The 49ers' blockbuster trade to move up to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft told us two things about general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan: 1. They believe their roster is primed to contend for years to come, and adding an elite QB is the final piece and 2. They like at least two of the three quarterbacks who likely will be available when they go on the clock.
With Trevor Lawrence all but assured to go No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson expected to be a New York Jet, the 49ers will have to choose between Alabama's Mac Jones, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Ohio State's Justin Fields.
On Monday, Shanahan and Lynch spoke with local media and confirmed they are high on the current crop of QBs.
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"The way we looked at it is, to move to three, we had to feel good that there was three guys we'd be comfortable with leading our team for a long time," Shanahan said. "We couldn't make that decision before there was three guys. So we had to feel that way with three. Now I think there's a chance to get there with four and five; there's a chance. There's five guys who are kind of at this party a little bit, and people are talking about them going everywhere. They are all over in the first round.
"Our feeling is these guys are going to go a lot higher than people realize and when you have two guys sitting at one and two who possibly could, even possibly three and four, and then you hear a lot of teams all the way through the draft who are in a situation where they really want a quarterback, and they don't have someone close to what we have with Jimmy. That means those guys are going to disappear pretty fast. So we had to feel confident in three to make this move. That's what we did. I'm excited about now. We know there are five players, but who do you want to put your future in? I'm glad we've got a month to really work on that."
Shanahan admitted that the situation surrounding the pandemic-altered college football season makes evaluation a little more complicated, as Lance only played one game this past season, Fields eight, and Wilson had marquee games scrapped from BYU's original schedule.
"It's always hard when a guy didn't play this year," Shanahan said of evaluating Lance. "He played one game. I don't think people are going to go a ton off one game, you have to go off his body of work. You have to play the whole season before. Of course, we all wish he could have one. We wish Wilson could have a full season, too. There's a lot of things that happened this year. We also wish we could go personally work out everybody. I wish I could go out to dinner with everybody. There's a lot of things that make it harder for everyone this year. But the draft is hard every year. If you look at it over history, 50-50 is pretty good. You throw in a lot more variables, and it makes it harder. But is it going to make it worse than 50-50? I don't know.
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"One thing that I kind of liked with what we did, when you sit at 12 and everyone is talking about there is possibly five guys that could go around there, and man you can't work these guys out, can't go out to dinner with them but you have to find out a lot more about these guys. How do you do that without tipping your hand off to everyone? That was also one of the frustrating things. To be sitting there like, man, we don't want to go try to see someone or do all this stuff or be Zooming all the time, and now everyone knows how hard we're trying to do something. You get to three, you don't have to mess with that stuff, and that gives us a better chance to do our due diligence ,and we don't really have to play any games that way."
Shanahan and Lynch will head to Alabama on Tuesday to watch Jones throw at his pro day, while assistant general manager Adam Peters and small delegation will head to Columbus, Ohio to watch Fields' pro day. Shanahan told reporters Monday that he will get a chance to see Fields throw in person, which is why he elected to head to Alabama on Tuesday.
The 49ers still plan to have Jimmy Garoppolo enter the season as their starting quarterback but decided that the 29-year-old oft-injured signal-caller is not a part of their long-term future.
Shanahan is high on at least three of the five prospects in this class. It's easy to assume Lawrence and Wilson are two of the three, but neither are expected to be available when the 49ers go on the clock. So, who is No. 3?