Now that the 49ers have their new General Manager (still trying to convince myself of the potential positives) in John Lynch, and the new head coach in Kyle Shanahan eager to get things running starting next week, the quarterback position is a key area in need of addressing in order to rebirth this organization out of the pits of despair.
There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the quarterback position. The 49ers current quarterback situation is barren with Colin Kaepernick the only player at the position under contract; however, it is likely Kaepernick will decide to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. But now that Lynch and Shanahan will be running the show, will this change Kaepernick's desire to stay and work things out with the 49ers?
The bigger question is, will Lynch and Shanahan want Kaepernick to stick around.
We know Shanahan has worked wonders with quarterbacks he's had a chance to coach, and it would appear Kaepernick could potentially thrive under Shanahan's tutelage. Although it would be intriguing to see how Shanahan could get the best out of Kaepernick, is it time to just sever ties and move on? Moreover, with a total team rebuild in the process, does Shanahan want to adapt to Kaepernick's skill-set or simply find his own guy to freshly mold fully implementing his offensive prowess. Of course, Kaepernick as a bridge quarterback is also an option as well.
Free agency and trade options are possibilities with names being thrown around such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer, A.J. McCarron, among others. However, it's the new crop of rookie quarterbacks poised to make their marks in the NFL, where the 49ers will likely do their due diligence in combing through the prospects determining if one of these signal callers will be the quarterback of the future. I highlight the top five quarterbacks in play.
QB Mitch Trubisky, No. 10, 6'3" - 220 lbs., 4.76 40 - (1st) - North Carolina
Trubisky's 2016 season stats: Completed 304-of-447 passes (68.0%) for 3,748 yards with 30 passing touchdowns and 6 interceptions for a 157.9 passing efficiency rating. Rushed 93 times for 308 yards averaging 3.3 yards with 5 touchdowns.
QB Mitch Trubisky showcases a good combination of size (although there have been concerns his height is a shade over 6'1"), good mobility, and athleticism with a big arm capable of making NFL level throws. He displays good patience and solid pocket presence with excellent vision and awareness, and decent mobility with quality movement in and out of the pocket (quick feet and sound athleticism, but not a true dual threat). Trubisky has a quick release and overhand delivery, which bodes well for a North Carolina offense that likes to get the ball out quick. Shows efficiency going through all his reads, great accuracy and ball placement on short to intermediate routes (inconsistent on long balls although not afraid to launch it), great zip on most of his throws, a good decision maker, and displays excellent command of the field. Trubisky will need to continue to improve upon his overall consistency and will need to work on his sloppy mechanics and footwork (upper body and footwork are not in concert relying solely on his arm), especially working from a dirty pocket. With the lack of starts under his belt, the one-year-wonder stigma will creep into people's minds, although with a college career total of 572 passing attempts, Trubisky is on par with a former 49ers first round draft selection in Alex Smith with 587 passing attempts.
Round Projection: 1st
DeShone Kizer, No. 14, 6'4 ½” - 230 lbs., 4.76 40 - (1st) - Norte Dame
Kizer's 2016 season stats: Completed 212-of-361 passes (58.7%) for 2,925 yards with 26 passing touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a 145.6 passing efficiency rating. Rushed 129 times for 472 yards averaging 3.7 yards with 8 touchdowns.
QB DeShone Kizer is an intriguing prospect with the highest ceiling out of the quarterback class. He's a top-notch quarterback prospect displaying all the qualities NFL teams covet: big arm talent, size, athleticism, and playmaking ability. Kizer is superbly adept at operating as a pocket passer playing in a full-field sophisticated spread offense, and has shown tremendous skills as a zone-read quarterback. The former high school three-sport star athlete (football, baseball, and basketball - was considered the Magic Johnson of point guards) boasts a big arm (can attack all levels of the field) and is a natural passer (smooth delivery) with excellent touch, timing, and ball placement on his throws. Displays excellent zip driving the ball into tight windows and has good intermediate to deep accuracy. Kizer shows tremendous poise in the pocket with decent pocket presence and fair movement within the pocket. Although not a "running" quarterback, the pass first signal caller has a terrific ability to extend plays with his legs scrambling utilizing strength and decent suddenness for a man his size keeping his eyes downfield, but will tuck it and run strong behind his pads with sound vision becoming an athletic chore to bring down (majority of his runs were designed). Decision making is inconsistent as well as accuracy, where his mechanics are in need of consistency. Great leadership skills, strong work ethic, and a high character prospect with a lot of confidence boasting natural, physical, and an athletic tool-set to develop into a potential high quality starting quarterback at the next level.
Round Projection: 1st
QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6'2" - 210 lbs., 4.64 40 - (1st) - Clemson
Watson's 2016 season stats: Completed 388-of-579 passes (67.0%) for 4,593 yards with 41 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 151.1 passing efficiency rating. Rushed 165 times for 629 yards averaging 3.8 yards with 9 touchdowns.
