The New England Patriots selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft set up an interesting decision for Bill Belichick.Does he stick with Cam Newton as his starting QB for 2021, or does he roll with the rookie?Our partners at Strat-O-Matic simulated both scenarios and ended up with some interesting results. Here's a look at how the Patriots fared with Newton and Jones under center for the 2021 campaign.
"Cam is our quarterback."
the words of Bill Belichick during his press conference after selecting Alabama QB Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots head coach seems set on giving Cam Newton another shot at the team's starting signal-caller following a rocky 2020.
But that doesn't mean we should totally rule out Jones overtaking Newton as the Week 1 starter. If the rookie shines in camp, Belichick will have a difficult decision to make come September.
Our partners at Strat-O-Matic used their advanced simulation software to see how a full 2021 NFL season would play out with Newton and Jones under center for New England. As expected, the results were interesting.
Here are some big takeaways from Strat-O-Matic's simulations of Newton and Jones as Patriots starting QBs next season.
Strat-O-Matic's final numbers for the 2021 NFL season give Newton a slight edge over Jones when it comes down to statistics.
Newton completed 335 of his 501 pass attempts (66.9 percent) for 3654 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (91.5 rating). He also rushed for 10 TDs.
For comparison's sake, Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes last year for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while rushing for 12 TDs (82.9 rating). That's a solid improvement for the former NFL MVP with more weapons at his disposal.
As for Jones, the rookie dealt with some growing pains in his first NFL season. In the simulation he ended going 320-for-515 (62.1 percent) for 3,665 yards, 26 TDs and 19 INTs (85.0 rating).
The bad news: Neither Patriots quarterback was able to propel New England to an AFC East title in the 2021 simulation.
The good news: The Patriots were a more competitive team with both Newton and Jones this time around than they were last season.
Newton led the Pats to a 10-7 record in the new 17-game campaign. That put them two games behind the first-place Buffalo Bills (12-5).
In the Jones simulation, the Patriots were one game worse at 9-8. That still was good enough for second place, four games behind the 13-4 Bills.
The big difference between Newton and Jones in Strat-O-Matic's 2021 simulation is Newton was able to lead the Patriots into the playoffs. New England clinched a No. 6 seed and a wild card spot with its 10-7 record and was matched up against the No. 3 Baltimore Ravens.
Unfortunately, that's as far as Newton's Patriots would go. They fell to Baltimore 20-19 on a last-second field goal. Two missed PATs by kicker Nick Folk ultimately were the difference-maker for New England.
We covered Newton and Jones' numbers, but what about their offensive weapons?
The Patriots loaded up on new pass-catchers this offseason including Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Julian Edelman recently announced his retirement from football, but Jakobi Meyers and N'Keal Harry will be back in the mix.
Agholor was the team's No. 1 wideout in Strat-O-Matic's simulation regardless of who was under center. With Newton he finished with 72 catches for 894 yards and six TDs. Those numbers were almost identical with Jones at QB (67 catches, 861 yards, six TDs).
The new tight ends, particularly Henry, were more effective with Newton than with Jones. Henry racked up 60 catches for 690 yards and four TDs with Newton as his QB compared to 44 receptions, 461 yards and four TDs with Jones.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of the 2021 Patriots regular season is the team's matchup against Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium. Newton and Jones both came up short against the former Pats QB in Strat-O-Matic's simulations.
The Bucs cruised to a 23-9 win over the Pats with Newton under center as he completed only 10 of his 28 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown. Jones, however, made it an entertaining showdown by putting New England in a position to win. The rookie went 19 for 30 with 265 yards, a TD and INT in a 27-26 defeat.