Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Fowler and Graziano: Kyle Shanahan has kept an open mind during 49ers’ draft evaluations

Apr 28, 2021 at 8:27 AM--

San Francisco 49ers fans might hear Mac Jones' name called tomorrow night while their team is on the clock. The former Alabama quarterback may not be the most popular choice, but he is probably the prospect who head coach Kyle Shanahan had his eye on last month when the Niners traded up to No. 3 overall.

"Sources believe that when the Niners traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 a month ago, they did so with Jones in mind," wrote ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano. "And sources also say that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan -- who ultimately gets to make the final decision here -- has preferred Jones to the other two options since the process began."

That doesn't mean that Shanahan has been closed-minded to other options. The head coach and general manager John Lynch watched both Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance of North Dakota State in-person this month. In Shanahan's mind, the leader may still be Jones, but the coach has listened to those around him.

"But there have been discussions in the building about whether Lance or Fields might be the better pick, and Shanahan has kept an open mind and listened to others in the organization make their cases," Fowler and Graziano noted.

They added: "The 49ers, however, have entered the process with an open mind, and Fields and Lance have made compelling cases. We're told the 49ers were pleased with how Fields handled himself throughout as he explained his decision-making and preparation. They felt, as did many other teams, that Lance came across incredibly well in virtual meetings and has a ton of intangibles."

Jones remains the betting favorite to be the No. 3 overall pick, followed by Lance and then Fields. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday night that the 49ers' decision had come down to two prospects — Jones and Lance.

"Fields appears to have finished third in this competition, as the discussion over the weekend and early this week was about Jones vs. Lance," wrote Fowler and Graziano.

While there may have still been some uncertainty heading into the weekend, it sounds like the 49ers have reached a consensus inside the building on who to draft.

"Now, I believe, as of this morning, they have made that decision," ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this morning. "I believe they've come to a consensus here in the last 48 hours, the last 24 or so hours, to reach a decision. We don't know what that decision is, and we very well will not know what that decision is leading into the draft."

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