After Drew Brees announced his retirement, the New Orleans Saints were among the teams linked to quarterback Mac Jones heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Saints reportedly attempted to jump ahead of the Patriots, who owned the 15th overall pick, to select Jones. They ultimately couldn't find a trade partner, and Jones landed in New England where he would overtake Cam Newton for the starting job.
Ahead of Sunday's Patriots-Saints matchup, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton confirmed the team thought highly of the Alabama product. He also shared his impressions of what the rookie has shown through his first two games.
"I think positive, really positive," Payton told reporters Wednesday. "He was someone that we were really high on. I think he processes information fast. At Alabama if you watch closely his tape, the ball comes out, decisions are made fast. I think he sees the field horizontally as well as vertically well. He has the arm to make the throws that you want.
"His decision-making and processing are where I felt were really strong suits with him and I think he's handling it well. It's not easy to all of a sudden come in and start week one as a rookie, but he's a smart player."
The Saints ended up standing pat at No. 28 overall and selecting Houston defensive end Payton Turner. He made his NFL debut last week vs. the Carolina Panthers and tallied five tackles (three for a loss) and one sack. At QB, New Orleans rolled with seven-year veteran Jameis Winston.
Jones has taken a conservative approach to his first two NFL games, resulting in a 1-1 record to begin the Patriots' season. The 23-year-old has completed 73.9 percent of his passes for 467 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
Patriots-Saints is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff Sunday at Gillette Stadium.