The San Francisco 49ers can (almost) have their way on Night 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Pending the decisions of the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 1 overall) andx New York Jets (No. 2), the 49ers will have their choice at a bevy of talent with the third-overall pick. Following last month's trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up nine spots in the draft, it became apparent the 49ers were looking to land their quarterback of the future.
This year's draft class is front-loaded with QB talent, with at least five expected to be selected in the first round. Many pundits project all five to be off the board within the first 10 picks.
With nothing certain as to what John Lynch and Co. will do when the 49ers are on the clock on April 29, here are six (yes, six) potential outcomes for San Francisco with the No. 3 overall pick in no specific order.
1. 49ers Select QB Justin Fields, Ohio State 6-foot-3 | 227 pounds Two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. 2020 Season Stats: 2,100 yards (36th), 22 touchdowns (15th), 6 interceptions (T-69th)
The majority of mock drafts have pinned the Ohio State product to the 49ers with the third-overall pick. Fields has been recognized as one of the top quarterback prospects to come out of this draft, given his athletic ability and accuracy. He is regarded as one of the most precise passers in this year's draft class. The quarterback possesses a strong arm to push the ball downfield and can stretch the field horizontally. He adds another layer to his game as a runner, with the ability to extend plays with his legs both in and outside of the pocket. He's registered over 1,100 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns over his three collegiate seasons.
2. 49ers Select QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State 6-foot-4 | 226 pounds Set NCAA record for most passes thrown in a season without an interception in 2019. 2019 Season Stats (played one game in 2020 amid postponed season due to COVID-19 pandemic): 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Recognized for his high football IQ, many pundits predict a quarterback like Lance to thrive in San Francisco's offense. With Lance under center, North Dakota State was known for their quick passing game off of play-action, a staple in Shanahan's scheme. The former Bison boasts a strong arm coupled with size and speed. Although he lacks significant starting experience, he's been regarded as raw talent with a high ceiling given time to groom and develop in the NFL. Considered another dual-threat quarterback, Lance rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in his two seasons at North Dakota State, the most yards of any other first-round QB prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
3. 49ers Select QB Mac Jones, Alabama 6-foot-3 | 214 pounds Consensus All-American and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2020. 2020 Season Stats: 4,500 yards (1st), 41 touchdowns (2nd), 4 interceptions (T-36)
The buzz has continued to swirl surrounding Shanahan and his admiration for a quarterback like Jones. While he isn't as flashy as some of the other signal callers in the draft, Jones' quick processing in the pocket stands out among his competition. His mental strengths, accuracy, decision-making skills and ability to diagnose defenses has Jones considered by some as the most "pro-ready" quarterback in the draft.
4. 49ers Select QB Zach Wilson, BYU 6-foot-2 | 214 pounds Ranked second in the FBS in completion percentage (73.5 percent), third in passing touchdowns (33) and 10th in passing yards per game (307.7). 2020 Season Stats: 3,692 yards (3rd), 33 touchdowns (3rd), 3 interceptions (T-21st)
Nothing is set in stone. Literally, nothing. And there's a chance that although the vast majority of the national media project the Jets to select Wilson second-overall, they could opt to go a different route to lead their franchise (Fields has also been tied to New York as of late). Wilson has pinpoint accuracy and a natural athletic ability to throw from several arm angles. He's also a dual-threat quarterback who can extend plays with his legs. His history at BYU working off of boot action, his rocket arm and ability to create explosive plays inside and outside the pocket would make him an ideal fit for Shanahan in San Francisco.
5. 49ers Trade Down
Hear me out. The 49ers gave up quite a bit of capital to jump up to No. 3 overall. Of course, Lynch and Co. have likely zeroed in on a prospect or two (or three) and pending how the phone rings on April 29, San Francisco could feel comfortable enough to move a few spots back and still land their quarterback of the future. They could manage to do all of this and re-acquire some draft capital that will allow them to pick up another early-round prospect or re-collect lost picks for the future. Hey, stranger things have happened.
6. 49ers Select Non-QB Prospect
While it's not likely the 49ers invested three first rounders to move up in the draft to select a non-quarterback option, it's also not impossible. One of the most intriguing players in this year's draft happens to be a tight end. Florida's Kyle Pitts sits among the Top 3 on many analysts' draft boards and has been regarded as the top non-quarterback option in this year's draft. Pitts boasts a rare combination of size, athleticism, speed and pass catching abilities that allows teams to align him all over the field. He creates problems for linebackers and cornerbacks and possesses elite ball skills. He has drawn comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and would add yet another layer to Shanahan's creativity on offense. Again, while this option is not likely, it's still fun to imagine what Shanahan could do with a playmaker like Pitts on offense.
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