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Final 49ers Mock Draft Roundup

Justin Wong
Apr 28, 2021 at 1:49 PM0

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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. After Fields' second pro day there was a divided line between Fields and Jones. With the 49ers' brass now having attended the pro days for all three prospects, it seemed like the chatter was learning towards Fields in last week's Mock Draft Roundup. Today is the final Mock Draft Roundup--where do NFL analysts stand now?

Below is a mock draft roundup on the eve of the 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.

Will Brinson, CBS Sports
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

You can, however, give the 49ers the obvious target at QB. Why wouldn't Fields be the pick here? The 49ers are comfortable with five quarterbacks per Kyle Shanahan. Two are going to be gone. Two are rumored to be heavily connected to the 49ers. Give me the guy no one is talking about, because this draft has major shades of 2018 to it. Go read Seth Wickersham's piece on ESPN about Mike Shanahan regretting not going for the truly elite QB and how it cost him Super Bowl(s). You think Mike hasn't passed that along to his son?? Mac Jones is a very good player and a worthy first-round pick. But Fields -- who the Shanahans have worked with since high school -- gives Shanahan the chance to take the top off with his offense. Five weeks of pure smokescreening is a lot to push back against but let's do it anyway.

CBS Sports' Will Brinson isn't having any of it. Despite the constant whirlwind of Jones-to-49ers NFL draft chatter, the best pick for Kyle Shanahan is Fields. While media chatter has remained quiet about Fields, it's worth noting these strong ties--along with Fields' private quarterback coach John Beck and 49ers quarterback coach Rich Scangarello's heavy involvement on both his pro days. I might be reading too much into the tea leaves but it's hard to ignore these details. Shanahan has known about Fields since his high school days at the Quarterback Collective.

George Chahrouri, Pro Football Focus
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

While everyone in the know insists it won't be Justin Fields to San Francisco, that is unequivocally the pick we would make. In fact, Fields would be in my debate for first and second overall, and if he were to fall past No. 3, a team would be getting exceptionally lucky. Fields was one of the most accurate passers in college football. He also possesses the athleticism that will make him one of the premier threats in the NFL from the jump.

Another theory that's been circling around has been the 49ers' attempt to hide their interest in Fields from the New York Jets. There are NFL draft analysts like ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. who view him as the second-best quarterback prospect behind Clemon's Trevor Lawrence in this year's draft class. It's quite possible that the 49ers internally agree with this sentiment and have been toying with the media from the get-go.

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Yeah, the 49ers reportedly have narrowed their pick to Mac Jones and Trey Lance. Until they make the pick, however, anything can happen. Maybe something surprising will occur, as the 49ers strike the balance between the need for someone who can play now against the reality that the fans will lose their minds if it's Mac Jones.

From the 49er Webzone's Quarterback Roundtable to the fanbase, it's no secret how people feel about the idea of the 49ers drafting Jones over Fields and Lance. I'll leave it at that...

Peter King, Football Morning in America
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Hearing it's a two-horse race with Trey Lance. Quite a few of the experts will faint if this pick happens, and then outrage will ensue, and how-could-they-pass-on-Fields-and-Lance hot takes will flood the earth. GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan—with contracts that run through 2024 and 2025, respectively—do not care. They have not cared about public sentiment since taking these jobs, and this is their fifth draft. In their first, 2017, I was in the room as it happened, and these were the top three players on the board: 1 Myles Garrett, 2 Solomon Thomas, 3 Reuben Foster. With the third pick, they were sure to get one of those. But Foster? Really? No one had him that high. Lynch: "Had Solomon been gone, we'd have taken Foster. And been happy." My point: Shanahan and Lynch won't care what order the draftniks have the quarterbacks, or any position.

Shanahan believes Jones is the accurate coach-on-the-field type he craves. As one coach in QB-prospecting mode told me this spring: "Jones has elite NFL traits. He's a natural thrower, is technically very sound, very accurate and throws a catchable ball. His base and mechanics are excellent." He's not the athlete a Lance or Fields is, but he doesn't have feet of stone. I'll be fascinated—we all will—if Jones is the pick. And I can see it happening.

