With six days until the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, are the 49ers back at square one?
Not long after the 49ers acquired the No. 3 pick, the wisdom of the crowd linked the franchise to Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, in no small part because of his perceived fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
The 49ers scouted Ohio State QB Justin Fields -- thought to be the second-best signal-caller in this draft class entering the 2020 college football season -- and North Dakota State QB Trey Lance within the past two weeks. But conventional wisdom -- or, rather, the wisdom of notable NFL insiders, their sources and their intuition -- points toward the 49ers selecting Jones.
NFL Media's Mike Silver didn't report Friday that the 49ers would pick Jones, instead sharing his perception is that the 22-year-old will head to the Bay Area at this time next week.
That doesn't mean there is consensus, however. Rich Eisen, Silver's colleague at NFL Media said Wednesday he'd heard the 49ers are leaning Lance. An unnamed executive told The MMQB's Albert Breer he didn't see "any way in hell" the 49ers draft Jones.
Jones perceived similarities to Shanahan's current and former quarterbacks -- among them, current 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo and Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan -- seem to be driving a lot of the speculation linking the Alabama QB to the Niners, even if that sells his game short. If that's the reason, it begs the question as to why Shanahan would want more of the same.
After all, the 49ers traded up to No. 3 in no small part because trading for Garoppolo hasn't worked in the way in which they envisioned. That's largely due to injuries, as the 49ers have been among the best teams in the NFL with Garoppolo healthy, but his shortcomings have nonetheless been apparent and the 49ers have a clear ceiling with him under center.
Jones, at least, would carry a much cheaper price tag than his predecessor for (at least) three seasons, assuming the 49ers stick to their word and start Garoppolo in 2021. He's also seven years younger, and the Niners wouldn't trade up to draft Jones if they didn't believe his ceiling, ultimately, was higher than Garoppolo's.
Whether the 49ers select Jones, Fields or Lance, this pick is going to be the most scrutinized of Shanahan's tenure as coach and John Lynch's as general manager. If you think the conversations and discourse surrounding the pick are intense now, wait until every week this season -- and beyond -- provides a referendum on the selection.