San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was excited about rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard when the team drafted him in April. So excited that Shanahan compared him to Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins after the 49ers traded two picks to move back into the third round to select him. In fact, while Mitch Trubisky was Shanahan's top rated quarterback in this past draft, Beathard was reportedly the only signal caller who he wanted.

On Thursday, Shanahan announced that Beathard would be the first quarterback off of the bench on Saturday night when the 49ers host the Denver Broncos in an exhibition game at Levi's Stadium. That's a big jump for a rookie quarterback who, until now, has been behind both Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers depth chart. On Saturday, Barkley will be the third quarterback on the depth chart and Beathard will see playing time once the starters' work is complete.

"Tough as s---," Shanahan has said while describing what made Beathard such an attractive prospect. The quarterback's NFL story is just starting. There is no way to predict how it will end. He could end up being an NFL great, a career backup, or a complete bust. Only time will tell. While Shanahan has never made any bold predictions about his quarterback, he does feel that he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL – even if his numbers didn't always show it.

Statistics don't really factor into how Shanahan evaluates a quarterback. Apparently, they never have. The offensive genius has always preferred to just simply watch the tape and see how prospects handle being thrown into tough situations. Beathard has seen his share of tough situations during his time at Iowa and that's what caught Shanahan's eye.

"You just watch every play and based on the opportunity that he was given on a play," Shanahan said Thursday during an interview on KNBR. "What was the end result and what was he capable of doing? I watched a lot of tape on him and, you're right, the offense wasn't that exciting. They didn't have a lot of talent around him.

"I saw a lot of games where I felt the receivers were manned up and people weren't open. I felt like they weren't blocking very well all the time for him and I saw a guy who still made plays. I saw a guy who, even when you watch the Florida bowl game, I've never seen a guy get hit as much as he did and it doesn't phase him. I know it would phase me. If I got hit that much, I'm definitely going to start looking different. When I can see someone going through that, you know, without even knowing them, alright, this guy is tough enough to play in this league.

"And you watch him as a thrower and making stuff into tight windows. When there's not a lot of people open, you're not always going to have great stats and, in college, if you run that type of system, which I do like their type of system, but if you do, you're not going to have the same numbers as a lot of other people.

"I've had a lot of people ask me, 'Why don't you like this quarterback? He's so accurate.' I'll be like, 'He's not accurate at all.' And then they'll be like, 'He had a 75-percent completion percentage.' I'm like, 'Really? I had no idea.'

"Then I'll go watch the tape and then 24 of his 30 throws were screens and bubbles. Well, that's why I don't think that because he really had four throws in the game that I considered are NFL throws and they were all over the place. So you've got to look at it all and I think a guy like C.J. – me guessing because I don't know his stats – but that stuff is not going to show up like other people.

"But we did see the qualities that I think it takes to be successful in the NFL and we'll see how he develops them and how much he can handle the pressure week in and week out. When you have a tough guy who is smart and has the ability to make all the throws, I think he has a good chance to play in this league."

You can listen to the entire interview with Shanahan on KNBR.