It was a smokescreen the whole time.
The San Francisco 49ers selected North Dakota State product Trey Lance with the third overall pick and put a stop to the Mac Jones hype train.
Lance is listed at 6’4, 228 pounds and has all of the physical attributes you would want in an NFL QB. But he only has 17 starts at the FCS level, and most NFL draft pundits believe the 20-year-old is best suited to sit for a season and polish his game.
The Niners have the luxury of allowing the North Dakota State product to take some time to learn the pro game because they have Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster. There was a ton of speculation coming into the draft that San Francisco would look to move Jimmy G once they selected their QB of the future.
With the 49ers going with Lance, it certainly makes it more likely that Garoppolo will be on the roster for Week 1 of the 2021 season. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan said they intended on keeping Garoppolo for at least next season during the media availability following the trade last month to move up to No. 3.
Shanahan had a gem of a quote when he was asked about Garoppolo remaining on the roster through the weekend during the pre-draft press conference earlier in the week.
Kyle Shanahan was asked if Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the 49ers' roster on Sunday.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 26, 2021
His answer pic.twitter.com/57IZHI0arw
Some believe Shanahan’s quote meant the writing was on the wall, but both the head coach and general manager later praised Garoppolo. Shanahan cleared up his comments during the post-draft press conference.
Shanahan says that he “bombed” his Garoppolo answer on Monday and apologized to Jimmy after (“alive on Sunday”). He answered because he thought it was a silly question.— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) April 30, 2021
Shanahan still plans on Garoppolo being the 49ers’ 2021 starting QB
Garoppolo has a sparkling 24-8 record as the team’s starter, but the knock on him has been the inability to stay healthy. Garoppolo has missed 23 starts in the past three seasons, and his absence torpedoed the Niners’ most recent season.
But we have seen that Garoppolo can help lead a team to a 13-3 record and Super Bowl berth when he can stay on the field. With a Super Bowl-ready roster, San Francisco has the luxury of allowing Lance to get some seasoning while still competing for a championship.
Shanahan provided an update on Garoppolo during his and Lynch’s post-first-round-pick media availability.
"It would be a very tough situation if Jimmy isn't on our team. I expect Jimmy to be here, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't." - Shanahan— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) April 30, 2021
Financially, the Niners are still in good shape. They can absorb Garoppolo’s $26.4 million cap hit for the 2021 campaign. If Shanahan deems Lance ready for 2022, the 49ers could either trade Jimmy G going into the final year of his contract or cut him with just $1.4 million in dead money prior to the 2022 season.
It will be interesting to see what happens at training camp, but if Lance doesn’t outplay Garoppolo, we will likely see a repeat of what the Kansas City Chiefs did in 2017. Head coach Andy Reid rolled with veteran Alex Smith while Patrick Mahomes sat for almost the entire season. The result was that the Chiefs went 10-6 and won the AFC West.
But at long last, the dust has settled. Shanahan and Lynch are hoping Lance will be ready soon, but until he is, it looks like Garoppolo will be driving the bus a little while longer.
What do you think Lance’s selection means for Garoppolo going into next season?