When the 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, Mac Jones may not have to wait long to hear his name called. While the Alabama signal-caller doesn't necessarily boast the elite upside or athleticism of presumptive fellow first-round picks like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance, he's been hailed for his accuracy and NFL readiness, to the point that the 49ers have been speculated as a likely landing spot all the way at No. 3 overall.
No player can be judged entirely on the program from which he emerges, but sometimes, certain school systems have tended to produce lackluster pros. Think Ohio State, which has a sterling college football reputation but has shepherded a growing list of NFL QB misses: Dwayne Haskins, Cardale Jones, Terrelle Pryor and Troy Smith are just the latest passers to be drafted and flop. What does the history of the Crimson Tide suggest for Jones' future? Again, Mac is his own QB, but Alabama's history of signal-callers on the big stage indicates he's at least got a fighting chance at stardom.
Here's a look at every Alabama QB to be picked in the NFL draft:
|QB||Year||Round (Overall Pick)||Team|
|Brodie Croyle||2006||3 (85)||Chiefs|
|Jay Barker||1995||5 (160)||Packers|
|Mike Shula||1987||12 (313)||Buccaneers|
|Jeff Rutledge||1979||9 (246)||Rams|
|Richard Todd||1976||1 (6)||Jets|
|Scott Hunter||1971||6 (140)||Packers|
|Ken Stabler||1968||2 (52)||Raiders|
|Steve Sloan||1966||11 (156)||Falcons|
|*Joe Namath||1965||1 (12)||Cardinals|
|**Pat Trammell||1962||24 (187)||Dallas Texans|
|Bart Starr||1956||17 (200)||Packers|
|Harry Gilmer||1948||1 (1)||Washington|
|Riley Smith||1936||1 (6)||Washington|
* -- Namath was also the No. 1 pick of the Jets in the 1965 AFL Draft, before the AFL and NFL merger a year later. He ultimately signed with New York. ** -- Trammell did not sign with the Dallas Texans and ultimately never played in the NFL.
Note: Several other Alabama QBs entered the NFL, albeit in different ways. Walter Lewis, for example, was a third-round supplemental pick of the Patriots in 1984. Jalen Hurts, meanwhile, was technically drafted out of Oklahoma in 2020.
What's the takeaway? Well, for one, Alabama isn't any more of a crap shoot than any other major school.
Unless you're already sold on Tagovailoa (and the Dolphins don't quite seem to be), the Crimson Tide have not produced a top-level starting QB through the draft in a long time -- more than 50 years, to be exact. The first-round hit rate on Alabama QBs is also not great: Riley Smith (1936) served mostly as a kicker and punter before an injury ended his career after just three years, Harry Gilmer (1948) threw 45 interceptions against 23 touchdowns while going 0-10 as a starter, Richard Todd (1976) was a turnover machine into the 1980s, and Tagovailoa is fresh off an ultra-conservative rookie year that saw him subbed out for a 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Then again, the home runs are some of the biggest the NFL has ever seen. In between the decades of invisible production and handful of first-round flops are a combined nine championships, including six Super Bowl wins; three Super Bowl MVP awards; and two league MVP awards, shared between Bart Starr (1956), Joe Namath (1965), Ken Stabler (1968) and Jeff Rutledge (1979). In fact, Alabama is just one of two schools with more than two Super Bowl-winning QBs. Rutledge got his rings as a backup to Phil Simms, but Starr, Namath and Stabler are literally among the most accomplished passers to ever play the game.
Alabama's NFL QB history, then, isn't necessarily an easy picture to paint. The school has failed to register an elite talent at the position since long before Mac Jones was even born. And yet its all-time greats would put Alabama among the best of the best in terms of historical QB production. So Jones, who could go higher than any Alabama product in an NFL draft since Gilmer went first in 1948, may end up joining the recent trove of misses. But if he pans out in a big way, there's plenty of precedent for that as well.