Rick Osentoski/Tim Heitman/Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski/Tim Heitman/Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Mock Draft Roundup: Fields, Lance, or Jones? Oh My!

Justin Wong
Mar 31, 2021 at 11:28 AM2


The 2021 NFL Draft is a three-day event from April 29th to May 1st that will be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio. A select number of draft prospects will be invited to Cleveland to walk across the stage and shake hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL Draft will also feature draft prospects participating remotely across the country.

Last Friday, the 49ers arguably made their most aggressive move since trading Joe Montana, as they gave up multiple picks to jump from No. 12 to No. 3 in this year's NFL Draft. In comparison to last week's Mock Draft Roundup, which featured primarily defensive players, the NFL pundits have now shifted their 49ers mock drafts to the quarterback position.


Below is a mock draft roundup with four weeks remaining until the actual NFL Draft. Each week, I'll pull up five recent mock drafts from various outlets and will give an analysis on the pick along with my personal take.

Matt Barrows, The Athletic
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Some think the Shanahan archetype at quarterback is Kirk Cousins. The true archetype is John Elway, a strong, savvy, mobile quarterback with a powerful arm who led the Broncos to two Super Bowl titles under head coach Mike Shanahan. Lance has many of the same attributes. Some might say drafting a quarterback with 17 starts at pick No. 3 is too great of a risk. While that's far from ideal, Lance operated the most pro-like offense of any of the top passers in the draft, which should make Kyle Shanahan's projection a little easier. It's also worth noting that Mac Jones, whom some see as the readiest to step into the Shanahan offense, also had 17 starts in college. If Lance's lack of experience is problematic, the 49ers could ease him into the NFL with a few plays a game like the 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick early in 2012 or the Saints have done more recently with Taysom Hill.

It's interesting to note that Trey Lance and Mac Jones have completely different scouting reports despite similar experiences. Lance is viewed as a raw prospect with a high ceiling while Jones is NFL-ready with the highest floor. If the 49ers do intend to keep Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback for 2021, it makes sense to get Lance and bring him along slowly. If the 49ers want a rookie to start Day 1...perhaps Jones is the better pick. That's one way of looking at it, despite Lance and Jones both registering 17 career starts.

Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The 49ers didn't trade two future first-round picks and a future third-round pick to give Jimmy Garoppolo another wide receiver or add to the secondary. With all signs pointing to Lawrence and Wilson being the first two players off the board, general manager John Lynch knew it was his time to strike and secure his next favorite quarterback prospect. And while there's been some speculation that the 49ers will take either North Dakota State's Trey Lance or even former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, PFF's pick at No. 3 overall would be Ohio State's Justin Fields.

The concerns with Fields' processing and his tendency to hold the ball too long in the pocket are valid, but the prospect of his development in those areas coupled with his proven athletic ability and accuracy should be too good for San Francisco to pass on. Fields is PFF's No. 3 overall player and No. 3 quarterback prospect in the 2021 class. He's also the only quarterback in this class with two years of 90.0-plus PFF grades (2019-20).

In regards to ceiling and floor, it seems like Justin Fields has a little bit of both as a quarterback prospect. During their collegiate careers, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Fields were often compared to each other as the top NFL quarterback prospect with two years of 90.0-plus PFF grades. Fields had a strong showing at his pro day, running a 4.44 40 time along while displaying an array of throws.

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

It's go time, y'all. The 49ers sell the farm to move up from No. 12 to No. 3 to take ... Mac Jones. It sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but we've heard since late last year that Jones could very well end up a top-10 pick and we're a month away from knowing for certain. He certainly fits Kyle Shanahan's system and if the 49ers love him, they'll land him here.

Mac Jones wasn't even in top-10 consideration until the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 spot in large part because of his skillset matching the archetype of a Kyle Shanahan quarterback. Out of the quarterback prospects, Jones offers the least value in terms of ceiling based on his athleticism but what draws people to link the 49ers to Jones is his skillset in the pocket. Jones completed 77.4% of his passes with player comparisons to Falcons' Matt Ryan and Vikings' Kirk Cousins--both Shanahan favorites. We'll find out soon about Shanahan's "ideal quarterback" as I'm sure he's taken note of the ascending play of mobile quarterbacks like the Bills' Josh Allen, the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, and the Texans' Deshaun Watson in recent years.


Danny Kelly, The Ringer
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The 49ers made a massive, draft-altering move by sending three first-round picks (the no. 12 pick in 2021 and first-rounders in 2022 and 2023) plus a 2021 third-rounder to the Dolphins to move up to no. 3. The big question now is not whether San Francisco wants a quarterback; it's which quarterback the front office wants most. I suspect that player is Lance, for a number of reasons. For one, his skill set perfectly fits head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme: Lance's transition from North Dakota State's run-centric, play-action-based approach to Shanahan's system with the Niners would be smooth. And two, if the reports that San Francisco is planning to roll with Jimmy Garoppolo as its starter for at least one more season are to believed—a big if—they would make a lot more sense if the franchise was grooming the inexperienced Lance, who played just one full college football season against lower-level FCS competition. In that case, Lance would be afforded the necessary time to get reps before being asked to helm the offense.



The Alex Smith-Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes analogy seems to hold true based on the comments from John Lynch and Shanahan's recent press conference that they intend to keep Garoppolo this season. Lance certainly has the highest potential to develop into a star but I do wonder if the 49ers were willing to be that aggressive to get a get quarterback they've hardly scouted--he only played one game in 2020 due to the pandemic. It's a bold move that makes sense, but I do have my reservations.

Drae Harris, The Draft Network
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch's trade up to this No. 3 pick shook up draft Twitter last week. This pick will undoubtedly be a quarterback. Will San Francisco keep Jimmy Garoppolo as their bridge QB for the year or choose to start a new era with their rookie QB, whom I believe will be Justin Fields?

Going off the previous thought process of bridging its rookie quarterback for beyond 2021, the 49ers' front office seems set on drafting one guy in mind at No.3. Why else would they aggressively trade to No.3 with still a month away until the NFL Draft? At least with Fields, it's well known that Shanahan previously worked with him during the QB Collective in 2017. Jones and Lance have small sample sizes to work with so it would make sense for the 49ers to target a more familiar prospect in Fields.

  • Justin Wong
  • Written by:
    Justin Wong has been writing for the 49ers Webzone since 2017 while also running an NFC West blog and podcast called Just The West. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @JustTheWest on Twitter.


Poll

  • Who do the 49ers draft?
  • Justin Fields
    59%
  • Trey Lance
    23%
  • Mac Jones
    11%
  • Other
    7%
  • 1,456 votes
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.


2 Comments

  • Robert Baldocchi
    We have a QB that can't stay healthy and neither can our backups there is a QB that can throw on the move he got 2 of his ribs broke in a championship game sat out 1 play came back in and played all out throwing multiple touchdowns not counting an arm that throw rockets and play in pain that is who I want for a QB Availability is the most important
    Mar 31, 2021 at 10:21 PM
    0
  • Rick
    I don't get all the hate for the Niners possibly taking Mac Jones. I watch ZERO college FB. But I watched a few highlight videos of his (that makes me an expert) and all I saw was this ugly, unathletic white boy standing tall in the pocket dropping DIMES.
    Mar 31, 2021 at 2:35 PM
    1
    Response: It goes back to the ceiling vs. floor argument on where each prospect projects at the next level. There is no exact science on this--just preferences on who should be their guy.

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