We’ve reached the point where anytime anyone talks about the No. 3 overall pick, they’re saying a different quarterback. Nobody knows. I feel more confident about that the more pundits continue to talk about the 49ers plans at the top of the draft.
49ers are in need of a WR3 after losing Kendrick Bourne in free agency. On top of that, they desperately need a dangerous return specialist to give the special teams unit a spark. (No-so-fun fact: the 49ers have not had a punt return touchdown since Ted Ginn Jr scored one in 2011.) In this draft the 49ers will have several opportunities to draft a receiver who checks multiple boxes. One of my top choices would be Amari Rodgers.
The 5-foot-9, 211 pound receiver has speed and a compact frame he leverages for YAC. Rodgers was a Senior Bowl week stand-out. He had impressive reps throughout the week of practice and finished the game with four catches, and a touchdown. He’s an ideal slot receiver, and he has experience lining up at running back. What sets Rodgers apart from other WR/RB hybrids in this class is his role as a quick and decisive return specialist in which he has shined. Rodgers could be a target for the 49ers in the second or third round.
While getting through the hole is important, finding that hole is even more important to success in a zone running scheme. Luckily, it’s easy to see the translation with Hubbard because Oklahoma State ran a similar running scheme.
The video is a little grainy, but you see Hubbard take the run out of the backfield and begin working parallel to the line of scrimmage. The defensive tackle penetrates deep into the backfield, but Hubbard avoids the rush. With one big body out of the way, the right guard, right tackle, and tight end create two holes for Hubbard to choose from. He can either break back towards the center of the field (left of the right guard) or go up the side line (between the right guard and the right tackle/tight end). Hubbard sees the right guard as the center point and runs to his backside to force the defense to commit. The safety commits to the center of the field. Once he breaks down his feet to settle, Hubbard accelerates towards the sideline. With his speed, he gets past the perpendicular angle the first safety has to take. The other safety is helpless, and Hubbard breaks away for a score.
So, what do the 49ers do if the Jets draft Justin Fields?
The easy, quick answer, of course, would be San Francisco’s representatives rushing forward with their draft card to put in Wilson’s name.
Granted, if Shanahan is all-in on Jones no matter what, whatever the Jets wind up doing (outside of reaching for Jones, of course), doesn’t count for anything.
Still, that’s a tough argument to sell. The clear differences between Wilson, Fields and Jones are notably apparent with the first two names being bona fide top-five prospects, while Jones generally was seen as a late first-round pick until the inevitable quarterback draft-stock value rose in recent weeks.
Yet even if Shanahan was all but sold on Jones, one has to reason his big board would rank Wilson higher.
So, with the possible case of New York wanting Fields, one has to consider Shanahan and the 49ers wouldn’t hesitate to quickly change their minds from Jones to Wilson instead.
“Fields’ ability to hit deep passes (50 percent completions on throws of 20-plus yards since 2019, per PFF, ranking sixth-best in the FBS), produce off play-action (146.4 passer rating in 2020, per PFF, third-best in the FBS) and connect on attempts of 10-plus air yards when his base is not set (55.5 percent since 2019, per my computer vision) is extremely promising for his NFL projection, particularly if he goes to a team like San Francisco with a strong offensive line,” Frelund writes.
“Also, the Ohio State product’s 630 rushing yards on scrambles since 2019 (with five TDs) create even more upside when paired with the playbook and personnel potential of the Niners. With Kyle Shanahan’s disguised rushing concepts, pre-snap motions and consistent fullback usage, San Francisco feels like a perfect landing spot for Fields.”
“We have all seen the impact of the pandemic on our team and our community,” the statement reads. “Last year, the virtual offseason kept us safe in an uncertain environment while allowing us to work together as a team. The fight against COVID-19 is still ongoing and case numbers are still concerning. We are apprehensive about taking avoidable risks in the spring as we prepare to perform at the highest level in the fall. Given these considerations, many in our locker room have chosen not to attend some or all phases of the voluntary in-person workouts. At the same time, we all remain dedicated to our club, our teammates, and our community. Those of us who prepare elsewhere will hold ourselves to our club’s highest standards. We stand in solidarity with all players across the league and trust that they will each make the best decision for themselves and their families.”
In saying “many in our locker room” and “some or all phases” of the offseason program, the statement leaves the door open for San Francisco’s players to be in the facility whenever they see fit this spring.