The best part about April is that we’ll look back at every clue that surrounded the 49ers No. 3 overall selection and point to the signs that were staring us right in the face. San Francisco can justify whoever the pick is. Based on Kyle Shanahan’s comments about social media not influencing the organization, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who will do any explaining.
Whenever Kyle was asked to get into specifics, it came back to something along the lines of, “we like all five quarterbacks,” with muddled responses after that.
Both Shanahan and John Lynch did a fantastic job of saying a lot of words without saying anything. That is until we got to the final question. Shanahan was asked if the trends throughout the league impact his decision, and if he looks around the league at what’s been successful and if that factors into the decision on Thursday:
“I look at everything. I think the whole thing of the success of people like [Kansas City Chiefs QB] Patrick Mahomes and [Buffalo Bills QB] Josh Allen, [Houston Texans QB] Deshaun [Watson], [Baltimore Ravens QB], Lamar [Jackson], those guys are unbelievable. They can play the position and are obviously very, very talented and running around and doing stuff. But those are those guys. You’ve got to look into a lot of people. There’s lots of different ways you can do it. I don’t look at it as in trends of the league. I look at it as there’s some special players or special people. I don’t care when [former New Orleans Saints QB] Drew Brees comes out, whether it’s 30 years from now, 30 years ago, or today. Drew’s going to be pretty good. So was [former Indianapolis Colts QB] Philip Rivers. So is Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes.”
I’m always looking for signs when Shanahan speaks. In the first half of his answer, he named five of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, who all happen to be mobile. To me, we have to pay attention to these types of answers. Even as Kyle name-dropped Brees and Rivers, he found a way to circle back to what wins now.
Shanahan continued, this time talking about lower levels of football and bringing it full circle:
A lot of much better athletes are also learning how to play the quarterback position. So, man, you want to find Drew Brees who can move like Lamar Jackson. Mahomes, he’s maybe in the middle. I’m just not being exact, but like there’s no, ‘This is where it’s going. This is where it’s been.’ It will always evolve. That’s why sometimes the wildcat would be good. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes no huddle will be good. Sometimes it won’t.
That’s what was so exciting about this year. I do see five guys. No one’s ever a slam dunk. Look at the history of this league. But, do you see five guys capable to be a starting quarterback? And I do.
“You want to find Drew Brees who can move like Lamar Jackson.” The 49ers traded two future first-round picks and a third-round pick to select a quarterback that’s the best of all worlds. Based on Shanahan’s words, that’s what they’re planning on doing Thursday.
If you watched Monday’s press conference, I’m not sure how you come away thinking that Justin Fields isn’t an option, despite what all of the talking heads have said. On Rich Eisen’s podcast Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said this:
It’s not that they don’t like Justin Fields. Truly I talked to many, many teams that have Justin Fields as the No. 3 prospect when it comes to quarterbacks. A lot of teams. I would say most teams actually have Justin Fields as the three, so it doesn’t mean he’s falling. It just means when you’re talking about Kyle Shanahan’s offense, they want someone to be able to engineer it and run it like Kyle wants. Mac Jones has a beautiful mind, as they say. He is extremely smart. Trey Lance is extremely smart. I’m not saying Justin Fields is not at all because he got very good grades and is also smart. But on the field, it’s all a projection, but we did not see Fields go through progressions like the others.
This is my best guess as to why not Fields, but I don’t take this to mean that Fields is falling. Just probably not going to be with this particular team.
Pick a game. Any game. It will take you six plays to find Fields go through his progressions. This isn’t true. The kid who had an offer from Harvard isn’t smart enough to run Kyle’s offense?
While I understand these reporters are more plugged in than any of us will ever be, it’s hard to take them seriously when they say these words. It feels like the media has been played like a fiddle from the time the 49ers made this trade, and that will continue up to Thursday. Everything comes off as word salad that’s full of qualifiers, and I don’t knows.
If there is a quarterback in the draft that is cerebral as Brees, from knowing where to go with the ball and being one step ahead of the defense, while having the athletic ability of Lamar Jackson, it’s probably this guy:
Shanahan has spoken about the importance of chunk plays on offense quite a bit over the past couple of years. He said it’s tough to sustain offense in today’s game without them.— KP (@KP_Show) April 26, 2021
tOSU’s starter, the No. 3 overall pick, had 15 plays over 35 yards in ’19. Here are nine of them. pic.twitter.com/Fm9kVOFxjl
Ignore the noise, and watch the signs. The 49ers have been telling us all along how they feel about the current starter and who they’d like to replace him with.
The context clues have been there, but they’ve been buried in distractions. For me, it’s Fields, until it’s not.