It very well might be time to come to the realization Jimmy Garoppolo will be the 49ers' starting quarterback next season.
Matthew Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, the Kirk Cousins rumors are far-fetched, Deshaun Watson will cost a hell of a haul and Aaron Rodgers will be the Green Bay Packers' starting QB again in 2021. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch seem just fine with Garoppolo returning to Santa Clara, the same quarterback who helped lead them to a Super Bowl a season ago.
But what if the 49ers can find their QB of the future in the 2021 NFL Draft? They do just that in Lance Zierlein's first mock draft.
The NFL Media analyst gave the 49ers quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 12 pick in the draft, and the North Dakota State prospect could be a perfect match for San Francisco.
"Lance could go higher with a run on quarterbacks," Zierlein wrote. "If he's available at 12th overall, he might be too enticing to pass up. His background and skill set fit perfectly within Kyle Shanahan's offense."
We already know Trevor Lawrence is going No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that, there still are a handful of teams -- New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos -- who could go for a QB with their top pick. Jared Goff being traded to the Detroit Lions helps the 49ers, eliminating one team in need of a young signal-caller. In the case Lance still is available when the 49ers are on the clock, Lynch almost has to get on the phone.
Lance likely isn't a Day 1 starter after playing just 17 games (19 if you include the two he appeared in as a redshirt freshman) in his college career. He burst on the scene in 2019, when he threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 66.9 percent of his passes. He even set the NCAA all-division record for most passing attempts (287) without an interception. Lance also is a threat on the ground, rushing for 1,110 yards and 14 TDs in 2019 as well.
Due to COVID-19, Lance had a bizarre one-game showcase this past season where he completed just 50 percent of his passes, but also scored four total touchdowns -- two passing and two rushing. He has the size (6-foot-4 and 226 pounds), arm strength and athleticism that every team is looking for right now.
Lance will need time and coaching. In a perfect world, the 49ers restructure Garoppolo's contract and hand the keys to Lance in 2022 or later in the 2021 season when he's ready. Imagine that arm strength in Shanahan's system with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle around him.
Shanahan has alluded to wanting his version of Josh Allen, a "toolsy" QB with the arm strength and running ability to change a game. Lance has both of those, and he's only 20 years old.
It's no guarantee Lance will be available with the No. 12 pick in the draft. However, if he is, the 49ers shouldn't pass up a young QB on a rookie contract with the skill set to become an elite NFL signal-caller.