Who Should John Lynch Choose With His New Pick?
By Rod Villagomez
Late last week, the San Francisco 49ers made one of the most surprising moves of the draft season. In a move that forced mock drafters back to their boards, San Francisco sent their 12th overall pick along with a first and third round pick in 2022 and a 2023 first round pick to Miami. In return, the 49ers were given the Dolphins number three overall pick this year.
It seemingly came out of nowhere and as many are now predicting, signals an end to Jimmy Garoppolo’s time with the team. While he may not be exiting this season, his days seem to be well and truly numbered now.
Of course there are many other reasons to trade up that far in the draft. It’s just that none make much sense other than to grab a new face of the franchise. Moving up to take a receiver could be argued, but there is so much depth that a solid wideout would have still been available with their 12th pick. Maybe they feared Kyle Pitts wouldn’t be there at 12 and Miami was the only team willing to dance. Sure, but why would you need another tight end when you have a future hall of famer in George Kittle on the field?
The list can go on and on, but the fact remains, you trade up to a top three pick to lock up a young quarterback to build a team around. With that in mind, here are three picks, all quarterbacks, that San Francisco could be, and should be looking at with that new third pick in the draft. Each has a unique skill set, and each would do well with the young receiving corps they will inherit.
Justin Fields – QB Ohio State
Lately, the “Kyle Shanahan type,” quarterback narrative has taken over popular opinion. Truthers of this narrative point to Mac Jones as the next man under center for the 49ers. They will also use the head coach’s choice of which pro day he would be attending. Both of these make for compelling arguments, but in the end, can be countered just as easily.
It’s true and well documented that Kyle Shanahan has gravitated to the more traditional pocket passer style signal callers. Jimmy Garoppolo is living proof of this as is C.J. Beathard. It’s also true that Shanahan has had a certain level of success featuring these quarterbacks. Sadly, that success has only gotten him one quarter shy of a championship. Twice.
Maybe it is time for Shanahan to open up to the possibility of a more versatile and mobile quarterback. The skill sets that Fields brings to San Francisco are arguably better than both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick did in previous years. Fields is also a big program arm the likes of which the 49ers haven’t seen since Joe Montana. Mac Jones does in fact check that box as well, but if it’s truly time to venture in a new direction, Fields represents that shift more than Jones.
As for the pro day attendance, sometimes you just want to see something with your own eyes. Maybe Shanahan was convinced that he saw enough tape to know how Fields would perform on his “audition.” Granted, Fields did turn in an impressive showing under the circumstances. That said, it’s possible the head coach’s mind was close to being made up and he just wanted to give Jones an in person chance to change it.
In the end, the trade up to the third spot signaled an intent to shake things up. There is little doubt that will come in the way of a new franchise quarterback. Since Trevor Lawrence and even Zach Wilson are all but spoken for, Fields is the next logical player to come off the board. Since that pick falls to San Francisco now, it’s a good bet he will be suiting up for them next season. Hopefully, they will allow him to spend a season behind Jimmy Garopplo for some seasoning before throwing him out as a starter.
Mac Jones – QB Alabama
How is it that after completely debunking a Mac Jones draft pick over Justin Fields can the very next section suggest taking him? It’s simple, every argument made while addressing Fields was true. Kyle Shannahan does love him a pocket passer. He’s never kept that a secret. He lost his job in Cleveland trying to keep Johnny Manziel on the bench. In fact, as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator, he thought it would be better if Manziel learned how to become a pocket passer. So yeah, it’s safe to argue he’d prefer a traditional quarterback.
That is precisely what he’ll get out of Jones. In his time under center with Alabama, his largest rushing output in a season was the 35 yards he produced last season. What he did instead was throw for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. He capped off that amazing season by throwing for 464 yards and 5 touchdowns in the national championship game. A game he and the Crimson Tide won 52-24 over Fields and his Buckeyes. So if nothing else, Jones already owns a head to head advantage over his competitor.
What this may come down to is whether or not San Francisco is happy with their current situation, or if it’s time to keep up with the times. The 49ers witnessed first hand what a player like Patrick Mahmomes can do for a franchise. Of course, a talent like Jones might just become that golden pocket passer prototype Shannahan has been waiting for. As with Fields, should he find himself in the red and gold, a year holding the clipboard would not hurt.
Trey Lance – QB North Dakota State
If we continue under the premise that San Francisco traded up to grab a quarterback, then Trey Lance factors into that mix. He does not have the street cred that the other two on this list possess, but there is no doubt he’s a special talent. This pick, like Fields, does buck the pocket passer narrative, so it’s likely he’ll compete with the Ohio State alum head to head for this pick.
Where Lance can separate himself from the other two is his Lamar Jackson type ability to run the ball. In the 2019 season, he ran for 1,100 yards with the Bisons. He was the team’s leading rusher. So, if the 49ers are looking to become Ravens-like in their next quarterback, Lance fits that bill.
The biggest knock on him though really does come from his small program background. He spent time as the big fish in the small pond in the FCS. It will be interesting to see what happens when he starts swimming with fish his own size, or bigger. He’s lucky the organization has taken chances on smaller program quarterbacks in the past. Alex Smith, the number one overall pick in the 2005 draft, came from Utah. Colin Kaepernick who was picked in the second round, played in Reno. Even Jimmy Garoppolo played for Easter Illinois. Let’s just say the precedent is established to take Lance with an early pick.