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The 49ers Draft Decision is as Unclear as Ever

Rohan Chakravarthi
Apr 21, 2021 at 12:15 PM


On the morning of March 26th, the 49ers shocked the NFL world by moving up from pick No. 12 to pick No. 3 via a trade with the Dolphins, through which San Francisco gave up its next two first-round picks and a third-round pick to make the deal.

Before the trade, there was still uncertainty with the quarterback position, since Jimmy Garoppolo's contract had not been restructured, meaning that his contract for the next year was not guaranteed yet, and therefore, could lead to him being traded.

The move to No. 3 confirmed a quarterback change, but in 2022, not 2021, as Kyle Shanahan said publicly that Garoppolo would likely retain the starting job and give himself a chance to improve his stock, as well as disprove the injury concerns.

Then, shockingly, Shanahan publicly stated the organization's desire to draft a new quarterback, which confirmed most suspicions, but was not expected to come during a press conference.



The Draft


Perhaps the most interesting part of this trade up to secure the No. 3 pick was when it happened — over a month away from the draft.

On draft night, you often see teams move up to get the player they seek, like when the Chargers moved up from No. 37 to No. 23 in the first round to select linebacker Kenneth Murray last year. Or like when Buffalo traded up from No. 12 to No. 7 in the 2018 draft to select quarterback Josh Allen.

The point is, these draft-day trades happen often.

However, this trade happened a full month before the draft, partly because the No. 1 overall pick is locked in with Trevor Lawrence, and the No. 2 pick is very close to a lock with Zach Wilson.

But also, with a quarterback class like none other, the 49ers felt inclined to be first, rather than wait on other teams, like the Carolina Panthers, to move up and secure a top talent at the most important position in football.

At the time, Shanahan stated that he "felt pretty strongly we were gonna be left at the altar sitting there at 12," explaining his urgency to move up and be safe.

Shanahan also stated that he was comfortable with any of the three top quarterbacks in the class, while also expressing that QB4 and QB5 could also get them to their goal of a Super Bowl.


Despite the 49ers attending multiple pro days and being "uncertain" about their selection, like ESPN's Dan Graziano stated earlier Wednesday morning, it seems that Shanahan had a quarterback in mind when moving up and expressing his comfortability with any of the top three, most likely including Lawrence and Wilson in those rankings.

Let's make it clear: a prospect's pro day performance (on the field, not when testing the measurables) does not lead to anything definitive. A pro day merely an event at which a prospect can showcase his talents. There is no defense and no pressure situations, just players essentially running routes and playing catch.

Still, with the Combine not happening in Indianapolis this year, these pro days, especially for quarterbacks, were hyped up. Specifically, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson got to make memorable throws and presented their arm strength and mobility to the teams watching.

When the 49ers chose to attend Mac Jones' pro day over Justin Fields' first pro day on March 31st, the sports world was shook. Almost instantly, Mac Jones became the favorite for the pick, despite the limited value of these pro days.

In addition, the overlooked fact was that Kyle Shanahan specifically said the 49ers were in communication with John Beck, Justin Fields' quarterback coach and Shanahan's friend, to get another session so that they could focus on him more.

During the period between the two pro days, analysts like Mel Kiper made remarks that Mac Jones was a lock to the 49ers just because of the buzz going around.

Still, these remarks contradicted two facts: the 49ers were comfortable with any of the top three quarterbacks and that other pro days would be attended. Now, it could have been that Mac Jones was in that list of top three quarterbacks, but during that time, Jones was projected to be a late first- to early second-round pick.

Likely, it would have been just due diligence to attend the three pro days, mainly to chat with the players and re-affirm the traits they saw on tape.

However, with all of the top prospects linked to the 49ers through different reports, Kyle Shanahan has managed to keep his pick under a cloud of mystery, which can only benefit the team.

Why Uncertainty is Important for the 49ers


The biggest showcase of the looming uncertainty regarding the 49ers' No. 3 overall pick has been with sports betting.

Once the trade was made, Chris Simms, a close friend of Shanahan's, suggested that the 49ers need a win-now quarterback, which prompted him to identify Mac Jones as the likely selection, despite the fact that Jones was projected as a late first-round talent.

Subsequently, although most likely not purely because of Simms' remarks, betting odds shot up that Mac Jones being the favorite for the third overall pick.

They remained this way for a few weeks, especially after Shanahan attended Jones' pro day over Fields', up until last week when Shanahan was present at Justin Fields' second pro day and gave him a specific list of drills to run through.

After the day, betting odds immediately flipped to Fields being the favorite, despite pro days holding little to no weight in the football world. As soon as this happened, that cloud of uncertainty came back as it was unclear who the pick would be.

Now, on the morning of April 21st, after being Justin Fields for the past week, even with Trey Lance having a pro day, Mac Jones has returned to being the favorite for the pick, creating an even bigger cloud of uncertainty about who the organization will pick next Thursday at the NFL Draft.

So, why is this "cloud of uncertainty" important?

Well, this uncertainty is actually very beneficial to the organization, because it forces other teams to be less confident with their players, and also keeps everyone on the board, perhaps urging a team to overpay and move up.

This was the case in 2017 when the 49ers' secrecy prompted the Bears to trade two extra third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to move up just one spot and take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Another case was the trade up to three itself, a move nobody saw happening, and one that was not even reported about until twenty minutes before the trade. In addition, uncertainty has been created just because of Kyle Shanahan's creativity.

Since Shanahan most likely believes he can convert any of these prospects into top-rated quarterbacks, it has opened up the possibilities to any of the top five quarterback prospects in this class, and created more uncertainty around that third pick.

Moreover, the 49ers have themselves in a great spot with enormous flexibility due to the uncertainty they've created around their pick. They've wisely attended all three pro days (Mac Jones' second, Justin Fields' second, and Trey Lance's second), kept everything in-house, and have a smart brass to secure their quarterback of the future.
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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