SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – The drama about which position the San Francisco 49ers would target for their first pick of the NFL draft was erased as soon as they traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to move up to No. 3. The question then turned to which quarterback prospect coach Kyle Shanahan and general John Lynch will hitch themselves with that pick.
With Jacksonville set to pickwith the No. 1 pick and Zach Wilson appearing to be the favorite to go second to the New York Jets, the Niners will have their choice of Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s , and Alabama’s Mac Jones to be the eventual successor to Jimmy Garoppolo. All three offer intriguing traits and possible deficiencies, making this a difficult choice that could up defining the Shanahan-Lynch era because of the heavy price they paid.
“You’ve got to take risks. This is a risk we were willing to take,” Shanahan said. “We looked at how our four years have gone. We looked at how we want theto go, and we’ll look at where we’re at in the draft and the options. … We felt pretty strongly we would get left at the altar at 12.”
Shanahan and Lynch went to watch pro days in person for Jones, Fields, and Lance and now have the information to make their pick. Shanahan said there were three quarterbacks he was comfortable taking during the trade-in March and said a fourth or fifth could make that list before the draft starts. Shields have the most experience of the three, with two years as a starter at a high level. He’s excelled in big games and has the arm strength, mobility, and accuracy to thrive in Shanahan‘s offense. Lance is more unfinished, having started just one year at the FCS level, but is the best runner of the three, even if his accuracy could improve.
Jones is most similar to past quarterbacks who have thrived under Shanahan, like Matt Ryan as a skilled pocket passer who is highly accurate but lacks elite arm strength and mobility. “That’s why I’m intrigued to see what Kyle could do with somebody like Trey Lance or Justin Fields, but he’s had so much recent success and comes so close to winningwith his regular style of quarterback that Mac Jones fits into that perfectly,” NFL
Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “That, to me, is the decision; do you want todone and continue down that path? Or do you want to and see where this can go from here, which does come with some risk, but that’s the ultimate decision they have to make?”
One of the big questions is how much Shanahan wants a quarterback who can help in the. The only time he’s had that as a play-caller came in 2012-13 in Washington with . His QBs have averaged less than two carries a game in four seasons with the Niners.
The Niners haven’t invested heavily in quarterbacks in the draft in their history, with their greatest successes coming with third-round pick Joe Montana and Steve Young, who was acquired in a trade. San Francisco last chose a QB in the first round in 2005 whenwas the first pick overall instead of Aaron Rodgers. The only other times in the common that San Francisco took a QB in the opening round came in 1997 (Jim Druckenmiller, 26th) and 1967 (Steve Spurrier, third).
Shanahan has said the plan at quarterback thisis to have the rookie sit behind Garoppolo, at least at the start. He says there is no plan to trade Garoppolo. He hopes to follow a similar path to what Kansas City used in 2017 when Patrick Mahomes sat behind Smith as a rookie before taking over in 2018, winning the MVP in his first two seasons as a starter.
San Francisco did a good jobmany key free agents this offseason, such as left tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and defensive backs Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley, and Jaquiski Tartt. The team must still have eight other , including three in the fifth round. The most significant need is to add a young cornerback, get depth on the offensive line, and find another edge rusher or slot receiver.
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