With the NFL draft just days away, teams are deciding who they will favor in this year’s draft. In most mock drafts, the first two picks seem to be set in stone. Everyone is mainly predicting Trevor Lawrence going first to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets at second. But most people seem stumped on who the San Fransisco 49ers will take at three.
In late March, the San Fransisco 49ers traded up to the third overall pick in this year’s draft with the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers got the third overall pick and gave the Dolphins the 12th overall pick this year, a third-round pick next year, and two future first-round picks. The 49ers have made it clear that they plan on drafting their future quarterback. However, they seem to be stuck between three candidates, quarterbacks Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance.
Mac Jones, a quarterback out of Alabama, is 22 years old, 6’3″, and weighs 217 pounds. Jones only started one year in 2020 and made the most of it. Jones had very impressive stats, throwing for 41 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and helped Alabama win the national championship. Even though he has impressive stats, people question how well he can play without dominant weapons.
During his breakout year in 2020, he played alongside wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith and running back Najee Harris. All three of these players were debatably the best at their position in college football this year and projected first-round draft picks. And Devonta Smith was such a great receiver that he won the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
According to his NFL analysis, his strengths include his ability to slide in the pocket and his accuracy in throwing to his receivers in stride. His weaknesses include his patience when reads don’t quickly come together and plays rushed in a state of pressure. Jones has the lowest NFL prospect grade out of the three quarterbacks, so why is he one of the 49er’s top options?
Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers head coach, hasn’t worked with a mobile quarterback since Robert Griffin in Washington. He has found a lot of success working with pocket passing quarterbacks like Matt Ryan in Atlanta, as Ryan won an MVP with Shanahan as offensive coordinator. And his current quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is also not known as a mobile quarterback, and he made it to the Super bowl in 2020. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if Shanahan sticks with the type of quarterback he’s used to.
Out of Ohio State, 23-year-old Justin Fields is a 227 pound 6’3″ quarterback. Coming out of high school as one of the best prospects in the country, he played at Georgia his freshman year. After not living up to the hype his first year, the young quarterback transferred to Ohio State in 2019, where he had his breakout year. He threw for 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. Not to mention he was a threat as a runner, rushing for just under 500 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Despite his outstanding season, he fell just short of winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy. His numbers dipped the next year, throwing for 22 touchdowns, six interceptions, and rushing for 383 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, he only played 8 games in 2020 due to injury. He still managed to lead his team to the national championship against Alabama, where they lost.
Fields NFL prospect grade is the second-highest among the three quarterbacks but is the higher rank on CBS. His strengths include putting his body on the line when his team needs it and his unpredictability with his footwork. His weaknesses include his pocket mobility and average field vision when he faced a blitz. Despite his lackluster 2020 season, Fields is a prospect with lots of potential.
He showed great improvement in fumbles per snap compared to 2019. He never lost a Big Ten game as a starter. Fields is one of, if not the most mobile quarterback in this year’s draft. In my opinion, he is also the most talented. Even though Kyle Shanahan hasn’t had a mobile quarterback in years, he can succeed with one. As the offensive coordinator for Washington, he helped get the Redskins to the playoffs in 2012 with mobile quarterback Robert Griffin.
The product of North Dakota State, Trey Lance, is 20 years old, 6’4″, and weighs 224 pounds. He got little playing time his freshman year, but his sophomore year was one to remember. Lance threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also proved to be a threat in the run game, rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lance would cap off this monster season by winning the Walter Payton Award, the Jerry Rice Award, and being named the most valuable player of the 2020 NCAA Division One Championship game. He led his team to victory.
Because of his amazing season in 2019, Lance decided to skip the 2020 college football season and prepare for the NFL draft. Lance and Fields are ranked very closely on most rankings, with Lance’s NFL prospect grade only better by 0.02. His strengths include his above-average speed and athleticism, and he can process progressions quickly. His weaknesses include throwing to many deep balls short and his poor decisiveness.
On paper, Trey Lance seems like the best prospect. He has a great frame for the NFL and has a high football IQ. However, Lance did not play at a big Division One school like the other two quarterbacks. So yes, the numbers are impressive, but Lance had the easiest competition out of the three. Also, Lance only played 18 games in college, which makes him the most inexperienced prospect.
Despite his young age and inexperience, Lance can still be a viable pick because Shanahan plans on keeping Jimmy Garoppolo this season. So if Shanahan decides to pick Lance, the young quarterback can develop under Garoppolo his first NFL season. This would give Lance plenty of time to learn and somewhat make up for his inexperience in college.
Who the 49ers should take
It is very close, but I would go with Justin Fields out of Ohio State. The 49ers had to give up a lot of draft picks to get the third overall pick. Since they gave up so much draft capital, the 49ers organization knows they cannot screw up this pick.
Fields is the safest option out of these three prospects. He has the most college experience as a starter. He was the best player on his team, unlike Mac Jones, who had many superstars to help him succeed. It is very close between Justin Fields and Trey Lance, but I don’t think the 49ers want to take the risk with Lance considering his inexperience.
The 49ers are by no means a rebuilding team, and they want to be competing in 2021 like they were in 2019. They want a quarterback who can step in if Garoppolo is having a bad season or gets hurt. That is why Justin Fields should be the quarterback the 49ers take with the third overall pick.