Nearly from the moment the 49ers made the trade to No. 3 overall, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones’ name surfaced as a strong candidate.
Jones won the Davey O’Brien Award as the top quarterback in college football. The past three winners were chosen No. 1 overall in the draft: Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield.
While there has never been any doubt Jones would become the 10th consecutive O’Brien Award winner to be chosen in the first round, he was rarely regarded as a top-five pick in the draft until the 49ers entered the equation.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has not provided many clues about which quarterback the 49ers would take with the No. 3 overall pick. But he did disclose Jones is under serious consideration.
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are the presumptive first and second picks of the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.
Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Trey Lance of North Dakota State round out Shanahan’s top-five quarterbacks. Jones has not been the popular pick among the social media crowd, but this decision belongs to Shanahan.
When Shanahan was asked on Monday specifically about Jones, he managed to lump him into the entire handful of candidates.
“I like that him, along with four other guys, I think is capable of being our starting NFL quarterback and capable of winning with,” Shanahan said. “I think there's five guys there.”
It is possible -- but, perhaps, not likely -- the 49ers could have remained at No. 12 overall and still gotten one of the five quarterbacks.
Instead, general manager John Lynch got aggressive with a move to No. 3 overall to ensure the 49ers would end up with no worse than the third quarterback on their draft board.
In order to move up nine spots, the 49ers parted ways with first-round picks in 2022 and ’23, as well as a third-round choice in 2022. Shanahan downplayed the draft capital the 49ers spent to move up in order to get the player who will ultimately replace Jimmy Garoppolo.
When Garoppolo has been on the field, the 49ers have done a lot more winning than losing. But injuries to Garoppolo over two of the past three years have derailed those seasons.
Since coming to the 49ers in the middle of the 2017 season, the 49ers are 24-9, including the postseason, with Garoppolo as the starter. But he has missed 23 games while appearing in 28 games during that past three years.
“Once you make an organizational decision that we need to get a starting quarterback, you look into all the options of how to get them and you watch the ones you felt you had an option with, and then you look into the college and where you think you can to get them,” Shanahan said.
“I wanted to get it into a spot where I knew we'd for sure get one and, hopefully, knowing the first two that are going, we could end up getting our favorite one. I don't believe that would have been at 12. So we made a move way back in the day to make a decision. We're getting to a spot to get a starting NFL quarterback.”