D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan on why 49ers traded all the way to No. 3 for Trey Lance, impact of Jimmy Garoppolo

May 17, 2021 at 12:44 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers made headlines and generated a lot of interest in this year's draft when the team traded up to the No. 3 overall pick in March, targeting North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. Of course, the Niners' brain trust of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch kept its preference under wraps for the month between the trade and calling in the actual selection. Lance didn't even know he would be the pick until Lynch and Shanahan called him on draft night, welcoming him to the 49ers.

Some have criticized the move all the way up to No. 3, believing that Lance could have been had with a lower selection. However, the team made it clear that the move into the top three, with the first two selections being almost a certainty, created a situation in which San Francisco didn't have to hide anything in its evaluation process. The 49ers were free to speak with whomever they wanted because no one was going to jump ahead of them to steal their guy.

Still, there was no advantage to sharing who their target was, so they didn't.

The move up to No. 3 was also somewhat necessary if the 49ers hoped to ensure they acquired Lance. After all, the selection would impact the team's entire offseason.

"What do we have to do to ensure how we want to do free agency, how we want to do it after, to where we know where we're going [so] it's not a maybe?" Shanahan told Michael Irvin on the Hall of Fame wide receiver's podcast last week. "That's why, at first, we looked into (pick number) four. We looked into five, trading up. They weren't options. But three was, and we had to make that decision, and we did, and we went with it.

"And then it was cool to have all that time to where -- no, you make it that early, you're not going to set it in stone. We had an idea who we wanted. We wouldn't have gone there if we didn't. But then you saw all the guys that you liked, and it was so cool to go through that process to where I could see on tape who I wanted, but then I could go meet them, see in person who I wanted."

Shanahan got his guy. He also has Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter since the last five games of the 2017 season. The plan is to have Garoppolo be the Week 1 starter against the Detroit Lions, allowing Lance the luxury of sitting and learning. There is no real rush to get the rookie onto the football field before he is ready.

Garoppolo's injury history also played a part in the 49ers' decision to draft a quarterback. The veteran has missed 23 games over the past three seasons. He was limited to just six games last season due to ankle injuries.

"Jimmy's played one year (the 2019 season)," Shanahan explained. "And for him to do what he did in one year just shows you it's not a finished product. He can get so much better. But in the other two years we've played with him, and he's gotten hurt, our seasons shut down a little bit, which happens to a lot of teams when you lose a good quarterback.

"And just watching the quarterbacks that are going around the league this year, watching our division, for right or for wrong, that wasn't something we were going to risk this year. ... Regardless of what happens, we made a decision in January that we're not going to do that again this year, and we're going to have a guy here, and we hope Jimmy comes back.

"And if Jimmy does and plays at a high level, which he always has done when he's played, that's a very good problem for us to have, and we'll deal with that when it happens. And I hope it happens. But if not, at least we know all our eggs aren't in one basket."

Added Shanahan: "The pressure is not on [Lance] right away, but this is the NFL, and so the pressure really is always on you. I think that kid can handle it. I think he's coming in, doing it the right way, and I love that Jimmy's here because it can just happen naturally. We'll see when [Lance is] ready. Everyone will know when he's ready. And when he is, it will be a fun competition."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below. It begins at about the 26-minute mark.

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