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The 49ers Should Not, and Will Not, Trade Up to Draft a QB

Brian Renick
Feb 18, 2021 at 12:54 PM1


Carson Wentz was traded on February 18th, 2021, from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Indianapolis Colts, for a 2021 3rd-round pick and a 2022 2nd-round pick that can turn into a 1st-round pick if Wentz reaches 75% of the Colts' offensive snaps in 2021 or 70% of the offensive snaps and the Colts make the playoffs.

With Wentz headed out of Philadelphia, there is not a single quarterback drafted in the first round from the 2012 through 2016 NFL drafts who is still with the team that drafted him (with some not even in the NFL anymore). That is an astounding stretch of incredibly poor quarterback drafting. It also highlights a very important fact about drafting a quarterback in the first round: there are significantly more busts than hits.

The 49ers currently find themselves in a quarterback quandary this offseason. They have a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who has proven to be a winner when he is on the field, but he hasn't been on the field enough to justify the $27 million the 49ers are scheduled to pay him next season. He also has limitations in his game that seem to hold back head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense from reaching its full potential.

Both Shanahan and GM John Lynch have been on record with their support for and comfort with Garoppolo back under center heading into the 2021 season. However, they've also been on record that they are open to an obvious upgrade at the position. They've been linked to every quarterback rumored to be available, including Wentz, but there has been no movement on any trade fronts. The reality that seems to be coming into focus is the decision-makers believe there is only one quarterback who would be an obvious upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo: Deshaun Watson.

Watson has demanded a trade from the Houston Texans, but the Texans have not signaled a willingness to acquiesce to his demands. There is no way to know who will come out on top of this staring contest between the superstar quarterback and the Texans' front office and ownership, so 49ers fans would be wise to move on from the thought of Watson in the Red and Gold. For those who have already moved on, many have shifted their focus to the 2021 Draft quarterback prospects.

There is a consensus group of top four quarterbacks in the upcoming draft: Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Zach Wilson of BYU, Justin Fields of Ohio State, and Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The 49ers currently pick 12th in the upcoming draft and there are now, with the Wentz trade, eight teams ahead of them that could or will draft a quarterback: Jaguars, Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, Eagles, Lions, Panthers, and Broncos. To guarantee themselves an opportunity to draft one of the top four, the 49ers will have to move up in the draft. They absolutely should not.

In Kyle Shanahan's career as an offensive coordinator and head coach, he has never expressed a desire to have a rookie quarterback operate his offense. Robert Griffin III was foisted upon him in Washington, and he made do to the tune of an Offensive Rookie of the Year award for the QB, but the 49ers are in a much different position than Washington was when it drafted RGIII. The 49ers are in an open Super Bowl window and they need a quarterback who can operate the offense at a high level, either because he has been in it for years (Garoppolo) or because he is a proven superstar in the league (Watson).

As stated above, drafting a QB in the first round is an absolute crapshoot. Trading up to draft a QB in the first round has an even worse track record. Since 2016, teams have traded up in the first round, or back into the first round, for the following quarterbacks:

  • Jared Goff
  • Carson Wentz
  • Paxton Lynch
  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Deshaun Watson
  • Sam Darnold
  • Josh Allen
  • Josh Rosen
  • Lamar Jackson
  • Jordan Love

Two superstars (Mahomes and Watson), an emerging superstar (Allen), an MVP who may or may not continue his elite-level play (Jackson), and a whole lot of average, below average, or downright atrocious (lookin' at you Paxton Lynch). A hit rate of 36% is not particularly encouraging when you are talking about the future of your franchise and your own job security.

Will at least one of the top four QBs in this year's draft class become a superstar? Probably. There is a lot of talent in that group. However, many spoke glowingly of the talent in the above group of QBs as well, and only four of them have proven to be elite-level players thus far in their careers.

The 49ers are in win-now mode and have the talent on offense to compete for another Lombardi Trophy, even with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. The team is only twelve months removed from an appearance in Super Bowl LIV, led by a historically dominant defense. That defense has taken some hits to its personnel in the last twelve months, including the loss of every starting cornerback to free agency. The front office needs to head into the 2021 Draft focused on filling the holes on that defense in order to reposition themselves as Super Bowl contenders.

The 49ers should not, and will not, trade up to draft a quarterback.
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.


1 Comment

  • RT_CO
    Kyle Shanahan has had success at accommodating his system(s) to a quarterback's limitations. Here's an unknown: How good is Coach Shanahan at rehabbing a failed first rounder QB? He seems to have that opportunity right now n the person of Josh Rosen, and he doesn't even have to skip a beat in his and the teams panning for the '21 Draft. Mullens and Beathard are not the answers when it comes to planning/ executing a competition for the position, which is another thing Shanahan isn't shy about announcing. Compare and contrast, if you would: let's have a discussion about this!
    Feb 18, 2021 at 6:21 PM
    1

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