Quarterback Mac Jones is a frontrunner for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, while the New England Patriots entered the week in sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time in two years.

It appears Bill Belichick could be entering a third phase of his dynasty, and Jones’ rapid emergence is a primary factor. Despite being the fifth quarterback off the draft board in April, Jones leads the historically hyped class with 2,540 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, a 70.2 completion percentage and a 94.7 passer rating. He is also the only rookie quarterback whose team is atop the standings.

As the 15th pick in the draft, it’s natural to wonder how Jones lingered so long. A more pressing thought: How did the rest of the NFL allow Jones to make his way to the Patriots?

The Alabama product has delivered on every pre-draft superlative and then some. Jones is cerebral and dedicated, tough and dependable, quick with his reads and admirable as a leader, accurate with his throws to all areas of the field and savvy in the pocket. And he competes like a maniac.

These qualities were all on display during the offseason workout program, reinforced during training camp and the preseason, then hammered home during the Patriots’ 7-4 start.

To those respects, Jones’ success shouldn’t be the least bit surprising. The NFL should have seen this coming.

And yet?

Jones waited in the NFL Draft green room for hours until Belichick called and he speed-walked his way to Foxboro.

So again, how did the league let this happen? Through conversations with various sources, let’s revisit the top of the draft to understand what teams were thinking as they allowed Jones to tumble down the board.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: They were taking Trevor Lawrence the whole time. Lawrence, an uber-recruit since the eighth grade, had been penciled in as the No. 1 pick in 2021 for the better part of the last eight years. The Jaguars would have been absolutely hammered if they passed on Lawrence, and quite frankly, Lawrence has continued to show that he’ll be a franchise pillar once the situation improves around him.

2. New York Jets: The Jets had locked in on Zach Wilson by late March, and the BYU product was the near-consensus No. 2 QB prospect. He’s had a challenging season with nine interceptions, 19 sacks and a sprained PCL in six starts, but it’s difficult to envision a rookie enjoying much success behind that offensive line. Plus, the Jets haven’t developed a quarterback since Chad Pennington, so new coach Robert Saleh is tasked with changing that dynamic. Wilson has the tools to be successful, and there’s no need to throw out an entire draft evaluation after six starts. Neither Jones nor any of the other rookie QBs could have conceivably fared any better.