Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Why the 49ers should not draft Mac Jones at No. 3

Griff Montana
Apr 8, 2021 at 6:29 AM

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Shockwaves reverberated around the NFL last month when the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. By giving away its first- and third-round picks in 2022, and another first-rounder in 2023, San Francisco made its mega move in upgrading the quarterback room for its foreseeable future.

While the team has maintained a public stance of keeping current quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for this coming season, this trade signified its dissatisfaction with Garoppolo's services, as the 49ers are expected to select his successor with their third overall pick in the draft at the end of this month.

Most predict that the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets, who hold the first and second overall picks in this year's draft, will select quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson and Zack Wilson out of BYU. If this comes to pass on April 29, then the top three quarterbacks vying to be drafted by the Niners will be Justin Fields from Ohio State, Mac Jones from Alabama, and Trey Lance from North Dakota State.

Due to the immense draft capital the 49ers traded away to the Dolphins to move up in the draft, it surely demonstrates that they are taking a huge risk in believing they will draft an amazingly talented franchise quarterback for many years to follow. Why would they select Jones, one might ask — a player who has 17 collegiate starts with only a meager 566 passing attempts?

In addition, Jones has played quarterback for the best team in college football: the Alabama Crimson Tide. Steve Sarkisian's offense possessed one of the best offensive lines in 2020, led by center Landon Dickerson. It also featured dynamic weapons for Jones to utilize in running back Najee Harris and wide receivers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, both of whom are considered elite first-round locks in the upcoming draft.

On top of this, Jones was able to rely upon an outstanding Nick Saban defense, with players like cornerback Patrick Surtain II putting opposing teams under pressure and regularly putting Jones and their offense back on the football field. Jones, seated at the wheel of a Ferrari during his 17 starts and with an elite scheme and players around him, made being the quarterback of the Crimson Tide a simpler job when compared to other quarterbacks in this draft.

Jones does not have the elite arm talent or the arm strength of Lance or Fields. Both Fields and Lance have gunslinging arms and are also dynamic and powerful runners through either designed run plays or while extending plays with their legs when the pocket or play collapses. In the modern-day NFL game, the mobile quarterback has developed into a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses due to his ability to become a dual-threat through pocket passing and also running and scrambling away from pressure for significant yardage. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson are examples of the modern-day, mobile quarterback and the damage he can cause.

Jones does not possess the elite physical traits of Fields and Lance, either. With a weaker, average arm and little threat with his legs, he is a traditional pure pocket passer and does not regularly demonstrate abilities to extend plays through off-platform improvising or scrambling for yardage when his pocket collapses, in the style that both Fields and Lance do. This leads to an opinion that Jones wields a high floor and, thus, a lower ceiling compared to Lance and Fields, who both have incredible physical gifts with their great arm talents and fantastic running abilities.

For the 49ers to mortgage three first-round picks for their future quarterback, they should look and scout in their projections for the player with the most talent and ability, and for me, Fields and Lance possess that in abundance over Jones.

Jones threw 41 touchdowns with only four interceptions and had 4,500 passing yards in his 17 collegiate starts. Lance had 28 touchdowns with zero picks in 2019 and threw for 2,786 passing yards, with 14 rushing touchdowns. He had just one start in 2020 due to COVID and threw for 149 passing yards with two touchdowns and his first collegiate interception. Meanwhile, Fields threw 63 touchdowns in his two years as a starter, with nine interceptions and 5,373 passing yards. He also combined for 15 rushing touchdowns across those 22 collegiate starts.

When comparing these three quarterbacks' stats, the traits that become apparent on film are embellished within these numbers. While Mac Jones boasted the most passing yards, you must add context and compensate for his stellar receiving corps. However, it shows how he is an excellent pocket passer who throws with great anticipation and accuracy. Nevertheless, both Fields and Lance have 15 and 14 rushing touchdowns, respectively, in addition to their passing touchdowns. This, too, shows how dynamic and effective players they both are through their dual-threat capabilities.

