Not long after the San Francisco 49ers made a blockbuster trade for the No. 3 overall pick, NFL Draft rumors started leaking that Mac Jones would be Kyle Shanahan’s next franchise quarterback. It seems the speculation might have come a bit early.
Jones’ draft stock has skyrocketed within the past year. He entered last summer as the projected starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but many didn’t view him as anything more than a Day 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Suddenly, it all came together in a Joe Burrow-like season.
The 6-foot-3 quarterback suddenly became one of the most productive players in college football. He was a consensus All-American and was named the recipient of the Davey O’Brien, Manning and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. After beating Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the national championship, later putting on a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, Jones became a consensus first-round prospect.
He suddenly cemented himself in the eyes of many as the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s draft class. Then, there was growing buzz that he wouldn’t slip past the No. 8 overall pick. But when the 49ers traded with the Miami Dolphins, many around the NFL became convinced Jones will be drafted by Shanahan.
Now, there’s a chance it could all be a smokescreen by San Francisco.
Who will the 49ers draft with the No. 3 pick?
NFL insider Tony Pauline said on Pro Football Network dove into the latest draft speculation surrounding the 49ers. While Jones is very much in play, a final decision hasn’t been made. Contrary to popular belief, there is still discussion taking place and the 49ers haven’t decided which quarterback they will take.
“People are under the assumption that it’s a foregone conclusion that they’re [the 49ers] going to take Mac Jones with that third pick of the draft. I’m told that’s not the case at all. The bottom line is this. People who are automatically penning Mac Jones to the 49ers at three, I’m told that’s very premature at this time.”Tony Pauline on Pro Football Network’s Draft Insiders podcast
It’s worth noting, the reporting around the No. 3 overall pick is largely coming from those outside the building. It’s all based on Shanahan’s type at quarterback, the mold everyone saw him have success with throughout his coaching career.
He coached Kirk Cousins in Washington and badly wanted the 49ers to sign him before he joined the Minnesota Vikings. Furthermore, he was the play-caller when Matt Ryan’s stats made him one of the NFL’s most effective quarterbacks. Of course, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo.
But Shanahan also made it clear he isn’t specifically looking for a Cousins-like quarterback at No. 3 overall. After witnessing Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen destroy the 49ers’ defense, Shanahan admitted he is seeing a change in the game and it can now be won in different ways with elite-type guys.
Jones excels at processing what information is given to him, knows his reads, makes accurate throws and would fit into San Francisco’s current offense nicely. But without elite physical tools and factoring in he won’t be in a situation like the one at Alabama, his upside is limited and he puts a ceiling on a scheme.
If Shanahan has truly adapted his thinking, which is required to win a Super Bowl, Jones likely won’t be the No. 3 overall pick. If the coach resorts to his habits and sticks to what he knows, then the 49ers will have to answer to criticism for trading multiple first-round picks for a good, but not great talent.