Not sure we would be "fascinated" if Jones is the pick but it's been well known about Shanahan's desire to reach for his personal favorites in the NFL draft. From quarterback C.J. Beathard to wide receiver Dante Pettis to running back Joe Williams, the 49ers have aggressively traded up for offensive players linked to Shanahan. Peter King wrote an excellent piece in 2017 during the 49ers' first draft class under the Lynch and Shanahan regime going into great detail about this.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The 49ers are the biggest wild-cards of the draft, and Roger Goodell's announcement of this pick is likely to be the draft's defining moment. Even though I've got both Justin Fields and Trey Lance ranked higher on my board, it's tough to ignore the overwhelming number of reports linking San Francisco to Jones. He possesses the accuracy and quick-processing skills to expertly run Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Nick Wagoner, ESPN
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

It wouldn't be a surprise if the 49ers went with another option, especially North Dakota State's Trey Lance, in search of more upside. But ultimately, coach Kyle Shanahan puts a premium on being able to operate successfully from the pocket. That's what Jones does best, with an FBS record 77.4% completion rate in 2020. His 61.2% completion percentage on passes traveling 20-plus air yards could also bring a missing element to Shanahan's offense. Selecting Jones wouldn't be popular with the fan base, but all will be forgiven if he can win big in San Francisco.

My friend Thomas had the chance to go over hours of Jones' film last night and came away with the same conclusion that many NFL pundits have been reporting. Jones possesses the pocket presence and accuracy needed to run a Shanahan offense in the same capacity as the 49ers' current starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. Jones would be a younger, cheaper, and presumably healthier version of Garoppolo. Having a quarterback with the same skillset would allow the 49ers to build their roster with a rookie quarterback salary on a win-now roster.

David Lombardi, The Athletic
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

This is the ultimate future-facing QB pick. We know that Lance has the ability to develop within the parameters of the 49ers' offense, as North Dakota State's pro-style attack actually carried key similarities to Shanahan's system in terms of play action and pre-snap protection-setting duties. But Lance also attempted only 318 passes in his college career. So the athleticism plus the blueprint for an excellent pocket fit are here, but time will be needed to execute the vision. Simply put: This is why the 49ers have held on to Jimmy Garoppolo. Lance can learn and refine his skill set in 2021 so that he can gradually become a long-term fixture.

The Athletic's David Lombardi believes the pick will be Lance based on his unlimited upside factoring in the 49ers' possible plan to keep Garoppolo for another season to help groom their young signal-caller for the future. The Carolina Panthers just traded quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos today, eliminating another possible trade destination for Garoopolo so perhaps there is some merit to this theory. There's also the possibility that the Panthers and Broncos have made moves knowing that their desired quarterback prospect would be off the board.

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

Make that two for Trey. Maybe Alabama's Mac Jones reminds Shanahan of the quarterbacks he's had in the past and maybe Jones could step in and quickly be able to execute the 49ers' offense. But the bold move the 49ers made to reach the No. 3 spot should be for the player with the most upside. That's Lance. He might be an unfinished product, but that's what the coaching staff is for and it's why the team held on to Garoppolo: To give Shanahan and his staff time to mold a young, talented, eager-to-learn player into the elite quarterback Shanahan always has wanted.

Charles Davis, NFL Network
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Easily the most intriguing QB in the draft, in my opinion. Can he be the next Josh Allen? I believe so.

While Lance has the smallest sample size of career pass attempts and questions about the level of competition he faced in college, his tangible skillsets represent the possibility of taking Shanahan's offense to the next level. Lance would require more coaching to get him up to speed with the NFL competition but leave that up to the 49ers' coaching staff to develop him properly. It helps that 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. Despite the 49ers' win-now roster, making a significant trade-up like this should also garner a prospect with elite traits.

Thank you for following the weekly Mock Draft Roundup series leading up to the NFL Draft. It's been particularly interesting to see how the NFL media has covered the San Francisco 49ers in what could be their most important draft pick in franchise history. I've been on record in favor of the 49ers drafting Fields but have already prepared myself mentally in the what-if scenarios should there be another quarterback selected with the third overall pick. Below were my thoughts from the Quarterback Roundtable discussion by the 49ers' Webzone staff:

For the 49ers to aggressively trade top draft capital and move into the No. 3 spot likely means they have one quarterback in mind—with the assumption that Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and BYU's Zach Wilson are off the board. Despite the recent draft chatter, I doubt the 49ers are looking at either Trey Lance of North Dakota State or Mac Jones of Alabama considering the small sample size of 17 starts apiece.

The pick has to be Ohio State's Justin Fields, as he offers a good blend of ceiling and floor upside to be groomed as the 49ers' quarterback of the future. It also helps that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan worked with Fields in 2017 during the high school QB Collective and already has some familiarity with him.

That being said, I'm okay with the 49ers banking on high-ceiling prospects like Fields and Lance over Jones. I'm sure Shanahan's coaching ability is able to put either of these prospects in good standing to succeed but I'm hoping the actual pick is Fields. Just what exactly is the Shanahan quarterback archetype heading into 2021? I'm excited to find out.
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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