While it will take a couple of years in the league to clearly see who is the best NFL quarterback out of these rookies, I believe that the 49ers should lean towards the high upsides of both Fields and Lance. The new style of the league dictates the selection of one of these dynamic dual-threat, playmaking quarterbacks, and under Kyle Shanahan's coaching, the sky is the limit for Fields and Lance and their elite physical gifts. While Jones is accurate, he simply cannot warrant the draft capital mortgaged by San Francisco to draft him, and his high floor is incomparable to the talents of Fields and Lance.

You can coach decision-making, anticipation, footwork, and other quarterback mechanics. You can improve accuracy, timing, and reading the defenses. But you cannot coach elite speed, high-end arm talent, and arm strength, and also the physical size and power that come with both Fields and Lance. This is why the 49ers should not select Jones with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

We will find out, come draft day, whom Shanahan chooses to be his cherry-picked quarterback of the future. Will he go with the traditional immobile pocket passer in Jones? Or will he go for one of the dual-threat playmakers in Fields or Lance?

All shall be revealed on April 29.
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.


  • Anthony Pettus
    I think Lawrence gets too big a pass, he isn't perfect. If he was he would've won the championship this year. Fields lost the ultimate championship and and is given a demerit for it but not Lawrence who is the golden boy. This kind of thing happens every year which is why it's hard to take seriously much of the pundits' opinions.
    Apr 9, 2021 at 12:14 PM
    Response: Hi Anthony - I agree. Lawrence is the nations golden boy and has been for around 3 years. Plus being a 5* recruit and all. It seems like Lawrence is so revered that he is above all scrutiny. He does miss reads and gets locked onto his hot route and often 1 receiver sometimes and his offense is not pro-style. It’s really impossible to know who will be great out of these QBs- often it’s the team / situation they go to (Mahomes and Reid) whereas some circumstances (Darnold , Jets, Adam Gase) these kids are doomed to fail. All being said..... Lawrence does look a stud he is the most balanced out of everyone with a great amount of games and also elite arm and running mixed with processing.
  • Daniners
    "Response: I am not being one sided. I like Mac Jones as a player - he is smart and protects the football and does have excellent completion % and a beautiful deep ball. I like him. But to give up 3 1st round picks for him? That's why I am not sure. For me, a Fields or Lance offers more potential for that draft capital" No one cares or remembers what you gave up if he Jones or any QB ends up being Matt Ryan. First, first round picks are so overvalued. Most teams, build there teams from rd 2-5, not rd 1. Round 1, is for the media and us. The hit rate, I bet it's about 30% on all first round picks. We've been flat awful, but most teams aren't much better. Again, the safest, best QB not named Lawrence or Wilson is Jones. Tape don't lie! His is the best I've seen since burrows (and burrows had arguably MORE talent). He just looks dorky and that's why all you young bucks who argue LeBron over Jordan, don't know shasta!
    Apr 8, 2021 at 1:53 PM
    Response: I do not watch basketball nor do I know anything about it - but I have always heard that Michael Jordan is the GOAT. Burrows could move and improvise off platform and run - Jones cannot. That’s my issue. Yes there’s a high bust chance on these QBs. Also I would not trade 3 1st rounders for Matt Ryan. He was a top 10-12 QB and very good but not worth 3 1st rounders . Remember , 3 1st rounders was talked about for a Wilson and Watson calibre of player. Ryan is a very good QB and a franchise one at that. But to trade 3 1st rounders? He doesn’t have the talent of a Wilson for that draft capital imo. The amount the 49ers gave up means it has to be for elite talent .
  • Sean
    I think Fields should be the 49ers pick and I think he will be. Mac will be great on a pass centric team that builds it's O line for pass protection first. This is not how the 49ers build their O line. Shanahan is a run first guy and run blockers are prioritized. I've watched fans cry year after year that they need to protect the QB but being a good pass blocker is just a bonus for Kyle. McGlinchey is a perfect example of this, he's the number 2 run blocker behind Trent Williams. Williams happens to be great at pass pro and he gets paid for it but McGlinchey has received tons of criticism for his lack of pass protection. Yet he remains a starter. Shanahan wants all the things that people mention when they talk about a smart accurate pocket passer like Mac. But he's not willing to build the pass protection to make the QB excel at pocket passing because it would compromise his run game. So the compromise has to be a QB that is not only a good pocket passer but one that can extend plays with his arm and his legs outside of the pocket. A QB that can punish a team for stacking the box, over commiting to a blitz, or playing prevent. Fields is that guy. Lance might be that guy.
