The smoke surrounding the 49ers and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft continues to expand, but the similarities between him and another former top-five selection could concern fans.
Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd spoke Thursday about how Jones and the 49ers' package to move up to the third pick compare to Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears' decision to move up to the second overall selection to take the signal-caller.
"First of all, only the Bears in that draft loved Trubisky," Cowherd said on "The Herd." "They were the only team, loved Trubisky. Only the 49ers love Mac Jones, you don't hear another team interested. Trubisky was a one-year college starter, that's it, always a problem. You can't win the job as a sophomore if you're an NFL quarterback, a junior? Mac Jones similarly is a one-year starter, couldn't beat out Tua. You seen Tua in Miami, look like the face of the league?
"Number three, Chicago already had a good draft pick, they were at three, they gave away all sorts of picks to move up to two, they didn't have to, nobody else was in Trubisky, their intel was bad. The 49ers already had a great pick, 12, did you really have to give up all those picks to get to three? Mac Jones wasn't going three, I'm not sure Mac Jones is going before 12.
"The other thing, in the Trubisky draft, there were other quarterbacks who were clearly more physically gifted, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson. In this draft, Mac Jones is the least physically gifted quarterback. And in the case with Trubisky and in the case with Mac Jones, my scouts, my sources hated Trubisky and they don't like Mac Jones, and I trust my guys."
Clearly, there is a lot to unpack there. As my colleague Alex Shapiro from NBC Sports Chicago pointed out Thursday, the Bears weren't alone in their evaluation of Trubisky as the draft's best quarterback in 2017.
Draft experts at Pro Football Focus, NFL.com and ESPN all ranked Trubisky as the best quarterback available in that class in the month leading up to the NFL draft. Cowherd himself even made a case on his show for the Cleveland Browns to select Trubisky with the first pick in the draft, over eventual All-Pro Myles Garrett.
We've seen Jones steadily rise up draft boards over the past few months following his role in leading Alabama to a perfect season and a national championship. But throughout the lead-up to the 2020 season and even during most of the regular season, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were considered the best prospects in the 2021 draft class at the time. Zach Wilson climbed draft boards as BYU shot up the rankings.
Shapiro also pointed out that players like Kyler Murray and Cam Newton didn't have more than a full season in college as a starter, and yet turned out to be worthy first overall picks, contrary to Cowherd's argument.
Nagy also wasn't hired until after Trubisky's rookie season with the Bears, while Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch both have been in their current roles for over four years, and just got long-term contract extensions with the organization.
There is a clear gulf in athleticism between Jones and the other four QBs expected to go in the first round, especially when it comes to Fields and Wilson.
Jones has been linked to the 49ers in plenty of recent reports, and that has become the popular pick in most mock drafts. However, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said Friday that Shanahan and Lynch are keeping things close to the vest and aren't sharing their preferences with the pick outside of the building.
Niners Twitter has had a strong reaction to potentially picking Jones, with many fans' hopes for Fields well known at this point.
Jones certainly could be the pick, but the 49ers selecting Fields, Wilson or even Trey Lance at No. 3 overall would make a lot of sense.
There isn't much of an ironclad comparison between Trubisky and Jones, but it is possible the 49ers select Jones while Fields and Lance end up putting together better NFL careers than the Alabama product.
Watson and Mahomes have dramatically outplayed Trubisky so far in his career, and the former second overall pick now is a backup to the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen.
No one knows for sure until the first round gets underway in a few weeks, but expect plenty more comparisons between this year's prospects and a variety of other quarterbacks from the past.