The lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft will go down as one of the most over-hyped processes in recent memory. We spent time fretting whether the 49ers would take a quarterback at No. 3, who ended up falling to No. 15.
After the national media convinced everyone that five quarterbacks would go in the top-10, two fell. In his Football Morning of America, Peter King spoke to Kyle Shanahan about Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Shanahan explained how the third-round compensatory pick the team received from Robert Saleh helped facilitate the trade to move up to No. 3, too.
As for Jones, the charge was led by two people close to the Shanahan’s — Chris Simms and Adam Schefter. Here’s Shanahan on that topic:
“We weren’t going to work to correct that. But to see how much this matters to so many people was just unbelievable. It really taught me a lot about people. And I guess it’s awesome for our league, all the attention.”
We were all wrong during this draft process. I initially thought it was Lance, then switched to Justin Fields and never let up from there.
The most bizarre part about Mac Jones was that some prominent media members would push back if you questioned them about Jones to the 49ers and use the “I have connections” or “I’ve been doing this for a long time” card. Well, you were being played—all of you.
King asked Shanahan how he fell for Lance and how he knew Lance was the guy:
“His natural ability to play the quarterback position, just in terms of how he plays in the pocket, how he can go through the progressions, how, when no one’s open, that he gives it a chance, that he recognizes it. And how quick he reacts to turning it into an off-schedule play. He plays on tape like he’s a very poised, smart person who’s been playing the position for a while.
Then you look into the other attributes, and you’re like ‘Oh, I haven’t even gotten to the running skill set.’ I haven’t gotten to the upside of how much better he can get, the more he plays. That’s what made me like him so much right away.”
The more he plays. That’s something we’ve mentioned every time Lance’s name comes up. That’ll be the best way for Lance to improve. He needs to have live, on-the-field reps.
Over the weekend, NFL Network’s Peter Schrager threw out the idea that Lance would have a “package” similar to a wildcat offense. I hope Shanahan isn’t considering that. For starters, Lance is a quarterback. He’s not Taysom Hill. Lance can actually throw.
Secondly, he’s your future. You invested multiple first-round picks in him to lead your team for years to come. The last thing you want is Lance to get banged up because you want to bring him into the game and run him when everyone knows he’s getting the ball.
Athletes like Lance are special as their legs are a secondary option, not a primary one. I’d rather the 49ers let Lance play a couple of series a game instead of bringing him on the field for gadget-type plays.
Shanahan continued to talk about Lance, this time, about where he could improve:
“But it’s also, once you do that, you see all this, now let’s talk about what’s wrong. Why isn’t this a slam dunk? You hear his school [level of play], the lack of throws, not playing the 2020 season. Those are real things. That’s why I’m glad that we had a long time to go through it. Because you love the tape, but just like everyone in the league, there are some stuff you can’t just say it’s a slam dunk. That’s the stuff that worries you about it. But that’s what was so cool about the kid, that going through this process after we moved up to where I talked to him so many times, to have him go through the number of tests and stuff that we have them all go through . . . I can’t tell you how special of a person he is. It has nothing to do with football.
“He’s extremely intelligent. He knows how to handle situations. He knows how to carry himself. The guy that I see on tape that I tried to describe that I see such a natural quarterback, such a smart player. Well, if I never saw the tape, and I got to hang out with him first, I would’ve felt that same way with him as a person and been like, ‘Man, I hope the tape matches this person!’ You know? That’s kind of what was cool about it. The first time you watch the tape, ‘Man, hell yeah!’ But no decision’s set in stone in January. That’s how I felt in January when I saw him. But I was going to do the process right. Watch everybody. Every guy. I can always spend two hours and get myself to like anyone. Then, I go to the time getting myself to not like him. And I see what ends up sticking. That’s what was cool about him through the process at the end. No matter what I tried to do to say, It’s too risky!, all that stuff kind of went away the more I got to know the person. I went back to how I originally felt about the tape.”
It’s always fascinating what attracts coaches to players. In this instance, Shanahan fell for Lance for his intangibles that have nothing to do with what Lance does on the field.
Intelligence and poise are two traits that are necessary to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL. Shanahan admitted he fell for Lance early on during his viewing. That infatuation grew stronger the more Shanahan got to know the person. It’ll be fun to watch their relationship grow and evolve as time goes on.
Remember, Lance is 20-years-old. He went No. 3 overall in a year that featured five first-round quarterbacks and was drafted over two QBs who went to national powerhouses and played in the championship game.
Whether it was next year or the year after, Lance would’ve been the No. 1 overall pick. The 49ers just got a head start. Shanahan told King, “I’m obsessed with the type of stuff we can do with this guy.”
I’d say the 49ers got their guy.