Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Michael Lombardi convinced 49ers altered draft plans due to outside pressure

May 4, 2021 at 6:01 AM--


Many felt the San Francisco 49ers were targeting Mac Jones of Alabama when they traded up to the No. 3 overall pick on March 26. They were wrong. Trey Lance of North Dakota State was the target, per general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. Jones was a safety net behind Lance and Justin Fields of Ohio State.

At least, that is what we have been told since the draft.

Shanahan started doing a deep dive into Lance's film in January, and the more he watched, the more he got excited. During his vacation in Cabo San Lucas, he spent time reviewing the young quarterback's film, sending his notes to Lynch, sometimes in the middle of the night. Shanahan liked Jones too and was fine drafting him at No. 12 — their pre-trade draft slot. But Lance, on the other hand, was worth trading up to ensure the 49ers got their guy.

Jones being the pick never really felt like it made sense. Few felt he was worthy of what the Niners surrendered to trade up. Maybe at No. 12, but certainly not at No. 3. It just felt like a massive reach. And the idea that Jones was the target the whole time created frustration among a fanbase that refused to believe it.

One former NFL executive turned writer for The Athletic, Michael Lombardi, refuses to buy Lynch and Shanahan's post-draft narrative. Lombardi did correctly predict a couple of weeks ago that the pick would not be Fields. However, he felt the most likely candidate was Jones, following by Lance.

With the draft now behind us, Lombardi is convinced the initial pick was Jones, and a potential revolt from the fanbase and criticism from analysts prompted a diversion from the team's plans.

"I'm not buying it was Trey Lance all along," Lombardi said via Jason McIntyre of FOX Sports Radio (h/t to Alek Arend of The Spun). "Anybody you talk to in the NFL that has sources - they aren't buying that either. [SF] can say it was Trey all along - that's a crock of crap. [T]hey traded up to get Mac Jones and the outside pressure became really bad."


This came after McIntyre went on a rant himself about not buying into Lynch and Shanahan's explanation of the evaluation process. McIntyre feels convinced there was some discord between the two. He also notes that there was no reason for the 49ers to create a smokescreen because everyone knew who the two teams ahead of them — the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets — were selecting.

"Who were the 49ers trying to throw off the scent?" McIntyre said on his own podcast, Straight Fire. "They traded up so they could have the third pick. There's nobody to smokescreen or bluff."

There are some potential flaws with his logic, some of which were addressed by Lynch and Shanahan — if you choose to believe them. McIntyre isn't buying that the Niners didn't want other NFC West teams to alter their draft boards based on knowledge of who the 49ers were selecting. Fine.

Another stated reason was Lynch and Shanahan wanted honest input from their staff, who were doing homework on the quarterback prospects and reporting back their findings, and offering their opinions. They didn't want their personnel influenced by whomever they felt Lynch and/or Shanahan preferred.

Most importantly, there was no real benefit to revealing their preference. And there was even one report that the NFL pressed the 49ers to keep their pick under wraps for as long as possible, creating more hype around the draft as it quickly approached. If that report is true, it certainly worked. Night 1's coverage across the multiple networks drew in 12.52 million viewers — about 2 million more than ABC's Academy Awards broadcast four days earlier.

Lastly, Shanahan doesn't seem the type to really factor in fan feedback when making decisions on what is best for the team. If he did, then Fields, the most popular option of the three quarterback prospects, might have been the selection.





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