Right now? If the draft was today? They should trade whatever they must to move up and take the most pro-ready tackle available as 4 backup quarterbacks probably wouldn’t get them through the season if Justin Skule were protecting them. But we all assume that the Niners will manage to reach a deal with Trent Williams, so the real question is, what should they do from now until the draft?
We have already covered the first and most crucial part of the offseason, lock up Trent Williams for at least two years, and we will assume that has been done.
The next question that everyone is talking about is the quarterback position. We have all heard the rumors, so let’s break down the options:
1 – Deshaun Watson – This is by far the sexiest option available. The scenarios have all been mentioned, and they go something like, trade Jimmy Garoppolo for picks, and then trade all of those picks, plus our next two first-rounders for arguably a top 3 QB. This isn’t viable. Watson would command a huge salary, so much so that the 49ers would be unable to address all of their needs (I’ll get to that in a second) via Free Agency, and would no longer have the capital to build through the draft. What if they trade the house, and he…I don’t know…gets injured! We’ve seen it before! If the Niners give up three + first-round picks and 40 million dollars per year and Deshaun tears his Achilles Tendon, it will be years before they are competitive.
2 – Rodgers – See previous notes about Deshaun.
3 – Stafford – Stafford isn’t sexy by any stretch of the imagination, but his numbers are, and we now know that Megatron didn’t overinflate them. The problem is that most of his PFF rankings are only marginally better than Jimmy’s 2019 (only full season). He’s also four years older than the-best-chin-line-in-all-of-sports and regarding health…what do they say on investment websites? Past performance is not indicative of future results…or something like that. Also, why are Stafford’s passing totals so high? Is it because they are frequently down at the end of games, forcing him to be a gunslinger? Maybe if he had Mostert running for 40 yards per carry, he’d keep his pistol in his pocket.
4 – Jimmy – The Man himself. We’ve seen some encouraging play from Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2019, his best receiver was Sanders, who Drew Brees barely got going in NOLA, and he still made the Super Bowl. I’d like to point out that when he had to (except said Super Bowl), he also turned into a #Gunslinger and bailed out his team. Go back and watch the two games against the Cardinals.
As good as he was, we’ve also seen him get hurt…Twice. So yes, he hasn’t posted an elite season, and he’s spent a lot of time watching from the press booth, so Jimmy, this is the year that you need to get your body right and play the full season. You need to do it extremely well.
5 – CJ Beathard – You’re probably asking if I’m crazy? Probably a little. However, CJ Beathard put up a 59.5 PFF grade in his first year, year 2 – 64.9, year 3 – he didn’t play, and year 4 – 69.2. This was all based on extremely small sample sizes. But let’s compare with Deshaun, who just posted an elite grade of 92.5. Watson year 1 – 68.1, year 2 – 82.7, year 3 – 81.3, and year 4 92.5. I know his grades are better than CJ’s, but they show that Quarterbacks can improve with playing time, and CJ looked impressive in his final 2 starts to close out the 2020 season. He looked good enough to resign as a backup, and who knows, he might turn into the guy that Shanahan thought he could be when he drafted him at pick 104 (two positions higher than when he selected Kirk Cousins).
6 – Mullens – No.
7 – A draft Pick – Yes, this is the best year of Quarterbacks declaring for the draft since the 49ers originally missed out on Mahomes and Watsons. There will be a star coming out of this class, and there may be more than one. If one of those quarterbacks falls to number 12, the Niners should grab him.
Free Agency (outside of Quarterback)– If you haven’t noticed, when the Niners have the ability, they address their needs through both the draft and free agency. We saw that in 2017 they signed Earl Mitchell before draft Thomas; they signed Malcolm Smith before Draft Foster; Garcon and Goodwin before Taylor; Hoyer and Beathard; etc. It’s not a bad strategy to have multiple options at a position where there is a hole. I see the holes right now at Tackle, Cornerback, Edge Rusher, and Interior Offensive line. However, they could stand to improve at almost every position, even wide receiver where they are very strong.
While we are here, it’s just as well to address the Dee Ford Situation. He’s a great player, and I’m a big fan, but having over 11% of your salary cap space on injury reserve is not a recipe for success. They should know his chances of coming back for 2021 much better than I do, but I don’t hold out much hope.
So, I recommend that they address every hole during free agency and address it via the draft.
Draft Position – As long as they can address the Trent Williams situation, the Niners won’t have to chase any position during the draft. With that said, I think a #12 pick should have a good chance to play, so I don’t think they should take a tackle, and they should be in a high-value position. They can probably wait until the second round for a serviceable guard.
What should they do?
Keep Jimmy as the starter. Keep Beathard as the backup. Take the best player available to you at any position except Tackle. This could be a QB who would learn from Jimmy, and then when Jimmy gets hurt 4 games into the season, he would learn from Beathard. And if Beathard hasn’t turned into Deshaun Watson by week 8, the new QB could start.
They could take a D-lineman, preferably an Edge rusher, because, despite all of our hopes and the fact that Adrian Peterson did it, there is no guarantee that Nick Bosa or Dee Ford will be back at full health next season.
They could certainly take a cornerback if they think Farley or Surtain is the next Deion Sanders.
They could even take a wide receiver like Ja’Marr Chase out of LSU, but like others in this class, there is some uncertainty brought on by the small sample size of his playing time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he will fall to number 12, and if he does, I think the Niners should sprint to the podium to get him. Even with Deebo and Aiyuk, I don’t think Kyle Shanahan would lose sleep over having too many talented and healthy receivers. I also like Smith or even Kyle Pitts as more of a catching TE.
They could take an Edge Rusher like Gregory Rousseau, who looks like an unbelievable talent but has only played one year. And, after 1200 words, I’m finally coming to my point. What should the 49ers do with the 2021 draft pick?
Trade the Pick
This year has more uncertainty than any other year in recent memory, and we all know that’s a huge understatement. In a normal year, you get a pretty high chance of drafting a good player early in the draft, and those odds go down exponentially as the draft goes on. I’ll give you some numbers from a few years ago. I’ll go by players who made the Pro Bowl, so we don’t have to argue over who is good, and we will pick 2011 to 2013 because these players should have made the Pro Bowl if they are going to make it.
This year the NFL has fewer data available than they have ever had before regarding college players. That means that it is possible that there will be more first-round draft busts and more diamonds in the rough in the later rounds. It’s time for the Niners to capitalize on a unique situation and take a great player if available at 12. If not, they should trade the pick for first-rounder next year (with more certainty) and a later round picks this year (with less certainty and a higher chance of picking a good player).