just four interceptions last season while completing 77.4% of his passes (an NCAA single-season record). He was one of Alabama's permanent captains in 2020. He graduated in three years with a 4.0 GPA in business communications and earned a master's degree in sports hospitality.

One of the questions some in the NFL had with Jones is how much he benefited from having NFL-caliber talent around him, with receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and running back Najee Harris.

The Patriots, who went 7-9 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, have returning starter Cam Newton, 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and practice-squad player Jake Dolegala at quarterback.

Jones said Newton earned the respect of his teammates in New England by being voted a captain, and added that he had enjoyed watching Stidham at Auburn. He said both will be role models to him, adding, "I'm just going to go behind them, and learn how they did it."

Of Newton, he said: "It's his show, and I'm just there to support him and help out the team in whatever way I can."

The Patriots selected quarterback Tony Eason with the 15th pick in the 1983 draft. Eason, Dwayne Haskins (2019, Washington) and Marc Wilson (1980, Raiders) are the only other quarterbacks to be selected in that slot.