The 2021 NFL Draft is closing in and the San Francisco 49ers are ready to answer the question that has been on everyone’s minds for weeks. Once the 49ers draft their quarterback, a Jimmy Garoppolo trade might not be far behind.
After San Francisco jumped up from No. 12 to No. 3 overall, the organization made it clear Garoppolo would be the starting quarterback in 2021. That is, unless another team was willing to meet the high asking price in a trade.
The New England Patriots backed away and Garoppolo was left feeling disappointed. But as the pre-draft process unfolded, San Francisco’s mind has seemingly changed. After being locked into Mac Jones as the target at No. 3, there is growing buzz the 49ers might draft a different quarterback. Now, with the NFL Draft almost here, it seems Kyle Shanahan and Co. might be more receptive to a Garoppolo trade.
NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote he wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers make Garoppolo more available after they draft their new quarterback. After pushing for a first-round pick, San Francisco could now be willing to accept a second-round selection in return for Garoppolo.
The lowered asking price might be tied directly to a smaller trade market. The Carolina Panthers acquired Sam Darnold and the Washington Football Team is seemingly satisfied with its quarterback situation. With limited suitors and a rookie quarterback on the way, it would make sense for San Francisco to get what it could in a Garoppolo trade.
What will the San Francisco 49ers do at quarterback?
San Francisco’s plans at quarterback are the biggest discussion point of the 2021 NFL Draft. Justin Fields is viewed as the third-best passer in this draft class, with Trey Lance and Mac Jones much further down on NFL draft big boards. Ultimately, it seems the 49ers’ decision is down to Jones and Lance.
Jones is the more crisp passer, with many reporting the 49ers love his fit in Shanahan’s offense. While he isn’t extremely gifted physically, his mechanics, processing ability and mind are viewed as ideal for this scheme. Given Shanahan is the star of his own offense, the perception is Jones will do what he is asked.
If the Heisman Trophy finalist is drafted by the 49ers, he should start immediately. San Francisco gave up three first-round picks and a future third-round pick for him. Garoppolo might have more experience in this system, but the cost paid to draft Jones and his specifics attributes should make him a Week 1 starter.
Lance might offer the highest upside among this year’s quarterback class. The combination of size and athleticism has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton, the type of quarterback who could revolutionize Shanahan’s scheme. Lance’s arm strength is also off the charts and would allow the 49ers to take a lot more deep shots in the years to come.
However, Lance played in only one game last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition from the FCS to the NFL can be difficult. If the 49ers want to give him time to adjust, it would make sense to keep Garoppolo as the starter. If Lance shows enough in preseason and practices, San Francisco can move Garoppolo before the NFL trade deadline.