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Mac Jones to San Francisco 49ers reportedly ‘locked in’

Mel Kiper Jr. says Mac Jones is bound for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here's why it's a bad idea for the Niners to take Jones No. 3 overall.

Matt Fitzgerald

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The San Francisco 49ers traded up from 12th to third overall in the 2021 NFL Draft with the intent to find a new quarterback, and Mac Jones certainly appears to be the franchise’s primary target.

After releasing his latest mock draft, ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr. confirmed Tuesday that Jones is “locked in” to San Francisco at this point:

Kiper presented this information with as much certainty as he has about the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Trevor Lawrence first overall, and the New York Jets selecting Zach Wilson shortly thereafter.

It’s worth noting that both Justin Fields and Trey Lance have each scheduled encore pro days, which the 49ers will be in attendance for. Whether they’re doing their due diligence and are actually interested in Fields or Lance, or are just trying to play mind games with the rest of the NFL, is unclear.

What is clear is there’s an undeniable link between Jones and San Francisco. There has been ever since the historic franchise made the blockbuster trade that will ultimately define the success or failure of the current regime under head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

Mac Jones to 49ers: The GOAT of smokescreens, or legit?

Mac Jones to 49ers: The GOAT of smokescreens, or legit?
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The terms “smokescreen” and “GOAT” are great fun to deploy at any given opportunity, so pairing them together is both apropos to the 49ers’ Jones infatuation and aesthetically pleasing for the author of this article.

By now, any draft junkie is familiar with the pros and cons Jones brings to the table as a prospect. He played at Alabama, set the NCAA record for completion rate at 77.4%, led the Crimson Tide to a national championship and is a “winner” for whatever that’s worth.

But Jones clearly has a lower ceiling than any of the other top QB prospects, is difficult to evaluate because of all the NFL talent he was flanked by in college, and doesn’t have a special arm or dual-threat ability.

The question is, are the 49ers bothered enough by Jones’ shortcomings to not draft him, or do they not care? It certainly seems like they’re willing to invest the third overall pick in him, for better or worse.

Then again, this could indeed be the best NFL Draft smokescreen we’ve ever seen.

Read More: San Francisco 49ers set to attend second pro day of Justin Fields, Trey Lance

Why the San Francisco 49ers shouldn’t draft Mac Jones

Why the San Francisco 49ers shouldn't draft Mac Jones
Nov 21, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs during the second quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Just look at the above analysis. The upside of someone like Fields or Lance feels so much more significant than what Jones appears capable of.

Plus, the notion that Fields can’t handle the pro game is nonsense, and Lance played in a pro-style offense at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. Both of them have high football IQs and aren’t just one-read-and-run quarterback prospects. They’re far more advanced than they’re given credit for.

Perhaps the Niners believe Jones gives them a better chance to win if he’s forced into action if oft-injured QB Jimmy Garoppolo is hurt again in 2021. That’s not necessarily the case, though, and for an offensive genius like Shanahan, he should want someone with the superstar potential of Fields or Lance over a Kirk Cousins/Derek Carr type in Jones.

Shanahan can make it work with just about anyone, yet it’d be such a disappointment if Jones is the pick. He’s 37th on Sportsnaut’s NFL Draft big board of the top 100 prospects.

Given the value of the quarterback position, it’s perfectly reasonable for Jones to be drafted at some point in the first round. Just not third overall. Not when players like Fields (No. 5 on the big board) and Lance (No. 15) are still there.

Related: NFL mock draft 2023 – CJ Stroud, Bryce Young headline outstanding 2023 NFL Draft class