    Apr 8, 2021 at 1:27 PM
    Response: really interesting point Sean! I agree our O line are good in both pass pro and run blocking but yes - they are built to run block and move in the outside wide zone scheme. A mobile quarterback who can move and be tough in the pocket and also escape pressure and roll out and extend plays with his legs - would take SF to a whole new level! I agree I think Fields should be the pick
  • Gabriel Urquidez
    Niners screwed up. They should have traded for Sam Darnold. It would have been cheaper and you know what you are getting. I think this draft is easily going to be an "uh oh" draft years from now. There is only one franchise QB at that is the kid from Clemson. The rest are serious reaches. However there are some serious game changers in this draft. 1. Lawrence. 2. Sewell - this is an All-Pro left tackle. People I'll be kicking themselves for not drafting him. 3. Chase - an outstanding WR from LSU.
    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:15 AM
    Response: I agree. Especially with COVID and opt outs last year it is difficult to fully scout these college players. Sewell and Slater are both studs and for me Kyle Pitts is the best player in the draft. He looks like a game changer and an incredible player
  • Matt
    To me, Justin Fields is similar to Collin Kaepernick. Big strong guy who can run but is somewhat of a long strider and faster than quick. Big arm, but a slow release with a windup. If that is what you want, great. Kaepernick succeeded in Greg Roman's offense, but struggled mightily after that. Fields is not Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray. Those guys are quick and better at evading the rush. Fields can make something out of a broken play, but too often he was the one who broke the play in the first place. Trey Lance is a better prospect for a pro offense than Fields, from what I have seen. His release is much quicker and he gets similar velocity on the ball as Fields, but with a more compact throwing motion. He ran a pro style offense, but it was definitely a run first offense. Lance might have run the QB draw more often than he threw a pass. When he did throw, it was mostly to wide open receivers schemed open by the run game. There are very few examples of him fitting the ball in tight windows. He did what he was asked to do very well and made big plays with his feet, but it's a massive projection to see if he can do what an NFL QB needs to do to be successful.
    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:17 AM
    Response: Firstly Justin Fields is mighty quick . He ran an unofficial 4.4 at his pro day - (RG3 ran a 4.3). So he is lightening quick. I feel the comparison to Kaep has its ups and downs. Kaepernick was not as quick a runner but was probably stronger. As a passer Fields is much more accurate - especially on the deep ball. Kaepernick was often inaccurate with his throwing. I see Fields to be a smaller version of Cam Newton with a mix of Dak Prescott thrown in. I also believe Fields to be a pocket first quarterback. He can run but he is a passer first - like Deshaun Watson (just not as good). On Lance - I love him. He looks like a really smart kid and NDSU do run a Shanahan like scheme. He has just not thrown the ball enough or had as much reps as someone like Fields. Especially with only playing one game last year - I like Lance but think he is incredibly raw and Fields is more polished coming out of college at this time
  • Joe M
    Would you rather have Russell Wilson or Tom Brady? Can Newton/RG3/Lamar Jackson or Peyton Manning?
    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:17 AM
    Response: Good questions and I can see what you’re doing here... I’m going to bend the rules slightly. Brady is the GOAT . Him and Peyton were incredible. RG3 got hurt and Cam Newton was a really good player but not top tier - Lamar it is to soon to tell. It’s hard to go against Brady and Peyton but I’ll say this. Elway and Mahomes and Russell Wilson I would prefer to Peyton - due to their ability to extend plays. I cannot put anyone against Brady as he is the GOAT. But there will never be another Brady.
  • Gene
    Racism is still real. For one if Justin Feilds was white with blonde hair he would be first pick period. I know this first hand, I have son who plays QB in college, and had go to HBCU just to get an opportunity to play QB! Schools wanted his to change positions like Trey Lance. My son 6'3" 215 can make every throw and can run! The problem is that many decisions makers believe that white QBs are smarter or even worse that's what they prefer. So, the black QBs have to be twice as good just to get the same opportunity! Bottom line Mac Jones is the biggest risk, simply because he the weakest prospect !!!!
    Apr 8, 2021 at 8:53 AM
