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Mock Draft Roundup: It’s Fields vs. Jones for the 49ers’ top pick

Justin Wong
Apr 14, 2021 at 1:21 PM2

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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 month, 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. The first Mock Draft Roundup I compiled of analysts' projected picks for San Francisco featured primarily defensive players, but NFL pundits have now shifted their 49ers mock drafts to the quarterback position. The initial Mock Draft Roundup after the trade was a pick your poison scenario, in which experts weighed Trey Lance of North Dakota State, Mac Jones of Alabama, and Justin Fields of Ohio State as the 49ers' future quarterback. A week later, the chatter shifted towards Jones as the Mock Draft Roundup consensus pick. As shown in its recent Quarterback Roundtable discussion, the 49ers' Webzone staff remains heavily in favor of Fields...which leads us to a divided line between Fields and Jones among NFL experts this week.

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

Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

It's hard to ignore the Jones-to-San Francisco buzz within the league. Every sign two weeks out from the draft points to general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan being infatuated with Jones. I think he's the quarterback they traded up nine spots to take. Is he the perfect fit for Shanahan's offense? Only time will tell. Jones is my fourth-ranked quarterback and is No. 12 on my Big Board, and I'm not sure I see a superstar when I watch him on tape. He's solid -- and extremely accurate -- but not spectacular. Lynch and Shanahan are obviously taking the long view here, and this decision is going to be discussed and debated for years.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The 49ers will have their pick of Alabama's Mac Jones, Ohio State's Justin Fields, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance at this spot, and while Fields would be my pick in this scenario, all signs point to San Francisco being enamored with Jones. The former Alabama star won't offer much mobility but has the accuracy and quick-processing skills to efficiently run Shanahan's offense. Relatively inexperienced with just 17 starts on his résumé, Jones would have the opportunity to learn behind Jimmy Garoppolo for a year before taking over as starter in 2022.

The Ringer's Danny Kelly shifted from Lance to Jones in his most recent mock draft while ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has remained adamant on the pick from the start. While the Jones-to-49ers chatter continues to churn along in the NFL rumor mill, it's also worth noting that there has been some back-pedaling this past week. It seems like the 49ers are more open to other quarterback prospects like Fields or Lance than what was originally reported. The same narrative remains on what's to like about Jones: pinpoint accuracy, quick-processing acumen, and strong pocket presence. Still, even Kiper Jr. isn't sure if he sees a superstar in Jones when he watches the tape.

Maurice Jones-Drew, NFL Network
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Fields is a perfect quarterback for Kyle Shanahan's system. With blazing speed and a big-time arm -- which will be on display Wednesday in a second pro day workout -- Fields is a guy who'll move the pocket and make this offense much more explosive than it is with Jimmy G.

Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The draft unofficially starts at No. 3 overall, with the 49ers making one of the most impactful decisions of the past several seasons. Having traded with Miami to move up this far, the team is essentially betting three first-round picks that the quarterback they select is not only a franchise player, but a significant enough upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo to be worth that kind of investment.

I previously wrote that I could easily imagine Alabama's Mac Jones succeeding or even thriving in spite of limited physical tools, but I couldn't bring myself to gamble three first-round picks on it. At that point, I think Justin Fields is just the best bet to make. He was one of the most accurate passers we have ever seen in college, put together three straight seasons of elite PFF grades and provided a rushing threat at the position that Kyle Shanahan hasn't had since Robert Griffin III's rookie year in Washington.

Fields' second pro day was today and the 49ers were in attendance, which is probably why there might be a shift for Fields in recent mock drafts. We can go back and forth on who is the "perfect quarterback for Kyle Shanahan's system" but people often forget that Shanahan has coached an array of quarterbacks ranging from Brian Hoyer to Robert Griffin III. Regardless of the actual pick on April 29th, the big takeaway will be the thought process as to what Shannahan is aiming to develop for 2021 and beyond. Having said that, the Fields bandwagon is making a comeback!

Connor Orr, Sports Illustrated
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

I have a hard time with the seeming inevitability that San Francisco will take Mac Jones. It simply doesn't feel right to me. Nothing more, nothing less. Lance is throwing at a second pro day next week that both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are set to attend. He's built for a run-first offense and can provide the 49ers with the mobile, battering-ram element from the QB position that Jimmy Garoppolo never could.

Another hunch as to why I think Lance might be the guy: If you're drafting Mac Jones, who had nearly double the attempts that Lance did in college, you might be more willing to let go of Jimmy Garoppolo. Holding on to him (for now) suggests the QB is more of a project. Let's look at the attempts of each of the five consensus top QBs:

Trevor Lawrence: 1,138
Zach Wilson: 835
Trey Lance: 317
Mac Jones: 556
Justin Fields: 618

While Fields' second pro day is today, Lance has scheduled his second pro day for Monday, April 19th. Will NFL experts be humming a different tune after the dust settles? Lance remains the wildcard pick among the three quarterback prospects because of his undeniable upside. Lance ran a play-action offense at North Dakota State similar to Shanahan's offense and would technically be more accustomed to taking snaps under center versus Jones and Fields. However, questions about his collegiate competition and accuracy remain the biggest knocks against him.

Lance only played one game in 2020, so if the 49ers were to start Jimmy Garoppolo and redshirt Lance in would be more than two years since his last football game. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen recently came to the support of Lance, suggesting that the former Bison "let [his] game do the talking." Allen comes from a similar college background having played for the University of Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference.

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.


  • H. Street
    Realistically, the 49ers would not have traded 3 first round picks to acquire talent the likes of Mac Jones. After Trevor Lawrence, the best QB to fit Shanahan's offense is Zack Wilson. The Niners have the potential to win it all in 2021 with the current roster. Garoppolo has demonstrated that he cannot stay healthy or is not capable of taking them all the way. Since the Jets will pass on Wilson in favor of Fields, the 49ers made the huge calculated gamble to move up and draft Wilson. Teams in the Western Division and around the league will now regret this move as the 49ers, pending injuries, will dominate going forward. Again, with Wilson on board, the only thing that will prevent the Niners from reaching the top would be injuries to key players. And don't forget, Lynch is not done acquiring additional talent at this point. These are exciting times for 49er fans. The last time I was this excited was when the 49ers acquired Dion Sanders on their way to the super bowl.
    Apr 17, 2021 at 2:24 PM
    Response: Regardless of the pick, 49er fans are going to be in for a treat! Stay tuned...
  • H.Street
    This is just too simple. The 49ers and Shanahan would not trade up and surrender 3 first round picks for Mac Jones period. The QB they want is Zack Wilson. They believe he is the second coming of Joe Montana. Arguably the second best QB in this year's draft is Wilson. Or is he? The Jets will draft Justin Fields with the number 2 pick. Once the 49ers became aware of this, they moved to gain the 3rd pick and secure Zack Wilson. The Niners will keep Garoppolo until after they secure Wilson. Garoppolo keeps his #1 job as long as the team wins. At some point Garoppolo will be traded. Sure the 49rs are giving up two first round picks but they expect to contend for a championship and those picks will come at the end of the first round - which are in reality second round picks. Mac Jones is just a smokescreen. s
    Apr 16, 2021 at 10:46 PM

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