Peter King weighs in on the 49ers’ secrecy heading into the draft

May 9, 2021 at 8:54 PM--

Even Trey Lance had no idea that the San Francisco 49ers intended to draft him with the No. 3 overall pick. The team was very secretive following a massive trade on March 26. Everyone knew it was for a quarterback, but no one knew which quarterback it would be. There was still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 49ers' plan.

It turned out that San Francisco was high on Lance since January, but no one other than head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch knew that. That baffled many because most were fairly certain what would happen with the two picks ahead of the 49ers. So why the mystery?

In the mailbag portion of his latest Football Morning in America, Peter King of NBC Sports was asked about the secrecy. He feels at least part of it had to do with the team's decision to hold onto quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, allowing a rookie the luxury of sitting and learning for at least a season.

That doesn't mean the 49ers were unwilling to listen to offers for their veteran quarterback. They were. It would have just taken being blown away by an offer for the team's plan to change.

"Suppose the Niners want to convince the world they're picking Jones," wrote King, "and suppose they've talked to several teams about Jimmy Garoppolo in trade, and suppose they're trying to get a ransom for Garoppolo, and suppose they think that if there are teams that want Garoppolo, they'll pony up bigger packages than they'd offered."

If Lynch and Shanahan are to be believed, Lance was the frontrunner all along. However the duo had not locked in the selection, in their minds, until the Monday before the draft. At least, that's when they knew they had reached a consensus.

"So for a month and a half, Shanahan could have deep discussions with coaches/scouts about the merits of the three quarterbacks available at three," King wrote, "so he could hear everything good and bad about them. If everybody in the organization knows you're taking Player X, they're more likely to echo-chamber all the good stuff about Player X rather than being totally honest about all three."

Shanahan actually touched on that aspect himself. He stated that they wanted to make sure the 49ers' coaches and scouts were offering up honest evaluations of the quarterbacks and were not influenced by who they thought the coach and general manager wanted. Not even offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel knew who the pick was going to be until he heard Lance's name called during the broadcast. Very few outside of Shanahan, Lynch, and CEO Jed York knew.

Maybe quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello had an idea. Maybe. He was, after all, with Lynch and Shanahan when they watched both Lance and Justin Fields work out for teams at their second pro days.

"We do that because you don't want to sway people in this building," Shanahan explained after Lance officially became the selection. "You want everyone to ... just work their butts off and give you their honest info."

Shanahan and Lynch saw where the media speculation was headed. There just wasn't any strategic advantage to correcting anyone. Yes, the first two picks ended up being exactly who everyone anticipated, but anything can happen during the draft. You never know.

"If the whole NFL is assuming you're doing one thing and you're not doing that ... we're not going to work hard to correct that," Shanahan added.

Then you have Lynch's explanation: "We just wanted to see how far it could go, and we didn't think it would go this far."

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