The Carolina Panthers pretty clearly want to make a big move for Deshaun Watson, the disgruntled Houston Texans star quarterback who is trying to force his way off the dysfunctional team. If they can't make a deal before the 2021 NFL Draft, they may be able to take a "perfect fit" for their franchise with the No. 8 pick, in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Jones entered the 2020 season battling it out with true freshman Bryce Young for the starting job. He took advantage of that opportunity in a major way, lighting up scoreboards all season long, finishing as a national champion and Heisman finalist.
Last month, Jones dominated during the week of the Senior Bowl. His draft stock has been on the rise ever since, and he's moved up from back-end of the first round to potential Top 10 pick in short order. It sounds like there's some real smoke around the Carolina Panthers, assuming they can't land Watson from Houston.
"I think he’s going to surprise some people. I think he’s a guy who has to be in play both for Philadelphia and for the Carolina Panthers," ESPN's Louis Riddick said on Get Up on Tuesday morning, via 247. "I think Carolina is the perfect fit for him in Joe Brady’s type of offense. I think it’s absolutely perfect." This comes a day after Mike Tannenbaum, former general manager of the New York Jets, called the Panthers at No. 8 his "floor."
Tannenbaum and others seem to be buying into the idea that there will be an early run on quarterbacks, and the fact that Jones may not be done jumping others at the position. He believes one major team could really change the landscape with an early run at Mac Jones: the New England Patriots.
"There’s a lot of speculation about New England. Bill Belichick, Nick Saban having conversations, if that goes well, New England is going to have to go above No. 8 to go get Mac Jones.”
Trevor Lawrence is pretty locked in as the No. 1 pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars right now. Beyond him, Ohio State's Justin Fields, BYU's Zach Wilson, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance have all been in the top 10 range for a while now, with plenty of teams having major needs at quarterback. Now, it looks like Jones has played his way into that firm top tier, and could really shake up what promises to be a wild first round.