The San Francisco 49ers have nine days from now to decide which quarterback they’ll take with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Hard to believe San Francisco made the trade of two additional first-round picks to move from 12th to third in the first-round draft order and didn‘t know which signal-caller would succeed Jimmy Garoppolo.
Breaking down San Francisco 49ers’ QB options in 2021 NFL Draft
Who the public wants: Justin Fields, Ohio State
That nonsense about Fields being unable to get past his first read is overblown. Ohio State’s offense leaned heavily on option route concepts, so Fields’ perceived processing problem isn’t exactly well-founded.
Having said this, the Buckeyes’ scheme limited Fields’ chances to gain experience throwing with anticipation, save obviously for deep, downfield throws. This may steepen his learning curve in the NFL.
But Fields getting coached up by an offensive genius like 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan seems like a match made in football heaven. Fields has long rivaled Trevor Lawrence as a QB prospect ever since they were hyped to insane levels during their high school careers.
Flick on ESPN, or explore other corners of YouTube for a while. You’ll see plenty of media personalities advocating for Fields to San Francisco. Check out social media fan accounts. No one is affectionately photoshopping 49ers apparel onto Mac Jones images. It’s all happening for Fields.
Fields definitely offers the best blend of upside, experience and exposure to the spotlight among the three players San Francisco is expected to target. He’s the betting favorite to be the third pick now. It’s what everyone wants to see.
Who Jimmy Garoppolo should want: Trey Lance, North Dakota State
On several levels, Lance makes the most sense for the Niners. If the team wasn’t strongly considering him, why put him through a second pro day workout?
Anyway, Lance has a dual-threat skill set that’s becoming increasingly coveted around the league, not dissimilar to what Fields brings to the table. The difference? Lance had only one full season of college starting experience at the FCS level, and despite roots in a pro-style offense, he’s only just about to turn 21.
Garoppolo is meant to be a bridge starter at least for 2021 while his eventual heir waits in the wings. If he wants to keep his job for the whole year or even beyond this coming season, Garoppolo should be wishing upon a star for Lance to be the pick.
Because Lance has such appealing physical tools and mental makeup, he seems like someone who, should he learn under Shanahan, could morph into a legitimate superstar. The thing is, he’s probably at least a year, maybe two, away from ascending to that level.
That’d buy Garoppolo some time to prove he can stay healthy and be the guy that led San Francisco to a Super Bowl berth following the 2019 campaign. Jimmy G is 22-8 as a regular-season starter for the 49ers, so it’s not like he’s a scrub. If he struggles at all in 2021, though, and Fields or Jones are behind him, he may have a shorter leash than if Lance were there.
Who all signs are pointing to: Mac Jones, Alabama
Ever since the 49ers swung that blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins, everyone who’s anyone has been reporting Jones is the guy Shanahan is targeting.
That’s what’s so fascinating about this whole situation. If there is a difference of opinion between Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, it threatens to be a potentially toxic situation.
Shanahan is probably going to get his guy, one way or another. Most NFL insiders label Jones as a Matt Ryan type. Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl and won league MVP honors under Shanahan’s direction, and many believe a similar fate could be in store for Jones based on that history and his similar skill set to Matty Ice’s.
So, while Fields is the appealing, much more dynamic pick over Jones, and while Lance may have more upside than anyone in this trio and is the least threatening to Garoppolo’s playing status in 2021, it matters most what Shanahan wants. He’ll get the final say. If the multitude of reports from reputable sources are any indication, that’ll mean Jones is headed to the Bay Area.