The next week is a big one for the San Francisco 49ers. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will attend Ohio State QB Justin Fields’ second pro day on Wednesday. Then, they will go to see Trey Lance throw during his second pro day on April 19.
Lynch and Shanahan will then have until April 29 to decide which rookie QB they will go with No. 3. Shanahan went to see Alabama’s Mac Jones throw four days after the Niners made a deal with the Miami Dolphins that landed the third overall pick. While Shanahan and Lynch were in Tuscaloosa, assistant general manager Adam Peters checked out Fields’ at Ohio State’s pro day.
San Francisco still has a lot of time to do its homework on the three QBs. Long-time NFL writer Peter King weighed on the 49ers’ QB situation in his latest column.
I’ve been told the team has not made a decision who to take—I’m still guessing Jones—and the next eight days will be crucial in fact-finding.
Many NFL insiders guess that the Niners will go with Jones, but nothing is set in stone. Fields and Lance could blow Lynch and Shanahan away with an impressive performance during their pro days, and the 49ers are surely keeping in contact with the two QBs. NFL teams are allowed to have up to five one-hour video calls with individual prospects but are able to have as many phone calls with the prospects as they like.
King adds that the scouting reports on Jones have varied leading up to the draft.
The Mac Jones analysis is particularly wide-ranging. He’s not big for the position, at 6-2 ½ and 217 pounds, and he has neither a power arm nor great mobility. But those who love him really love him. He’s exceptionally smart and accurate (77.4 percent at Alabama in 2020), and, per Dane Brugler of The Athletic, accurate downfield too—58 percent on throws traveling 20 yards or more downfield, with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. Jones waited his turn after Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, then might have outplayed both of them in leading the NCAA in accuracy and passing yards (4,500) last year. As one coach who is studying quarterbacks this postseason told me: “His footwork is perfect, his decision-making is excellent, and even though he doesn’t have the strongest arm, it’s crazy how many deep balls he threw at Alabama that were right on the money.”
As King points out, there’s never a shortage of analysis on the incoming class of QBs. When San Francisco held the second pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, ESPN and the Pro Football Focus had Mitchell Trubisky as the top-rated QB, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. We all see how those projections turned out.
It’s going to come down to whichever QB impresses Shanahan the most over the next few weeks. Jones, Fields and Lance each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, but the Niners are making this pick to secure their quarterback of the future.
With Jimmy Garoppolo still on the roster, the 49ers can take their time developing whichever signal-caller they select. Although one prospect might be further ahead in his development, Shanahan could elect to go with the QB who has the most potential to grow.
We will hear a ton of rumors leading up to the draft, but it seems like the Niners will use every second they can before making their final decision.