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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers Aren’t Drafting Mac Jones

Brian Renick
Apr 20, 2021 at 11:26 AM6

Back in January and through the beginning of March, I was banging the drum on Twitter for the 49ers to draft Mac Jones with the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I felt that, if he fell to them, it would be good value and it would give them a young signal-caller to reset their cap number at the quarterback position. I also felt that Jones would provide them with at least the same level of play as current QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but with the possibility to open up the playbook a little more because Jones has a slightly better arm and more moxie to go deep.

The 2019 season showed that, with competent play at the quarterback position, head coach Kyle Shanahan could put together an efficient offense that would complement a ferocious defense. The 2019 season also showed, on the biggest stage, that an efficient offense cannot overcome an offense with a playmaker at the quarterback position. Drafting Mac Jones would give the 49ers competent quarterback play, and in turn an efficient offense, but after the team traded this year's 1st-round pick (12), 1st-round picks in 2022 and 2023, and a 3rd-round compensatory pick in 2022 to move up to number three in this year's draft, Kyle Shanahan has signaled that he wants more than just competence from the QB position.

Since the 49ers made the trade, there has been a consensus among national media members that Mac Jones will be the pick. NFL insiders like Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport, and Peter Schrager have gone on record saying they either expect Jones to be drafted by the 49ers, that the "hype" surrounding Jones to SF is real, or predicting Jones in their mock drafts. I was on board for Mac Jones at 12 because I knew that Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance, the three quarterbacks who bring more to the table in terms of tools and athletic traits than Jones, would be long gone.

Since GM John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were hired after the 2106 season, the 49ers have had one of the tightest-lipped front offices in football. It does not leak information. Period. Nobody truly knows who the team is going to select with the third pick, but there have been plenty of clues that point to who they aren't going to select: Mac Jones.

Kyle Shanahan's Quarterback Evaluations

Shanahan has spoken at length, and often, about the quarterback position and what he looks for when evaluating quarterbacks.

At his introductory press conference after becoming the new 49ers head coach, he had this to say:

"You've got to see what's out there. Everyone has different (traits) and you rarely get the full package. If you find a guy who has the full package, then you do whatever it takes to get that guy and you don't think twice about it."

In a press conference after the 49ers were blown out by Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football during the 2020 season:

"Things change, people change. You start to see you can win football games with any type of quarterback as long as they are good enough and you can be good enough in hundreds of different ways. So I evaluate quarterbacks in terms of trying to find people who can have a chance to be one of those elite-type guys and there's lots of different ways to do it. You can see now there's plenty of different ways, so I don't think that'll ever change."

Speaking of Josh Allen, Shanahan was asked, before that Bills game, how much homework he had done on Allen prior to the 2017 draft, and he said "It was him with a number of other guys, guys I was hoping were going to come out earlier, but they didn't, and so we looked at guys more that year, and next year [when Allen entered the draft] we had Jimmy [Garoppolo]."

In fact, when the 49ers were still in the hiring process for a general manager, one of the candidates was Terry McDonough, a member of the Arizona Cardinals front office at the time, and a close friend of Todd France, the agent who was going to represent Allen. According to Adam Schefter "Terry was very close with the agent who was going to represent Josh Allen, Todd France. He told the Niners, 'If you hire me as the GM ... that will enable Josh Allen to come out because he will know I will take him at No. 2 because I'm close with his agent.'

At the press conference the 49ers held three days after making the trade for pick three, when asked about Kirk Cousins being the ideal quarterback for the Shanahan offense, Kyle had this to say:

"To say that my prototypical guy is someone like Kirk Cousins, I mean, that's just everyone know[ing] my history with Kirk. We drafted him in the fourth round at Washington. I got to coach him for three games. We were fired. I left. Thought we'd have a chance to get him here in free agency, and I would have loved to have him in free agency until Jimmy came along the year before because I thought we could have won with him, just like Minnesota has. I think Kirk does a good job for whatever team he plays for every year. There's a number of quarterbacks like that, but that's the only one I've been associated with because people thought I was trying to bring him here, which I was at the time. It's not because that's how you draw it up. If you're going to draw it up, you're going to draw the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best quarterback in the pocket. So, I think that's pretty ridiculous to say that."

Do these quotes make it seem like Kyle Shanahan would trade a bounty of picks to move up and select Mac Jones when Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance is still on the board?

The John Beck Connection

John Beck is a former BYU quarterback who played for six seasons in the NFL, including time under then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Washington. He is now a private quarterback coach and is still extremely close with Shanahan. In an interview with The Athletic, Beck said "I know how he's going to coach quarterbacks. I know what he's looking for. So I think it's an easy extension of Kyle in terms of the eyes I have for quarterbacks."

Beck has spent this offseason working with Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and most recently, Trey Lance. According to Dan Graziano, Beck's work with Lance came at the request of Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, who gave Beck a list of drills they wanted Lance to work on prior to, and during, his second pro day on April 19th. Beck has also worked with many of the QBs who Shanahan has coached over the years, including Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, and C.J. Beathard.

It's obvious that Shanahan trusts Beck, and it seems pretty telling that Mac Jones has not worked with Beck at all during his draft preparation.

