NFL News & Analysis

Patriots release Cam Newton, leaving Mac Jones as the team's starting quarterback

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Following weeks of training camp and three preseason games, the New England Patriots have settled on a starting quarterback. Rookie Mac Jones beat out incumbent Cam Newton, who the team released Tuesday, and will lead the New England offense in its Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

Jones, who had one of the best seasons last year since PFF started grading college players, looked NFL-ready through each of his preseason games, and he now begins a new era in New England.

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Take the UNDER on Patriots' win total: Bookmakers reacted positively to the Patriots drafting Mac Jones, bumping the Patriots' win total up a half-game to 9.5 as a result. Jones being announced as the starter is the best short- and long-term option for the Patriots — and the only way they get close to achieving lofty betting market expectations.

PFF's Power Rankings have them as a middle-of-the-pack team, providing little hope they go over 9.5 wins. PFF's season simulation does bump up New England's season-long win total projections from 7.5 to 7.8 wins, but the team should still fall well short of the betting market expectation.

Take the OVER on Damien Harris‘ rushing yards prop: Harris has seen his fantasy stock skyrocket this offseason, with most projecting him to be a two-down back for the Patriots. His rushing yardage prop opened at 800.5 before moving up to 845.5 yards based on heavy action on the over.

PFF's fantasy projections for Harris are now over this number with Jones starting at quarterback over Newton. Given Jones' lack of mobility, Harris should see an increase in rush attempts. That newfound volume should allow him to sail over this prop number, with the initial adjustment not fully capturing the change to his outlook.

PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit includes links to every article, tool and chart to best prepare you for your fantasy football draft. This will be updated regularly between now and Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.


Stock up for Jakobi Meyers and all New England pass-catchers: Expect the Patriots’ passing attack to be vastly improved Jones under center. The rookie is more accurate than Newton, having earned college football's best adjusted completion rate with screens removed in 2020 (80%). The offense will skew more pass-heavy with him under center, which will create more opportunities for the skill position players.

Expect more touchdowns for RB Damien Harris: Newton led all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (12) and carries inside the five-yard line (22) last season. Jones won’t be a threat to call his own number at the goal line, which will give the Patriots’ No. 1 running back a chance to see larger spikes in fantasy production. Click here for PFF's fantasy projections for all Patriots skill position players!

Target Patriots tight ends: No team is going to run 12 personnel more than the Patriots in 2021 with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. They are both being undervalued because the market can’t peg one as the superior option, but each will see plenty of involvement to be fantasy-viable. Jones ranked fourth in PFF grade (91.9), first in completion rate (78.1%) and fourth in passer rating (138.4) last year with 12 personnel.


Mac Jones' near-flawless preseason: He recorded a 92.2 PFF grade this preseason, the third-best mark in the league. He avoided registering any turnover-worthy plays, too. Click here to explore all of Jones' advanced stats from the 2021 preseason!

First-round rookie quarterbacks | 2021 preseason
Player PFF grade Accurate pass % Big-time throw %
Trevor Lawrence 78.3 (10th) 58.5% (22nd) 4.5% (t-22nd)
Zach Wilson 85.7 (N/A) 64.7% (N/A) 9.1% (N/A)
Trey Lance 56.7 (46th) 47.4% (48th) 4.5% (t-22nd)
Justin Fields 67.6 (20th) 38.3% (59th) 5.7% (t-13th)
Mac Jones 92.2 (2nd) 70.8% (3rd) 6.9% (7th)

Box score doesn't do Jones' preseason performances justice: While he found the endzone just once and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt, it is important to note that two of his best passes landed incomplete. His four big-time throws this preseason tied for the second-most at the position.

Jones was tested in different game situations: Jones got several chances throughout the preseason to run a variety of in-game situations, including the two-minute drill. On the practice field, the first-round pick saw valuable reps as the starter when Newton had to miss practice due to COVID-19 protocols.

You've got the first pick with your finances. Western Southern Financial Group.

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