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Why 49ers draft target Jones deemed pro-ready by executives


More and more NFL insiders continue to link the 49ers to Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but would the Alabama signal-caller be ready to play in the league right away?

ESPN's Adam Schefter joined the "49ers Talk" podcast with NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco on Sunday, and detailed what league executives have told him about Jones.

"You go back to that one general manager, his exact words were, 'He's got elite accuracy, he's an elite processor and he's got elite leadership skills,' " Schefter told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Those were his exact words. He said that he is higher on draft boards, more highly rated than fans believe he is. So I like to go to people whose opinion I respect, ask them their opinion and see what they say. And what I've heard about Mac Jones so far is pretty strong, pretty favorable."

Schefter previously spoke about that conversation with an NFC general manager on his own podcast in early April, with Schefter adding that he "wouldn't be shocked" if Jones was the 49ers' choice at No. 3.

Elite might be an understatement when it comes to Jones' accuracy, as he set an NCAA record by completing 77.4 percent of his passes in 2020. Jones also broke the single-season passer efficiency rating record (203.1) previously held by 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow.

In addition to finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting, Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2020. He was the unquestioned leader of a team littered with NFL talent, and all indications have pointed to a high level of respect from his Alabama teammates.

Prior to the 2020 season, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find a draft expert who saw Jones as a first-round pick, let alone a top-three selection.

RELATED: Schefter: 49ers would draft Jones today but keeping open mind

The other four quarterbacks expected to be first-round draft picks offer much more mobility and athleticism outside the pocket than Jones, which we've seen become more of the norm across the NFL over the past few seasons. Statuesque pocket passers are a dying breed, as players like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson have ushered in a new era at quarterback.

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson remain the presumed first and second overall picks, respectively, leaving the 49ers to choose between Jones, Justin Fields or Trey Lance.

Jimmy Garoppolo's presence in the 49ers' locker room lessens the pressure on whichever QB is selected, as they won't need to be rushed into action. But if Garoppolo goes down with an injury, as he has in two of the past three seasons, the reins almost certainly would be turned over to that rookie quarterback.

Executives around the league appear to believe Jones is pro-ready, given his meteoric rise up mock drafts. Whether Fields and Lance are viewed in the same light remains to be seen, but both were considered potential top-five picks long before Jones shot into the conversation.

There will be an endless run of reports and rumors over the next 18 days, but no one truly will know the 49ers' choice until the pick is announced on draft night.

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