Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

49ers explain why they felt the urgency to trade up, and why it was worth the cost

Mar 29, 2021 at 4:07 PM--

Oftentimes, the type of move the 49ers pulled off last week when they traded up to pick 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft takes place much closer to the start of the draft, if not after the draft actually begins. So why did the team feel it was necessary to make the move over a month in advance, and why did it think it was worth the heavy price it paid to get it done?

Call it a good old-fashioned case of fear of missing out.

49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan held a media session with reporters on Monday, during which they spoke about last Friday's trade that sent the 12th overall pick, a third-round pick in 2021, and two future first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for pick 3. The timing of the trade caught the NFL world off-guard, as most eyes were on the Pro Day that was taking place at BYU featuring standout quarterback prospect Zach Wilson. But the 49ers decided long before last week that they wanted to draft their quarterback of the future, and that in order to make that happen, they would have to do something bold.

"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," Shanahan said Monday.

The price tag the 49ers paid for pick 3 raised a few eyebrows across the league as well. But the team felt that price was worth it in order to make sure it got into the top three -- and to make sure it beat out the other teams that were interested in doing the same.

"One thing (former 49ers and Stanford head coach Bill Walsh) used to talk about a lot when I was at Stanford was you've got to beat your opponent to the punch," Lynch said. "We felt like it was a matter of time before the first domino fell, and we wanted to be a part of that once we decided this was something we wanted to do. Might we pay a little bit of a premium for that? Yeah, but we felt like this was a priority. This was a priority for our football organization going forward."

The 49ers first tried to get a deal done in early March, which proved to be too early for the rest of the league. Teams usually would be in a position to consider a trade at that time of the year, but COVID-19 restrictions led to this year's pre-draft process becoming significantly altered. With no Scouting Combine and the usual pre-draft player visits not taking place either, teams felt like they didn't quite have the information they wanted before deciding whether or not to trade their first-round pick.

"A lot of teams weren't ready because this is such a different year, so the process really hadn't happened," Lynch said. "I imagine at this time typically we would have been to a Combine, started 30 visits and all those things. That hasn't transpired. So for a lot of teams, (their attitude was) 'We're not ready to do that yet because we wanted to go through the process a little bit more.'"

Eventually, the Dolphins decided they were ready to make a move, and the 49ers decided that it would be a good idea to put themselves at pick 3, where they had the ability to choose between whichever quarterbacks were still left on the board following the expected top two quarterback picks of Trevor Lawrence of Clemson at pick 1 and Wilson at pick 2.

"We felt like putting ourselves in position to get up to three where we kind of controlled things was something very attractive to us," Lynch said. "So we talked to a few teams, and I think there was traction with Miami early. We just had really good dealings with them. Very appreciative to (general manager) Chris Greer, (head coach) Brian Flores, Stephen Ross, their owner -- I think they were first-class this entire way. We were able to bring it to a close on Friday while we were up at BYU."

The 49ers now need to come to a final decision on who to take at pick 3, but they clearly seem to be at peace with the move they made to get there. They also seem to be steadfast in their belief that whomever they wind up selecting on April 29 will be the right choice to lead the offense for years to come.

"We've got great confidence in this group of players that are up there," Lynch said. "Now we hone in and continue to examine each and every guy we have interest in at that spot and ultimately find the guy who's going to be a great part of this organization's future."

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