ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft where five quarterbacks went in the top-10 of the upcoming NFL draft. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance were all selected early. Two teams had to trade into the top-10 to make these selections.
Moving up five spots in a talented quarterback class means there will be competition. We can look to the Mitchell Trubisky trade as one comp, but another could be the Steelers’ move for Devin Bush in 2019, where they jumped 10 spots with the Broncos and had to give up the Nos. 20 and 52 picks, plus a third-round pick the following year.
The 49ers would get their quarterback. Detroit is rebuilding and needs premium picks to add talent across its roster, and it already has the Rams’ first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 and their third-rounder this year. This is a win-win deal for both sides.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
This is a pick that raises the 49ers’ ceiling. When they went to the Super Bowl in 2019, they were led by a stellar running game and defense that could both rush the passer and create turnovers. It didn’t appear that coach Kyle Shanahan fully trusted Jimmy Garoppolo to win playoff games with his arm. I’d love to see Fields play for Shanahan, who could get the best out of him. If this deal happens, San Francisco could designate Garoppolo as a post-June 1 release and save $25 million on its cap this year. That would help offset the lost draft picks in the trade because the team would have some money to spend in free agency — and bring back left tackle Trent Williams. The 49ers were really hurt by injuries last season, but they should be back in the NFC West race in 2021.
If the 49ers could move up for a QB during the draft without giving up a future first-round pick, that would be the best move.
In this scenario, the salary cap doesn’t work as Kiper writes, at least to my knowledge. If you use a post-June 1 designation to release any player, that money isn’t available until, wait for it, post-June 1. So if the 49ers want to free up funds to make moves during free agency, that post-June-1 designation isn’t an option. It’s far more likely the team uses their two post-June-1 designations they’re allowed on Weston Richburg and Dee Ford.
This past week, some reports surfaced that NFL teams view Fields as a “one-read” quarterback. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth, and it takes one game of watching Fields to see that he goes through multiple reads. Steven Ruiz of For The Win wrote an excellent article debunking the topic. He has his faults, but being a one-read QB isn’t one of them.
Fields is accurate, tough, mobile, has a big arm, kept his offense on schedule, and made plays outside of the structure of the offense. It’d be easy to see why Kyle Shanahan would love a player like Fields. It all comes back to the compensation. If San Francisco had Kiper, has the Niners giving up pick No. 12, their second-rounder in ‘21, and a future pick, which could be next year’s third-round comp pick.
The opportunity for the 49ers presents itself to draft a quarterback this year. If they want one of the top guys, they’ll have to move up from No. 2. Fields was the fourth quarterback in NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent big board. We’ve seen Fields drop slightly in recent big boards among draft analysts in recent weeks, so the prospects of Fields falling a few picks feel more realistic.