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Kyle Shanahan reveals first impressions of Brock Purdy after 49ers drafted the QB

Aug 14, 2023 at 9:59 AM

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Kyle Shanahan had studied Brock Purdy's time at Iowa State and liked what he saw. He liked the quarterback enough to put a fourth-round draft grade on him. As the 2022 NFL Draft inched closer to its end, Purdy was still on the board.

Quarterback wasn't a significant need for the San Francisco 49ers. After all, a year earlier, they had just used the No. 3 overall pick on Trey Lance, who entered the team's offseason program as the starter. Still, there was intrigue in Purdy. Enough that scout Steve Slowik and quarterbacks coach Brian Griese pushed to add the young quarterback with the final pick in the draft and not risk trying to acquire him as an undrafted free agent, when he would be free to sign with any team.

So San Francisco took a shot on the former Cyclones quarterback, and as you know, the move more than paid off for the organization.

Purdy fought for a roster spot behind Lance and Nate Sudfeld, eventually becoming the third-string quarterback behind Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Purdy got his shot after QB1 and QB2 sustained injuries, and led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

Purdy never let go of the job, entering the offseason as the starting quarterback despite recovering from a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. He had shown enough in his brief stint to convince the 49ers—and fans—that he could play in the NFL.

"He's been [the starter] since last year ended," Shanahan told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

After drafting Purdy, even Shanahan wasn't sure how things would turn out. The rookie didn't have a ton of the measurables you look for in a franchise quarterback. He didn't have the height. He didn't have a rocket arm. While the 49ers coach was pleased with his evaluation of Purdy leading into the draft, his evaluation after the draft made him a believer.

"I just remember the first day I got out and saw him in rookie camp, to walk up and see him for the first time in person, yeah, his height, that was accurate," Shanahan said. "But to see his legs, to see his quads, he was built differently. He looked like a 215-pound guy. He wasn't a small guy, as much as I'd thought on tape. Then the first day he threw, it was like, All right, that's more than I thought. There's more zip there. That isn't a third-string quarterback. He can play in this league. We'll see how he is, but that's a dude that's much better than I thought."

Considering the performance turned in by the 49ers' three other quarterbacks in Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the team probably hopes it is right about Purdy. Maybe they got lucky and hit on a (very) late-round pick.

While Purdy seemed to lack the physical traits of an elite player, he didn't lack the smarts to absorb the ins and outs of a complicated offense like Shanahan's.

"His mind could keep up with Kyle's," general manager John Lynch noted.

Once Purdy got on the football field, the G.M. started to see what his coach was talking about and was impressed by some unexpected traits that revealed themselves.

"He made a lot of off-schedule plays," Lynch said. "You started to see that this guy is a better athlete than we all gave him credit for."

Purdy even shocked the Miami Dolphins defense, which threw the kitchen sink at the rookie quarterback when he jumped in for an injured Garoppolo in Week 13. The defense was trying to rattle the young player.

It didn't work.

"Right away, in that game, they came after him," Shanahan told Breer. "And he made some big-time throws. And then it was as if they backed off, because he showed he was gonna punish them if they kept playing that aggressive. Right away, it was like, Damn, this guy is pretty damn good."

The 49ers surprised everyone, announcing that Purdy had been cleared to practice at the beginning of training camp, nearly a month earlier than most expected. He and the rest of the starters sat out Sunday's game against the Raiders. However, even if he doesn't take a snap in the preseason, everything is trending toward Purdy being out there with his teammates when the Niners visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 10.

Click here to read Breer's entire feature on Purdy over at Sports Illustrated.

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