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Mac Jones by the numbers: Patriots rookie quarterback on pace to rewrite record books in Year One

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Mac Jones is having a rookie season for the ages with the New England Patriots — not bad for the fifth quarterback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Patriots took the gamble Jones would fall to No. 15 overall and won, giving Bill Belichick his next franchise quarterback. 

Even though Jones has played like a seasoned veteran, his numbers have largely gone unnoticed thanks to the Patriots’ top-ranked scoring defense and the mystique of Belichick — who is arguably the greatest defensive coach in league history. Jones is the catalyst toward New England becoming a Super Bowl contender in the AFC, leading the Patriots to a top-10 scoring offense and the top-ranked offense in percentage of drives ending in an offensive score. 

The other first-round rookie quarterbacks have struggled in their first season — except for Jones. Not only is the Patriots’ rookie lapping the field in all the major statistical categories, he’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons for a rookie quarterback in league history. 

In this week’s edition of “By The Numbers,” we’re taking a look at Jones’ impressive rookie season and what he needs to accomplish in order to have the best rookie season for a quarterback in league history. 

Most passing yards — rookie QBs (2021)

  1. Mac Jones (Patriots) — 2,850
  2. Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) — 2,369
  3. Justin Fields (Bears) — 1,361
  4. Davis Mills (Texans) — 1,357
  5. Zach Wilson (Jets) — 1,313

Most pass touchdowns — rookie QBs (2021)

  1. Mac Jones (Patriots) — 16
  2. Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) — 9
  3. Davis Mills (Texans) — 7
  4. Justin Fields (Bears) — 4
  5. Zach Wilson (Jets) — 4

Highest completion percentage — rookie QBs (2021)

  1. Mac Jones (Patriots) — 70.3%
  2. Davis Mills (Texans) — 67%
  3. Justin Fields (Bears) — 58.1%
  4. Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) — 58%
  5. Zach Wilson (Jets) — 57.6%
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Highest passer rating — rookie QBs (2021) 

  1. Mac Jones (Patriots) — 97.1
  2. Trey Lance (49ers) — 88.4
  3. Davis Mills (Texans) — 80.2
  4. Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) — 72.3
  5. Justin Fields (Bears) — 69.0

Jones is dismantling his peers this year, showcasing why he is getting serious consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Jones has been strong since the first game of his career, as his 74.4% completion rate was the fourth-highest amongst rookie quarterbacks in Week 1 since 1970 (minimum 10 attempts). A week later, Jones became the first quarterback in NFL history with a 70-plus completion percentage in each of his first two games (minimum 10 attempts in each game). 

Completing passes is nothing new for Jones, who has completed over 70% of his passes in seven of his first 11 NFL games. Jones is just two games away from tying Dak Prescott’s rookie record of nine — with six games to play. Jones also completed 19 straight passes in Week 4 against the Buccaneers, tying Tom Brady for the longest streak in franchise history (Brady completed 19 straight passes in 2015). 

Jones became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history and the first Patriots player to ever complete at least 80% of his passes in back-to-back games (minimum 20 attempts), accomplishing the feat in Week 10 against the Browns and Week 11 against the Falcons. He’s just two games away form the NFL record for most games completing 80% of passes in a season, as Drew Brees (2018) and Kirk Cousins (2019) each had four games with an 80% completion rate. 

Jones already has eight wins as a rookie quarterback, the most in Patriots history (surpassing Jim Plunkett’s six in 1971). He won his first five road games, joining Prescott (six, 2016) and Ben Roethlisberger (six, 2004) as the only rookie quarterbacks to win each of their first five road games. Jones can match Prescott and Roethlisberger with a win at Buffalo on Monday night. 

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How does Jones stack up with the greatest rookie seasons by a quarterback ever? The Patriots quarterback is certainly entering the conversation. 

Most passing yards — rookie QBs (all time)

  1. Andrew Luck (Colts) — 4,374 (2012)
  2. Justin Herbert (Chargers) — 4,336 (2020)
  3. Cam Newton (Panthers) — 4,051 (2011)
  4. Jameis Winston (Buccaneers) — 4,042 (2015)
  5. Carson Wentz (Eagles) — 3,782 (2016)

Most pass touchdowns — rookie QBs (all time)

  1. Justin Herbert (Chargers) — 31 (2020)
  2. Baker Mayfield (Browns) — 27 (2018)
  3. Peyton Manning (Colts) — 26 (1998)
  4. Russell Wilson (Seahawks) — 26 (2012)
  5. Daniel Jones (Giants) — 24 (2019)

Highest completion percentage — rookie QBs (all time)

  1. Mac Jones (Patriots) — 70.3% (2021)
  2. Dak Prescott (Cowboys) — 67.8% (2016)
  3. Justin Herbert (Chargers) — 66.6% (2020)
  4. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) — 66.4% (2004)
  5. Robert Griffin III (Washington) — 65.7 (2012)

*minimum 250 attempts

Highest passer rating — rookie QBs (all time) 

  1. Dak Prescott (Cowboys) — 104.9 (2016)
  2. Robert Griffin III (Washington) — 102.4 (2012)
  3. Russell Wilson (Seahawks) — 100.0 (2012)
  4. Justin Herbert (Chargers) — 98.3 (2020)
  5. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) — 98.1 (2004)

*minimum 250 attempts

Jones already has the highest completion percentage for a rookie quarterback in league history — and can be the only quarterback ever to complete 70% of his passes in his rookie season. The Patriots quarterback is on pace to throw for 4,037 yards this year, which would make him just the fifth quarterback ever to throw for 4,000 yards in his rookie season. 

Only on pace to throw for 22 touchdowns, Jones would be tied with Winston, Jim Kelly, and Butch Songin for the eighth-most from a rookie quarterback. Jones does have six touchdown passes in his last three games, so the Patriots quarterback can improve that pace and get into the top five. 

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Jones has a 97.1 passer rating through 12 games, the sixth-highest for a rookie quarterback in NFL history (minimum 250 attempts). In the month of November, Jones completed 76.8% of his passes for 854 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions with an 117.2 passer rating — continuing to improve the pace of his incredible rookie campaign. 

Where Jones can have the greatest season ever from a rookie quarterback will be dictated by the Patriots’ success. Jones already is tied for the 10th-most wins by a rookie quarterback in NFL history (eight) and is two wins away from being the seventh quarterback to win 10-plus games in his rookie season. Prescott and Roethlisberger share the record for most regular-season wins by a rookie quarterback with 13. 

No rookie quarterback has ever reached the Super Bowl and only three have reached the conference championship game. Shaun King was the first rookie to reach the conference championship game (1999, Buccaneers), even though he was a late-season replacement for Trent Dilfer. Roethlisberger was the first rookie quarterback to start the majority of his team’s games and reached the conference championship game, followed by Joe Flacco (2008, Ravens) and Mark Sanchez (2009, Jets). If Jones wins a playoff game, he’ll be just the eighth rookie to win a playoff game in his rookie campaign.  

There’s plenty for Jones to accomplish in his rookie season, but moving up the all-time rookie rankings for quarterbacks — coupled with a deep playoff run — should cement his status as the best rookie quarterback in NFL history. 

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