Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


The 49ers Already Have a First-Round QB to Develop

Brian Renick
Jan 2, 2021 at 12:10 PM8


49er fans have been spoiled by the Joe Montana and Steve Young eras. From 1981 (Montana's first year as a starter) to 1998 (Young's last full season), fans grew accustomed to having an MVP-level QB starting for their team each season. Every quarterback who has started for the Red and Gold since 1999 has been judged, fairly or not, against the success of those two legends.

One year removed from a Super Bowl run, and after another season derailed by an injury, a majority of fans and 49ers' Twitter have determined that Jimmy Garoppolo is not the future. They have been clamoring for the team to trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft to get one of the top 4 QB prospects coming out of college: Trevor Lawrence from Clemson, Justin Fields from Ohio State, Zach Wilson from BYU, or Trey Lance from North Dakota State (with Mac Jones from Alabama and Kyle Trask from Florida rounding out the six likely first-round QB prospects).

The 49ers currently have the 15th pick in the draft, but that will change depending on the outcome of Week 17 matchups across the league. There are quite a few teams currently picking the top 10 that have unsettled quarterback situations, so if the team does want to draft one of the above-mentioned prospects, it's going to take an absolute haul of picks to trade up in position to get one. We're talking 1st- and 2nd-round picks this year, and likely at least another 1st-round pick and mid-round pick in 2022. This is a team with 40 scheduled free agents, including left tackle Trent Williams, and all of the cornerbacks on the roster outside of Tim Harris. It cannot afford to give up the type of capital it would take to move up that far. Luckily for the 49ers, they already have a young, 1st-round quarterback on their roster who they can develop.

Josh Rosen was an elite prospect coming out of UCLA. Here are some analyses written about him prior to the 2018 NFL Draft:

"[He] has impressive footwork, and that leads to him throwing the ball accurately with good placement. [His] accuracy, timing, precision and arm strength make him deadly to move the ball down the field in a blur." - WalterFootball.com

"In terms of mechanics, accuracy, footwork and touch, he's the best passer in the 2018 draft class. He's an incredibly clean passer. His background as a tennis player is obvious in watching him take a three- or five-step drop. He's a prototype in his release and delivery and operates like an NFL quarterback on play action. He doesn't get rattled in the pocket despite a thin frame and tends to get better the more he's hit. He has the arm strength to hit windows and has shown consistent touch in leading receivers upfield. He doesn't miss often." - Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

"[His] footwork and mechanics stand out right away, even compared to the other top-flight QB prospects in this draft. [H]e consistently stayed under control, kept his balance, and delivered the football with precision. A significant chunk of his tape looks ripped directly from a quarterback fundamentals video. A number of other high-end college passers over the years have enticed teams with size, arm strength, and mobility, but have come with unrefined habits in the pocket. With [him], coaches know exactly what they would get in that regard. The way [he] deftly navigates the pocket to find solid throwing platforms opens up a few different aspects of his game. Although he isn't a running threat (4.92-second 40-yard dash at the combine; the official scouting term for that is "really slow"), he's capable of escaping pressure, especially off the edge. By climbing the pocket and regaining his balance, [he] is able to make strong throws to secondary reads late in downs. He may lack the skill set to extend plays in the traditional sense as more mobile quarterbacks can, but [he] can still hit on last-ditch throws by virtue of reestablishing command even after he is pushed off his initial spot." - Robert Mays, The Ringer

Rosen has a lot of the traits that could lead to significant success in a Kyle Shanahan offense: traditional pocket passer, incredible footwork in the pocket, accuracy and touch, a strong arm, and the ability to escape pressure by navigating the pocket a la Tom Brady. He is not a gifted athlete in the traditional sense, and he's definitely not a dual-threat QB like the top-4 prospects in this year's draft, but there is more than enough there for Shanahan and staff to mold Rosen into a winning quarterback.

It's hard to evaluate Rosen thus far in his NFL career and not use the word "bust." However, the guy has gotten a significantly raw deal to start his fledgling career. He was drafted by the Cardinals 10th overall in 2018, which was the first season for defensive-minded head coach Steve Wilks. His offensive coordinator was re-tread Mike McCoy, who was fired mid-season. The team lacked playmakers outside of Larry Fitzgerald, and the offensive line was absolutely atrocious (Rosen was sacked 45 times in 14 games). Wilks was fired after one season, Kliff Kingsbury was hired, the Cardinals took Kliff's guy (QB Kyler Murray) with the 1st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Rosen was promptly traded to the Miami Dolphins.

Rosen's situation with Miami wasn't much better. Miami was in the midst of a significant rebuild, with a first-year defensive-minded head coach in Brian Flores, and many around the league thought it was in "tank mode" to be in position to draft one of the top QB prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Rosen started three games, played abysmally, and Miami did indeed draft quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the following draft. Rosen was released and was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad. The 49ers signed him off that practice squad on December 22nd, 2020, and this is where he currently finds himself.

