2021 NFL Draft: 49ers have only one right answer for QB to take

Matt Maiocco
·4 min read
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49ers have only one right answer for which QB to take originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

But, really, only one person's thoughts will matter on Thursday evening when the 49ers go on the clock with 10 minutes to turn in their card with the name of the No. 3 overall pick.

The draft will not be won or lost after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stands behind the lectern to announce the 49ers’ selection. This will take years to play out. And the only measure of success will be in the win column.

If the 49ers are competing for the division, conference and Super Bowls over the next decade, the 2021 NFL Draft will be a big reason.

If the organization fails to remain competitive, the 2021 NFL Draft will be a big reason.

The outcome of this decision will more than likely define coach Kyle Shanahan’s tenure.

It is important to think about how we got to this point.

The 49ers were so bad after the 2016 season that CEO Jed York awarded general manager John Lynch and Shanahan with six-year contracts because it was considered a massive rebuild.

Lynch was paid a lot of money to leave a lucrative TV job. Comparatively, Shanahan was paid the going rate for a first-time NFL head coach.

Lynch and Shanahan earned new contracts after Year 3, when the team made it to the Super Bowl. The organization are universally considered strong at the top with Lynch and Shanahan working as a team. It’s a stark contrast to the structures of recent 49ers regimes in which the GM and coach were routinely at odds.

Why trade up from 12 to 3? Why not?

The 49ers wanted to control their fate. They wanted to end up with no worse than the third-ranked quarterback on their draft board. They did not want to take any chances of ending up with Nos. 4 or 5 … or worse yet, none of the top five.

Personally, I like everything about Trey Lance of North Dakota State. His football skills and intelligence are impressive, for sure.

The biggest concern with Lance is something he could not control. He turns 21 on May 9. This last season should have been a time for him to gain experience and knowledge. It would have also provided NFL teams with a great comparison to see how his game evolved from one year to the next.

But Lance has appeared in just one game in the past 15 1/2 months due to his school postponing the fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A quarterback chosen with the No. 3 overall pick has to have a lot more than the skills to succeed. I like Lance’s energy and positive personality. I watch him talk, and I have a strong feeling about his passion for the sport and for being a good teammate.

Mac Jones of Alabama gives off a similar vibe. It is easy to see he does not possess the strong arm nor the running ability of Lance and Justin Fields of Ohio State.

I think Jones’ lack of mobility is overblown. As long as he can slide one way or another and step up in the pocket, he’ll be fine. He is very good with knowing where to go with the football and being decisive. He’ll be the best friend of the offensive linemen, because they will know where he’ll be in the pocket.

And, counterintuitively, he is the best of the bunch at avoiding sacks and negative plays.

Can he make all the throws? That, I do not know.

Fields might be the most physically talented of the group. Heck, he might also be the smartest. But it sure looks as if his footwork in the pocket needs a lot of attention. He might have the highest ceiling. He might have the lowest floor.

When Lynch met with the media on Monday, he came armed with statistics to provide context of the work the 49ers’ scouts and coaches did behind the scenes. The 49ers had representatives at 176 games and practices, attended 128 pro days and interviewed approximately 600 players.

Really, there is only one right answer when it comes to whom the 49ers should select at No. 3 overall, and Lynch spelled it out on Monday.

Lynch has contractual control over trades and the draft. But Lynch said he will defer to Shanahan when it comes to making the decision on which quarterback he wants to run his offense.

RELATED: Five bold 49ers predictions for wild weekend

Bottom line: The best decision the 49ers can make is to take the quarterback who Shanahan wants.

It might turn out to be a great selection. It could be a dud. We will not know for a long time.

But no level of outside skepticism should be enough for Shanahan to move off his pick and merely take the popular, eye-pleasing choice.

“Then,” Shanahan said, “it's up to us to live with the consequences.”

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