The Timing of the Trade

It seems more than coincidental that the 49ers made the trade for the third overall pick on March 26th. Both Mac Jones and Justin Fields had pro days scheduled for March 30th, but it was Jones' second pro day and Fields' first. It stands to reason that, if the 49ers wanted to make the move up to three for Justin Fields, it would be prudent to do so before his pro day, especially if they expected him to have the type of impressive showing that he had. Making the trade before his pro day likely cost them less in draft capital than it would have afterward. On the other hand, Jones had completed his first pro day on March 23rd, and while he looked good, there wasn't anything special about his performance.

Now, this is all conjecture, but again, this is about trying to connect as many dots and interpret as many clues as possible to try and figure out what the 49ers' plan is.

The 49ers Don't Leak

As stated earlier, the 49ers' front office has been an absolute vault of secrecy, especially when it comes to big moves, since Lynch and Shanahan took over. Here are some franchise-altering moves the 49ers have made during this current era:

-Much to the surprise of everyone, John Lynch is hired as General Manager. Side note: I still remember where I was when this news broke and how dumbfounded I was by it.

-Picking at two in the 2017 Draft, nobody knew the direction the 49ers were going in, so much so that the Bears were convinced to send third- and fourth-round picks, as well as a 2018 third-round pick to the 49ers to move up one spot to draft QB Mitchell Trubisky, whom the 49ers had no interest in drafting.

-The team traded a 2018 second-round pick to New England for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, a move that happened at the trade deadline without any indication before its completion.

-Nobody, including Mike McGlinchey, knew that the 49ers were interested in him prior to them selecting him with the 9th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

-The 49ers traded Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 14th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a move that nobody saw coming until it was announced.

-The team traded up from 31 to 25 to draft wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State, another player who was not heavily connected to the team during the run-up to the draft.

-News breaks on March 26th that the 49ers traded up to the number three pick in the 2021 Draft, a move that they had been working on since the beginning of February with nary a hint to the public or media.

With all of the tight-lipped secrecy that the 49ers' front office operates under, we are now supposed to believe that they've allowed all of this information out that Mac Jones is their guy at three? Even if a smokescreen isn't necessary anymore, I don't believe they would change their standard operating procedure when it comes to letting information out.

I don't know who the 49ers are going to pick third overall on April 29th, but I am convinced of one thing: it will not be Mac Jones.
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.


  • Will
    What you resist, you persist. Mac Jones is gonna a 49er
    Apr 21, 2021 at 7:51 PM
  • Jinno
    Brian, this is a well written article with some good research. I'd like to think that Lynch and Shanahan are willing to select a better QB than Mac Jones, if this is the case. Jones has a lot going for him; gets rid of the ball quickly, excellent pocket awareness, strong leadership and a sense of humor. If Jones is who Lynch and company wanted from beginning, they may have traded so high up to get him is because there was strong interest from the Panthers (selecting at 8) and possibly the Falcons (selecting at 4). However, if Lance is a better fit than Jones for the Niners and shows better pocket awareness, then I'm all in or Jones. Cosell brings interesting fact about Fields. He took too many sacks.
    Apr 21, 2021 at 4:36 PM
  • Jinno
    Well written article with some good research. I'd like to think that Lynch and Shanahan are willing to select a better QB than Mac Jones, if that is the case. Jones has a lot going for him; gets rid of the ball quickly, excellent pocket awareness, strong leadership and sense of humor. If Jones is who Lynch and company wanted from beginning, they may have traded so high up to get him is because there was strong interest from the Panthers (selecting at 8) and possibly the Falcons (selecting at 4). However, if Lance is a better fit than Jones for the Niners and shows better pocket awareness, then I'm all in or Jones. Cosell brings interesting fact about Fields. He took too many sacks.
    Apr 21, 2021 at 4:32 PM
  • Duane
    We knew well in advance that McGlinchey was going to be the pick. Not weeks in advance, but several days at the least. I remember being very disappointed in the news and it delfated the anticipation for the 1st round that year.
    Apr 20, 2021 at 6:47 PM
  • Skip
    Nice article. A lot of the editorials on this site are ridiculous, so it’s nice to read something with some substance. I also believe the pick will be Lance. I don’t think the Niners are moving on from Jimmy this year and he’ll continue to be the starter week 1. Lance is the one prospect who will benefit the most from sitting a year and learning Kyle’s system. In my opinion, he has the most upside in this draft and it’s not really close (that includes Lawrence and Wilson).
    Apr 20, 2021 at 11:55 AM
  • Michael Ryder
    Brian, I have to believe it will be Trey Lance if it isn't Mac Jones. I think this stat from Greg Cosell a few minutes ago and it is telling. Justin Fields was sacked 1 time every 12 passes! Wow. Meanwhile, Mac Jones was the best. Only sacked 1 time every 38.7 passes. Trey Lance was 1 ever 22 passes. Why was fields sacked so much? Cosell says because he took off out of the pocket too much and ran into sacks. That would be a red flag to me. I think Kyle wants an extra dimension, but he doesn't want more sacks. I say it is Trey Lance if it isn't Mac Jones.
    Apr 20, 2021 at 11:36 AM

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