Is it worth it to trade up?
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
The 49ers seemed to be set up well for 2020 after a Super Bowl run in 2019. However, injuries and quarterback inconsistency made this pandemic year a lost season for San Francisco. The 49ers dealt with a staggering number of injuries in 2020, and at one point, the team had nearly $80 million worth of players on IR. Their QB situation didn’t help matters, as current starter Jimmy Garoppolo was injured for much of the year, and he hasn’t shown that he can significantly elevate his team even when healthy. Because of this, the 49ers have been linked to rumors regarding QB upgrades, and many experts believe that the team should pursue a quarterback in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. Here are four options.
Zach Wilson (BYU)
There are five quarterbacks in this year’s draft who are considered to be first-round talents. San Francisco, who has the 12th overall pick, could be in a good spot to get one of them. However, if the 49ers want to pursue an elite QB, they’ll almost certainly need to trade up. Wilson would probably come at the highest cost, and the 49ers would likely need to trade up for the second overall pick to secure their chances of getting him.
The New York Jets currently hold the second overall pick, and trading back is not out of the question for the Jets, as they already have an intriguing quarterback prospect on the roster in Sam Darnold. San Francisco could send over other draft picks with this year’s first rounder – their 2022 first rounder and/or 2021 second – along with additional players that could be of interest to the Jets. New Jets head coach Robert Saleh left San Francisco’s defensive coordinator job for New York, and he could be interested in bringing some old defensive pieces along for the rebuild.
Whatever the case, the price to trade up for Wilson would certainly be steep. However, Wilson’s absurd arm strength as well as his rushing ability make a strong case for him as a future franchise QB, and possibly even a star. Trading up in the draft isn’t always ideal, as it usually sacrifices other positional needs, but if the 49ers think Wilson has star potential, it could be a good move.
Justin Fields (Ohio State)
Like Wilson, Fields is a player that the 49ers would have to trade up for. Fields is high on the draft boards of many analysts, but lately, there has been word that multiple NFL teams are extremely high on Zach Wilson, and the NFL consensus seems to be shifting towards Wilson over Fields. This feels like the right move.
While Fields has great arm talent and mobility, his awareness against the blitz needs improvement, and he has a tendency to either bail out of clean pockets or hold onto the ball for too long. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan is an offensive mastermind, and if the 49ers are able to clean up Fields’ problems, he could be a really good QB.
The Miami Dolphins have the third pick in the NFL draft right now, and they appear extremely unlikely to select a quarterback there, so they could be willing to trade down. If the 49ers prefer Fields over Wilson, they could also decide to move up to #2 and select Fields there. San Francisco has a lot of options for trading up, but all of them would come at a steep price, so they should take a hard look at Fields’ game film before making a decision.
Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
Lance is one of the most intriguing passers in this year’s draft class. He only started 17 career games in college, and all of them were against FCS opponents. However, he has shown that he can be electric with the ball in his hands; add to that North Dakota State’s track record of producing NFL quarterbacks, and teams could be convinced to take a chance on Lance.
Lance is a player who could be picked as high as top five in the draft, but he could fall as low as the middle or even late first round. However, his draft stock appears to be rising after he made waves at his pro day on Friday. The 49ers should have a good grasp on the NFL’s consensus on Lance, given that they have NFL scouts in the inner circle of the league.
Depending on what they hear, they could decide to trade up in the draft, maybe to as high as fourth overall, where the Atlanta Falcons currently reside. The Falcons could decide to move on from veteran QB starter Matt Ryan this offseason, but if they opt to stick with Ryan for at least another year, trading back could be a possibility.
However, if Lance’s consensus is low enough, the 49ers could potentially select him at #12 overall. This would presumably be a bargain; while Lance comes with risk, his upside is enormous due to his excellent physical traits. He isn’t the most polished player, so if San Francisco pursues him, they should consider sitting him out for a year to learn behind current starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Giving Lance a year off would allow him to polish his questionable throwing mechanics, and his adjustment to the NFL would likely be smoother as a result. Whatever the case, Lance is certainly a talented player, and the 49ers should at least consider making a move to draft him.
Mac Jones (Alabama)
Of the four quarterbacks mentioned, Jones is the most likely to drop to the 49ers at #12. While he is an accurate passer and excellent decision-maker, Jones does have some problems. For example, his mobility is a major concern, and if his offensive line protection isn’t adequate, Jones could struggle at avoiding the blitz. However, San Francisco does have a solid o-line, and with good protection, Jones could thrive as a pocket passer in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Jones is a player who could potentially go in the top 10 in this year’s draft, but there’s also a good chance that he drops to 12. If he falls, the 49ers should definitely consider him. There are a lot of positives in Jones’ game, namely his ability to make the right throws and make them accurately. Jones’ football IQ is excellent, so he’d presumably be a quick learner as well. These traits could convince the 49ers to draft him at #12, and if Jones can overcome his mobility issues, he has the potential to become San Francisco’s next franchise QB.