Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan weighs in on Trey Lance, other rookies, decision to attend Mac Jones’ pro day over Justin Fields’

Mar 29, 2021 at 2:46 PM--

Monday's press conference with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch didn't offer any concrete clues on which quarterback they'll be taking with the third overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, but one thing did become perfectly clear -- they very much seem to like the options they have in front of them out of a group that will likely consist of Mac Jones of Alabama, Justin Fields of Ohio State, and Trey Lance of North Dakota State.

The world won't know which of those players the 49ers like the most until the draft's first round takes place on April 29, but there's already been plenty of speculation as to who the selection will be. The widespread assumption is that quarterback Trevor Lawrence of Clemson will go at pick one to the Jacksonville Jaguars and that quarterback Zach Wilson of BYU will go at pick two, either to the New York Jets or a team that trades up with the Jets to get into that spot. That will most likely leave the 49ers to pick between Jones, Fields, and Lance, which seems to be something the 49ers are perfectly happy with after trading three first-round picks and a third-round pick to land the No. 3 pick from the Miami Dolphins on Friday.

"I think ultimately the decision we made was we were very comfortable with this group of players at the top of this draft," Lynch told reporters Monday. "We felt like putting ourselves in a position to get up to three where we kind of controlled things was something very attractive to us."

A number of NFL reporters and draft analysts have offered their opinions on which way they think the 49ers will go at pick three, with some thinking Lance will get the call, while others think it will be Fields, and quite a few more believing the 49ers will raise some eyebrows and pick Jones, who up until this point has not been rated as highly by draft analysts as the other four. Shanahan wouldn't dive too deep into specifics on Monday, but he did say the 49ers were confident before making the trade that at least three of the aforementioned players are worthy of consideration with the third overall pick. The 49ers will be using the next 30 days to decide if the player they might have originally had in mind as the third-best option is the one to take at pick three or if one of the other players is a better answer.

"You know I can't answer exactly on this stuff, but the way we looked at it is, to move up to three, we had to feel good there's three guys we'd be comfortable with leading our team for a long time," Shanahan said. "And we couldn't make that decision before there were three guys. So we had to feel that way with three. Now I think there's a chance to get there with four and five. There's a chance. There's five guys that are kind of at this party a little bit. People are talking about them going everywhere. They're all over in the first round.

"Our feeling is these guys are going to go a lot higher than people realize. And when you have two guys sitting at one and two who possibly could, even possibly three and four, then you hear (about) a lot of teams all the way through the draft who are in a situation where they really want a quarterback and they don't have someone close to what we have with Jimmy, that means those five guys are going to disappear pretty fast. So we had to feel confident at three to make this move, and that's what we did. I'm excited about now, we know there's five players. Who do you want to put your future in? Well, I'm glad we have a month to really work on that."

Speculation that the 49ers might be leaning towards Jones grew this week when Peter King of NBC Sports revealed that Lynch and Shanahan would be in attendance at an Alabama Pro Day on Tuesday instead of one being hosted by Ohio State, which King reported will be attended by 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Shanahan typically does not like to attend Pro Days in person, but Shanahan told reporters Monday that things have changed on that front now that the 49ers have pick 3 -- and to not read too much into him and Lynch heading to Alabama due to the fact that they'll get another chance to look at Fields down the line.

"We have people at all the spots -- a lot of people we trust and people we'll meet with over the next month," Shanahan said. "I normally don't like to go to them a bunch unless I feel I have to for some reason. But I also have been kind of grown up in the idea that you don't like to go everywhere and show people things. When you're sitting at 12, I don't like to go to a bunch of quarterback Pro Days and things like that. Now that you move up to three, you don't have to hide as much. It's not as big of a deal to me as it might have been when we were sitting at 12."

"Also, Alabama's already had one; this is their second one. And just talking with Fields's agent [David Mulugheta] and everything, we'll get another one from him too. So we'll be able to see him. That kind of made it an easy decision."

Shanahan also offered some quick thoughts on Jones, Fields, and Lance, who had his Pro Day earlier in March. Lance put on an impressive show at his Pro Day and seems to be a safe bet to be drafted somewhere in the top ten, even though there's some uncertainty around his level of experience after playing in only one game last season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"It's always harder when a guy didn't play this year," Shanahan said of Lance. "Definitely. He played one game, so I don't think people are going to go a ton off of one game. You've got to go off his body of work. You've got to play the whole season before. Of course, we all wish he could have one. We wish Wilson could have a full season too. There's a lot of things that happened this year. We also wish we could go personally work out everybody. I wish I could go out to dinner with everybody. There's a lot of things that make it harder for everyone this year, but the draft's hard every year."

Regarding Fields, Shanahan was asked whether or not he felt comfortable with his knowledge of the former Ohio State standout since he wouldn't be visiting him in person on Tuesday. Shanahan actually met Fields while attending the annual QB Collective event during Fields' high school days and knows what Fields can do after watching him on film.

"Yeah, I feel comfortable," Shanahan said. "That QB thing, I've only done it once and I think he was a junior in high school then, which was really cool to go do that. I hope I'm not in trouble for that; that was like seven years ago. But yeah, we talked to Dave Mulugheta the other day and he said they'd be able to set up another one, and that's why we chose Alabama. I'm excited to see him eventually in person. I've also got a lot of tape to go off too. I know he's going to throw it really good in person and be really fast in person also."

As for Jones, Shanahan didn't offer any specifics other than to say, "I just saw him in January for the first time along with all these other guys. They've all been in that boat."

While it remains to be seen which player winds up being selected at pick three by the San Francisco 49ers, there's no doubt the next 30 days will be incredibly important for the future of the franchise. If the team gets this decision right, it could set things in a positive direction for at least the next decade. But if it gets it wrong, the decision to trade three first-round picks will be one that comes back to haunt Shanahan and Lynch for much longer than that.

"This is a risk we were willing to take," Shanahan said. "We looked at how our four years have gone. We looked at how we want the next four years to go. We looked where we're at in the draft and the options that are there. That's why sitting there looking at this stuff since January and going all the way through the process, we felt pretty strongly we were going to get left at the altar sitting there at 12."

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