The 49ers pulled off a shocker Friday when they traded three first-round and one third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The reason for this move is obvious. While the 49ers like Jimmy Garoppolo, they do not view him as a long-term franchise quarterback, and believed now was the time for them to find the signal-caller coach Kyle Shanahan believes is best suited to run his offense and elevate it to the next level.
But why did the 49ers decide to make the move now when Garoppolo is under contract for two more seasons? They looked at the crop of quarterbacks slated to enter the 2022 NFL Draft and didn't see a lot they liked, The MMQB's Albert Breer noted in his Monday column.
"San Francisco also got a picture from its scouts of the 2022 draft at the position, and it was bleak in comparison to ’21," Breer wrote. "That meant not taking one they liked this year would likely mean going into ’22, the final year of Garoppolo’s contract, with far fewer options on the table."
The 2021 class has five quarterbacks -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones --- slated to be selected early in the first round. At the moment, the 2022 class is led by North Carolina's Sam Howell, USC's Kedon Slovis and Georgia's J.T. Daniels.
Yes, the 2022 crop looks lighter than this year's group, but that's not a totally sound way of looking at QB prospects. At this time last season, only Lawrence, Fields and Lance were expected to be Round 1 quarterbacks, with Wilson and Jones looking like late-Day 2 or Day 3 guys. Two years ago, LSU's Joe Burrow was looking at a Round 5 grade before putting together a Heisman Trophy-winning season and becoming the No. 1 pick. Baker Mayfield did the same thing. Kyler Murray was expected to choose a baseball career over being a mid-round NFL draft pick, but one season changed everything for him, too.
While there are just three projected first-round picks at the moment in the 2022 QB class, that can change in 12 games next fall. But if Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch have their eyes on one of two of the Jones-Lance-Fields group, then they made the proper play to go up and get their guy.
But if a bleak view of the 2022 QB class was the driving principle behind the move up the board, then the 49ers might have acted hastily.
I won't disagree that the 2021 class at the moment looks a lot more appealing. But scouts can't see everything. They didn't see Burrow or Wilson's rise. History says that at least one or two more quarterbacks will jump into the Round 1 fray for the 2022 class. It's an almost annual occurrence.
But all that matters for the 49ers is that they hit on whomever they select at No. 3 overall. If they miss, it could set the franchise back a decade.