The 49ers' decision to trade up to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft was, at least in part, driven by one Mac Jones.
San Francisco feared the New England Patriots could trade up to No. 3 and select the Alabama quarterback before they could, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday, citing sources. According to Schefter, the 49ers were wary of Bill Belichick's relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and believed the Patriots viewed Jones as their next potential franchise quarterback.
As 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has noted, San Francisco made its blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins knowing there were a number of potential options at No. 3 overall. But the 49ers reportedly didn't want to get beat to Jones if they decided he was the best quarterback for them, per Schefter.
The 49ers ultimately decided to draft North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall, and Jones fell all the way to the Patriots at No. 15. Jones has been stellar in the preseason and beat out Cam Newton for the starting spot. He will make his NFL debut Sunday when the Patriots host Jones' former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.
While the 49ers clearly had an interest in Jones and knew he could be the ideal trigger-man for their offense, Shanahan opted to go with Lance, who is a true dual-threat quarterback who can give the Shanahan offense a wrinkle it has not yet had in San Francisco.
Lance showed flashed in training camp and the preseason. He pushed Jimmy Garoppolo for the starting job, but the veteran was able to hold off the rookie and announced himself that he would start Sunday's season-opener against the Lions in Detroit.
But Shanahan has already said that Lance will get snaps this season, and many expect the 49ers to unveil their Lance package Sunday if the rookie is cleared after suffering a small finger fracture in the 49ers' preseason finale.
The Jones-49ers smoke isn't going to go away. It's clear the 49ers had a real interest in the Alabama quarterback but eventually landed on Lance. Only time will tell if they made the right call.