ESPN has been producing power rankings off and on during the offseason, and on Monday they released their third set. The San Francisco 49ers are not moving anywhere. They opened the offseason at No. 31, remained at No. 31 after the bulk of free agency, and are still at No. 31 following the 2017 NFL draft.
None of this is surprising given the roster overhaul that is currently underway. However, ESPN’s comments on the 49ers raised an interesting question about patience and the long-term direction of the franchise.
Sure, the 49ers fleeced the Bears in the draft and came up with top-10 players at picks 2 and 31. But they still don't have a quarterback. What coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch do have is time. With a pair of six-year contracts in hand, they know their quarterback could still be in high school.
The six-year contracts have been brought up repeatedly. Lynch and Shanahan have been given the keys to the car, and the lengthy contracts suggest there will be patience in the rebuilding process. However, while the comment might be an intentional exaggeration, I think all of us are hoping the 49ers long-term answer at quarterback is not still in high school.
NFL rules require a player be three years removed from his high school graduation before he can declare for the draft. That means a high school senior would not be eligible for the NFL until the 2020 draft.
The 49ers can be patient in their approach, and yes, it is entirely possible they will not have an answer at QB by the time the 2020 draft gets here. Luck plays into hitting on the right guy, but the 49ers brought in Kyle Shanahan to rebuild this offense and get them moving in the right direction. That includes finding a long-term answer at quarterback.
I don’t know if it will be Kirk Cousins, C.J. Beathard, Sam Darnold or one of the other 2018 quarterbacks, or anybody else. The 49ers will be able to rebuild with questions at quarterback, but they are going to be in a tough position if they don’t find a clear-cut answer at QB.
I’m not saying they need a Tom Brady to get over the top. Teams have won Super Bowls with less than Brady. But until they have a clear long-term answer at the position, it will be a more difficult uphill slog. Brian Hoyer is fine as a short-term answer for 2017 and potentially 2018, but if they don’t have a long-term answer at QB by the time the 2020 offseason gets here, I feel like things would be a little bit off-track.