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No. 10 Should Be Under Center for the 49ers in 2021

Mar 4, 2021 at 7:00 AM


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Where there is smoke, there is fire, and there has been a ton of smoke coming out of Santa Clara concerning the 49ers, their quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the future of the two together. Don't get me wrong, the most likely scenario for who starts under center for the 49ers in 2021 is Jimmy Garoppolo, but GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have made it clear that they are open to upgrading the position and moving on from Jimmy G.

If the 49ers do move on from Garoppolo, they shouldn't look to mortgage the future by trading a haul of picks to move up into the top 10 or even top 5 for a quarterback. They should pick No. 10 from Alabama, quarterback Mac Jones, if he falls to the twelfth pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Mac Jones is rapidly moving up the boards of many draft analysts, and rightfully so. Chris Simms, noted best friend of Kyle Shanahan, has Mac Jones as his third-ranked QB. Mike Greenberg predicts that Mac Jones will be drafted within the top 10, and Mel Kiper Jr. says, Jones' "accuracy on all levels is really incredible." Jones also has the highest single-season QBR of any quarterback in NCAA history at 96.0, ahead of Kyler Murray's 95.4 in 2018 and Joe Burrow's 94.9 in 2019. These things can't go overlooked.

Before you dismiss this as pre-draft hype, let's take a look at what made Jones successful at Alabama.

It is undeniable that Alabama was the premier college program in 2020, with numerous NFL-caliber players on both sides of the ball. And just like the 49ers, Alabama had a very dynamic play-caller with the ability to scheme players open all over the field. It takes ten seconds of watching Alabama's game film to see that it could get players open at all levels and at a ridiculous rate. Having an elite play-caller with a dominant run-first mentality, who also schemes open tremendously talented wide receivers and tight ends in space, which creates easy throws for the QB to make, sounds just like Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers' offense.

Kyle Shanahan's offense has often been described as one designed to make easy reads and throws for the quarterback, but is complex and challenging to learn. Many players have gone on record calling him a genius and a football savant. In a Forbes article by Shlomo Sprung, George Kittle stated, "I like to say he's playing chess while all the other guys are playing checkers, and that's how I kind of feel when I'm looking at the plays on the board." If the plan is to move on from Garoppolo, the team will need to replace him with an intelligent player to grasp the offense early and allow the playbook to expand.

Mac Jones is extremely intelligent. Mike Greenberg reported that Jones graduated from Alabama in 2 ½ years, with a Master's degree, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. This speaks to his mental processing ability and why he may be more NFL-ready than some scouts initially thought. Chris Simms also highlighted Jones' processing ability as the best in this class, adding that it rivals that of Joe Burrow, the first overall pick of the 2020 draft.

Jones isn't going to jump off the screen as a gifted athlete, but he does things on the field and in the pocket that have drawn comparisons to Tom Brady. This does not mean Mac Jones is the next Tom Brady, but you can see similarities between them. Neither will wow you with their escapability, nor run a 4.40 40-yard dash, but they both work well in the pocket. You see Jones avoid the rush by stepping up and keeping his eyes downfield as he goes through his progressions. He isn't afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit while delivering a strike to an open receiver.

It's easy to project Mac Jones running a Kyle Shannahan-led offense because he ran Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense, which leaned heavily on the running game and used play-action to move the pocket and create clean passing lanes. Jones is accurate with the football, has great anticipation, and can deliver a strike 25+ yards down the field. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the draft, but his deep-ball accuracy is elite, and he can make all of the throws necessary in a Shanahan offense.

Pairing Mac Jones and Kyle Shanahan just makes too much sense, especially if he is still available at pick 12. When drafting a franchise quarterback, it's important not to try and fit a square peg into a round hole. A marriage between Kyle Shanahan and Mac Jones could be dynamic and incredibly successful from the start.

If Alabama's No. 10 falls to pick 12, Mac Jones should become the 49ers' new No. 10.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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