Rosen has seen action in 20 games in his career, and the numbers aren't pretty: he has completed 54.8% of his passes for 2,845 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Yikes. However, he's still just 23 years old (he'll turn 24 in February), has elite traits, and with the 49ers he does not and will not have the pressure of being a high draft pick. If Rosen is given the chance to develop behind Jimmy Garoppolo for the next two seasons (that's how many years are left on Garoppolo's deal) he could take over if Garoppolo struggles, or hit the ground running in the 2023 season at 26 years old. The most appealing aspect of this scenario is that he does not cost the team any draft capital whatsoever. The 49ers would be free to use their picks in the upcoming draft to address the cornerback position, the interior of the offensive line, find another EDGE rusher to pair with Nick Bosa, and add depth to other areas.

The 49ers are in the middle of a Super Bowl window. The 2020 season was a disaster, no doubt about it, but this roster is still loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Financially speaking, it would greatly benefit the team to fill some of the holes created this offseason with cheap, talented, cost-controlled players acquired in the 2021 draft. If San Francisco mortgages the future to move up and grab a QB, it will not be able to fill as many holes, and it could have long-range consequences for the team, especially if said QB does not pan out. That's a big gamble.

Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch already have a lottery ticket in Rosen; they might as well scratch it off and see what they have.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


8 Comments

  • Wild Bill
    JG was in his first full season in 2019. 2020 was going to be his 2nd and that was supposed to be when he made the jump, but injuries derailed it and it was a weird year with COVID and no real offseason and all those injuries. I still believe in JG, his biggest issue is he is injury prone. If anyone thinks anyone other than Trevor L is a legit QB, they are foolish. He is the only one who has proven himself year in and year out at a high level in tough competition. Justin F is just another Haskins. Zach W is a one hit wonder. Trey Lance opted out of 2020 and played at a small school. QBs is one of the biggest boom or bust in the draft. If we can fix the middle of OL jimmy can do his thing, especially if we can Deebo and Aiyuk on the Field with Kittle. So picking up Rosen to try and develop is a better choice. The OL at both Zona and the Phins were a revolving door and he had bad supporting cast along with no real OC. The only question is can he be rehabbed after shell shocked and bad habits of trying to survive. Sitting behind JG to learn can only do wonders. Learning and unlearning under Kyle can only do wonders. Let him and gain his confidence.
    Jan 23, 2021 at 3:19 AM
    0
  • matt huse
    this article is way wrong....jimmy g is the 49ers QB for now and for the next 10 years...no way the 9ers should waste a draft pick before the 5-6 round on a qb.....depending on their free agent signings...take the best CB in round 1 or trade down and take 2nd or 3rd best cb option plus OL...
    Jan 4, 2021 at 1:01 PM
    0
  • Anthony
    I actually thought he was going to be a problem in our division. Also the same thing. He didn't have much of a chance. Anyway, I have some optimism about this. There are worse cards to be dealt with than Rosen. One more thing. A tall QB is preferable. One trait I always believed is necessary. Only so many Russell Wilsons...
    Jan 3, 2021 at 12:50 PM
    0
  • AP
    Though I agree with the basic premise of the article (that they don’t have to/shouldn’t use their 2021 1st round pick on a QB and that Rosen is an intriguing player to develop) I still think they should invest a draft pick this year on a young QB. A toolsy, athletic/mobile, strong-armed prospect who needs a year of sitting/watching would be an ideal 3rd-string QB.
    Jan 3, 2021 at 6:32 AM
    0
  • Alex
    Rosen is someone who can compete or develop. Wether that's for starter or backup that depends on him. However why stop there? We have room to add more talent why don't we? Always good to have more options at every position including qb. Having talent in the bullpen is a good thing.
    Jan 2, 2021 at 8:37 PM
    0
  • Frank
    Brian, thanks for the open-minded article. Lots of talk about JG...and I get it. I'm not sure he's the true franchise QB. Yes, they can draft a rookie, but from what I've seen, this year's crop of (supposed) 1st rd QB's isn't that impressive. I do like Zach Wilson, but they'd arguably need to trade up to get him. Given the need to re-sign some of their key FA's, it doesn't seem feasible to give up draft picks. Agree, Rosen's been given the shaft in his brief NFL career so far...AZ was horrible, largely because then HC Wilks was content to let him get pounded even when his team was far behind. Then he went to Miami...at that time, they were a bad team, also. I'd say the Niners need to keep Josh and let him compete with whomever's the purported starting QB in 2021. If nothing else, JR could serve as a b/u who has the skillset our current b/u's don't have.
    Jan 2, 2021 at 7:56 PM
    0
  • Toknight
    That's the most level headed write up I've seen about it - are you sure you're talking about San Francisco quarterbacks?!? Rosen is not likely to pan out. The scouts, as they do more often than not, missed on this one. They were wrong, or puffed up his stock. Rosen's mind is way too slow on the field. But Rosen has the potential to be a quality backup and in a few years who knows, maybe he becomes an average starter a la Cousins or Bridgewater. It is absolutely a low risk proposal that could be worth the price.
    Jan 2, 2021 at 3:08 PM
    2
  • mbniner
    I'm in agreement with this. The Niners have had a couple of weeks to scout Rosen in person and, if he appears to have the tools, they should give him the chance to develop. It's a free-be, they don't have to pay a big amount of cash. His big problem coming out of UCLA was his perceived "bad attitude". The biggest thing that he has going for him is accuracy, strong arm, and footwork, not unlike Kirk Cousins. a Shanny favorite. What do the Niners have to lose? They should sign him to a Futures Deal and go from there.
    Jan 2, 2021 at 2:42 PM
    2

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