    Response: Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It is still a real issue in society. We should not pigeon hole people into playing a certain position, due to their race or build. It should be on hard work and talent and it sounds like your son clearly has that. I hope he follows his dreams as a QB and tears it up in the NFL someday!
  • The Ghost
    You silly Journalism majors breaking down for us how the " new modern day quarterback " is necessary to win in the modern day NFL. Like I've always said ( and I've seen absolutely nothing to change my mind so far ) , one read , take off running qbs may beat average teams but will never win a super bowl. AND ISNT THIS THE WHOLE DAMN GOAL? Lamar Jackson sucks . There . I said it . Mike Vick sucks. Never won squat . Kyler Murray will never win the championship . You know who does win ? Accurate , smart , tough guys who can hang in the pocket and take shots to the face and put the ball in a window the size of a shoebox . Stop pushing the false narrative Griff. You can be better than this.
    Apr 8, 2021 at 8:19 AM
    Response: hey there “the ghost”. I am not pushing a narrative. I do not love all running quarterbacks either. In fact Drew Brees is one of my all time favourite QBs to watch - a pure pocket passer with amazing accuracy and touch. I agree . To play the quarterback position the main thing you have to do is to pass from the pocket. But I also love that little something extra - that improvisational ability , that running ability. Something natural and offscripted that goes above the playbook. I believe Jones does not display that ability in the sense that someone like a Justin Fields does. That’s all!
  • Daniners
    I love watching all you writers panicking and tossing out one-sided arguments against Mac Jones. Chris Simms mentioned this on his podcast, you want to debate Jones, then don't come having already made up your mind. Come with pros and cons of each. If you do that, you will end up at Mac Jones be the least risky, most prepared QB outside of Lawrence and Wilson. Also, your point about teaching accuracy and decision-making at the next level is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Rarely, does that happen going from college to pros. Very hard to teach accuracy. Generally, if you don't have it, it doesn't get markedly better. Josh Allen is and was an anomaly. It took him 3 years and most ppl thought he was a bust prior to last year. It never happened for Trubisky. Fields and Lance are tremendous college players with high upside. Jones is already developed. Highest completion % against blitz, reads defenses extremely well, highly accurate, and moves through progressions quickly. Jones is better a athlete than you guys give him credit for. Excellent tennis player (as was Brees). Athletically better than probably 70% of the QBs who have won the last 30 SBs (almost all pocket passer and HOFs).
    Apr 8, 2021 at 7:38 AM
    Response: I am not being one sided. I like Mac Jones as a player - he is smart and protects the football and does have excellent completion % and a beautiful deep ball. I like him. But to give up 3 1st round picks for him? That’s why I am not sure. For me, a Fields or Lance offers more potential for that draft capital
  • Harry
    Mac Jones played only 17 games, but played all those games at a very high level. If that's not enough games, why not criticize Lance for playing only 17 games (16 games in 2019 and only one game in 2020), and he played against inferior competition? Yes, Jones had great players, but he still had to throw and get the ball to the receivers or backs. In many cases, Jones made his receivers look good. The balls were so perfectly thrown. They're catchable, like the balls thrown by Russell Wilson. Jones's accuracy, footwork in the pocket, and quick mental processing make up for him not having to run as much, and allow for him to go through all the progressions. His throws leave his hand in about two seconds. And he's not a one-read and run type quarterback, like Fields and Lance. Yes, they are great runners. Running quarterbacks make themselves prone to injury. Think RG3. The 49ers do not need to draft the second coming of either RG3, Dwayne Haskins, JaMarcus Russell, or Colin Kaepernick, all big and mobile. Yet, that's what you and every draft expert are suggesting. No, the 49ers need a quarterback who can be relied upon to throw with accuracy and mentally process quickly.
    Apr 8, 2021 at 7:10 AM
    Response: Lance and Jones have both not played enough in my opinion I agree. Jones is a good player but to me he is not miles better than a Kyle Trask. I want to see the Shanahan Offense have an expanded playbook and have someone who can improvise and produce a magic moment. Fields and Lance have shown on film they can do this, whereas Jones cannot. I would not trade 3 1st round picks for Mac Jones. I would be more comfortable doing so for Fields or Lance - preferably Fields

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