The San Francisco 49ers will undoubtedly take a quarterback with the third pick of the 2021 NFL draft. But pinpointing exactly which name Roger Goodell will call out remains a challenge for fans, the media, and the team itself.
Even though the draft starts Thursday night, San Francisco still hasn’t determined which direction it will go at the most important position in sports. Unfortunately for the two quarterbacks reportedly in play for the No. 3 pick, they must spend a few more days as hostages while the 49ers finalize their plans.
San Francisco will soon feature a new franchise signal-caller
Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t become a free agent until 2023. Yet, he could soon find himself suiting up for another NFL team. Because given the price they paid to acquire the third overall pick, the 49ers seem destined to break in a new starting quarterback sooner than later.
By moving up nine spots in the draft, San Francisco guaranteed itself a chance at drafting a potential franchise signal-caller. With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson expected to come off the board with the first two picks, that puts Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance in the mix to become the third quarterback taken.
All three possess intriguing qualities. Jones grades out highly for his accuracy, leadership, and ability to read defenses and make good decisions. Fields has tantalizing physical tools, and he put up big-time numbers at Ohio State. Lance may have the highest ceiling out of anyone in the 2021 NFL draft. However, his inexperience makes him a likely candidate to spend at least a year learning from the sideline.
The 49ers must decide which prospect possesses the best chance of succeeding in Kyle Shanahan’s system. And they can’t afford to make the wrong choice Thursday night.
The 49ers are holding a pair of quarterbacks hostage until the last possible moment
San Francisco brass has spent plenty of time scouting this year’s quarterback class. Just don’t expect an answer to one of the biggest questions surrounding the 2021 NFL draft anytime soon.
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport provided a key update on Monday about how the 49ers plan to use the No. 3 pick. Although Jones seemed like a lock to eventually replace Garoppolo, another candidate has firmly entered the mix to potentially take over in San Francisco. According to Rapoport, the team has narrowed its options down to Jones or Lance.
While that clarifies the situation a bit, it doesn’t make life any easier for the two prospects involved. In fact, Jones and Lance should consider themselves hostages at the moment. And that won’t change until the last possible minute.
“The 49ers are not going to make this public until No. 3, which means they are not going to tell either party that they are the pick,” Rapoport said. “So this mystery will probably last for at least another four days or so.”
Will the 49ers go with a pro-ready prospect or one with more upside?
The future of football in San Francisco rests on what happens Thursday night. If the 49ers want to turn the keys to the franchise over right away, they have to take Jones. His mental processing and overall command of the game would seemingly make him the ideal plug-and-play pick. And if he inspires memories of Kirk Cousins for Shanahan, don’t be surprised if Jones wins the battle to go third overall.
On the other hand, Lance features such a fascinating set of physical tools that it almost seems foolish not to take him. Also highly regarded for his intelligence and maturity, the former North Dakota State star will likely spend at least one year as a backup before he takes over an NFL franchise. Will the 49ers want to sit him on the bench and pay Garoppolo almost $25 million to hopefully make it through a season unscathed?
It certainly will be interesting to see which direction San Francisco goes at quarterback. Because whoever becomes the third player taken Thursday night faces a challenging journey to lead the 49ers back to Super Bowl glory.