As the San Francisco 49ers gear up for the 2022 season with Trey Lance as their starting quarterback, head coach Kyle Shanahan joined Brandon Marshall and PacMan Jones on the I Am Athlete podcast to talk about all things 49ers. One of the things Shanahan spoke about was the decision to draft Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 49ers traded three first-round and a third-round pick to acquire the third overall selection last year. While everyone knew they were taking a quarterback to replace Jimmy Garoppolo eventually, no one knew who it would be. With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson expected to be the top-two picks, most analysts believed Justin Fields was the best remaining quarterback prospect. However, reports consistently tied the Niners to Alabama’s Mac Jones, who almost all experts considered to be the lowest-ceiling prospect of the five quarterbacks who would go in the first round.
While the Niners ended up shocking the NFL world by taking Lance, little is known about the exact decision-making process. Given the volume of reports, it seemed likely that Shanahan was deciding between Lance and Jones, but given how reporters incorrectly speculated that Jones was going to be the pick, perhaps they missed something. However, Shanahan confirmed on I Am Athlete that the decision came down to Lance or Jones, “There were two that I really wanted... Mac Jones and Trey [Lance].”
Given the reports, it makes sense that Jones was in such high regard in the Niners organization. As much as fans like to complain about bad reporters (which there are plenty of), the amount of speculation that tied San Francisco to Jones was more than that. It seems reporters correctly identified that the Niners were higher than most on Jones but misread Shanahan’s interest in Lance.
Here’s more context from Shanahan’s quote on how they decided on Lance:
“We did the trade so early that it made me feel good about it. I knew before we did it how I felt about the quarterbacks and how good we would be to take them at 12. There were two that I really wanted... Mac Jones and Trey [Lance]. Those were the two guys that we were locked in on from the beginning.”