An important part of NFL Draft preparation is talking to the head coaches of players on your team's pre-draft board.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban have a great friendship that goes back decades. With the Patriots in need of a quarterback entering the 2021 draft, Belichick and Saban had discussions about Mac Jones, who New England ultimately selected with the No. 15 pick in the first round.
What were those pre-draft conversations between Saban and Belichick like?
"Three days up until the draft, I get lots of phone calls," Saban said Thursday on ESPN Radio's "Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin" show, as transcribed by Mike Reiss. "And not just because of Mac. But really because of the six players that we had; the eight players we got picked in the first couple of rounds. And amazingly enough, not very many of those questions are about what kind of a player a guy is. Most of the questions are about 'What kind of leader is he? What kind of character does he have? How is he going to impact the team? Is he going to be a good teammate? Is he going to represent the organization well?'
"It's amazing that I think a lot of the players sometimes don't understand the importance of that side of creating value for yourself, by being the right kind of person, having the right kind of competitive character. I think my conversations with Bill were more about that kind of stuff than it really was about 'Can this guy throw the ball 50 yards down the field?' I think everybody figures that our pretty much on their own."
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Saban makes a good point. If you want to know if a quarterback can throw 50 yards, there are plenty of ways to figure that out. You can watch film, or even go see the QB throw in person, which is exactly what Belichick did when he traveled to the Alabama Pro Day before the draft.
It's tougher to learn about a player's leadership and character simply by watching film. You need to acquire that information by talking to people, such as teammates and coaches, as well as the actual player in question, of course.
So far, it looks like the Patriots made a good pick with Jones. Not only did the Alabama product play well enough in practice and preseason games to win the starting quarterback job, many of his teammates have praised his leadership and character.
There's a huge difference between the preseason and regular season, but Jones should be up for the challenge. He has the kind of poise and demeanor you don't often see in rookie quarterbacks, which makes him well-equipped to handle adversity early in his career.