When Did the San Francisco 49ers Last Draft a Quarterback in the First Round?

The San Francisco 49ers will have some significant decisions to make in the 2021 NFL draft.

The 49ers traded up for the third overall selection, and the expectation is that head coach Kyle Shanahan will receive his quarterback of the future with that pick. If the 49ers do indeed draft a quarterback, then they’ll be snapping a lengthy drought in the process.

The San Francisco 49ers might add a quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft

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The San Francisco 49ers have publicly committed to Jimmy Garoppolo, the injury-prone starting quarterback who led the 49ers to an NFC title two seasons ago.

Garoppolo is a competent game-manager when he is healthy, and he’s performed well in Kyle Shanahan’s conservative scheme. The 49ers usually don’t ask Garoppolo to go beyond his comfort zone, and it’s resulted in wins when he’s been active.

The problem, though, is Garoppolo frequently battles injuries. Assuming that the Jaguars draft Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick and the Jets immediately follow that by selecting BYU’s Zach Wilson, the 49ers will have no shortage of quarterback options at No. 3.

Whether or not the 49ers go with a quarterback, however, remains to be determined. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones would each be available in that situation, and neither necessarily needs to open the 2021 season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

When did the 49ers last select a quarterback in the first round?

A San Francisco 49ers helmet in 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers have not used a first-round pick on a quarterback in quite some time. | Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

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The San Francisco 49ers have had no shortage of starting quarterbacks since Steve Young retired in June 2000.

Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Jimmy Garoppolo each have led the 49ers to playoff success. Kaepernick came a play short of winning Super Bowl 47. Garropolo appeared ready to hold the Lombardi Trophy in February 2020 before Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs came alive in the fourth quarter.

If the 49ers select a quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft’s first round, it will snap a fairly lengthy streak. San Francisco has not drafted a quarterback that early since using the No. 1 overall pick on Smith in 2005.

The 49ers last drafted a quarterback in 2017, when they used a third-round pick on Iowa’s C.J. Beathard. Several months later, San Francisco acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots.

Which quarterbacks make the most sense with the No. 3 pick?

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The San Francisco 49ers seemingly traded up for the third overall pick to draft a quarterback.

If the Jaguars and Jets draft Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, respectively, that leaves the 49ers with three realistic quarterback options at their spot.

  • Justin Fields, Ohio State: A two-year starter at Ohio State, Fields brings accuracy and experience to whoever drafts him. Fields was long considered the second-best quarterback prospect behind Lawrence.
  • Mac Jones, Alabama: Jones torched SEC defenses last year, and the 49ers haven’t hidden their interest. But is Jones capable of translating his SEC success to the NFL?
  • Trey Lance, North Dakota State: Lance is the dark horse pick at No. 3, but it seems unlikely that he would go this early. However, Lance makes sense as a developmental prospect if the 49ers are truly committed to starting Garoppolo in 2021.

Of course, the 49ers could surprise everyone, trade down, and not take a quarterback in the first round after all. Perhaps everything that the 49ers have done so far is nothing more than an attempt to collect more draft picks.

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