QB Deshaun Watson is arguably one of the top quarterback prospects in this years' draft class (not a very strong class). Although he's had a slow start in the 2016 season and really has not progressed from the year prior, Watson is a dynamic playmaker displaying terrific arm strength (can make throws all over the field with a quick delivery), excellent touch, top-notch athleticism with impressive footwork, superb football IQ with sound poise in the pocket (and outside of the pocket), excellent awareness, and solid accuracy (needs more consistency on downfield accuracy). Reads the field in halves and has a tendency to stare down receivers. Area of concern is sporadic accuracy, which is not from poor mechanics on his throws, he just misses poorly at times (tends to be frustratingly hot and cold). On the run, Watson is fluid in motion with excellent vision, suddenness, speed, and is a chore to bring down with his strength and elusiveness. A true dual-threat athletic quarterback, Watson is a mature person with tremendous leadership skills a true gamer and is clutch in big games - he's a winner. Tore his ACL in 2014, so durability will need to be monitored, and lack of ideal size for the position at 6'2" - 210 pounds (especially as a mobile quarterback absorbing plenty of hits) will be a concern.
Round Projection: 1st
QB Patrick Mahomes II, No. 5, 6'3" - 230 lbs., 4.84 40 - (2nd) - Texas Tech
Mahomes's 2016 season stats: Completed 388-of-591 passes (65.7%) for 5,052 yards with 41 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 157.0 passing efficiency rating. Rushed 131 times for 285 yards averaging 2.2 yards with 12 touchdowns.
QB Patrick Mahomes II is one of the most dynamic quarterback prospects in college football with the ability to beat you with his arm (gunslinger mentality) and his legs (slippery in the pocket). He has good size and bulk for the position (6'3" - 230 lbs.) and tremendous athleticism masterfully dancing around in the pocket eluding defenders making consecutive quick cuts in a small space. Mahomes definitely has an active arm (good arm strength with a great zip to make all NFL level throws) and the nice mobility and elusiveness in and out of the pocket displaying his tremendous awareness and quickness avoiding the rush (has eyes on the back of his head). Always keeping his eyes down the field, Mahomes has good accuracy on the run and makes plays on the move. The former high school basketball and baseball star (selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft - pitcher), embraces the Brett Favre gunslinger mentality being a creative player in the midst of chaos - mechanics be damned.
There are definitely some traits and intangibles that can translate, but he needs a lot of work at the next level. Reading defenses is another area of concern with him (it doesn't help his cause facing piss-poor defenses of the Big 12), and he's quick to maneuver off platform instead of standing tall and/or navigate smoothly in the pocket to climb to set and release. He has the arm talent (ball explodes off his hand) to reach all three levels of the field utilizing any arm angle as a release to get the ball out, but loving the creativity comes with a lot of risks, so improving his mechanics should do wonders on his accuracy. He needs to improve on accuracy on his deep throws and ball placement is inconsistent, but he shows off the arm strength firing into tight windows and throwing across his body with nice velocity. Shows confidence in his abilities and rarely second guesses his decisions. A raw prospect with dynamic physical talent and an excellent upside. The son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Pat Mahomes - 11 years in the MLB.
Round Projection: 2nd
QB Davis Webb, No. 7, 6'5" - 230 lbs., 4.86 40 - (3rd) - California
Webb's 2016 season stats: Completed 382-of-620 passes (61.6%) for 4,295 yards with 37 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 135.6 passing efficiency rating. Rushed 33 times for -110 yards averaging -3.3 yards with 6 touchdowns.
QB Davis Webb is a graduate transfer from Texas Tech showcasing ideal size, length, solid accuracy, decent mobility, good and quick decision making, big-time arm with a quick motion and snappy release, solid vision, and great field awareness. A technician processing information efficiently operating in an up-tempo Air/Bear Raid offense, Webb is an exciting player to watch take apart defenses at every level, where he can beat defenders with quick passes, drive passes in tight windows, great ball placement, throws with touch and precision, or gracefully lofts one over-the-top with amazing touch. He shows poise standing tall in the pocket with impressive footwork and is always looking downfield. Although he is not overly athletic, Webb displays good movement in the pocket, and when pressure forces him to scramble, he consistently keeps his eyes downfield looking to pass squaring up to make impressive throws on the run. Operating exclusively from the shotgun, Webb will need to learn to operate under center at the next level. A very intelligent prospect with an outstanding work ethic, the grit and toughness absorbing hits in the pocket, and a prototypical NFL quarterback frame.
Round Projection: 3rd
Quarterback prospect outside of the top 5 to keep an eye on:
QB Nathan Peterman, No. 4, 6'2" - 225 lbs., 4.93 40 - (4th) - Pitt
Stats courtesy of College Football at Sports Reference.