The 49ers made a franchise-defining move Friday when they traded three first-round picks to acquire the No. 3 choice in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving them their pick of the quarterback litter that's left after the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets make their selections.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan made the deal with the Miami Dolphins in order to find their quarterback of the future, but the 49ers don't yet know who that signal-caller will be, according to NBC Sports' Peter King.
"It seems stunning to think Alabama’s Mac Jones could be the Niners’ choice—and “could be” is the operative phrase because the Niners have not decided who to choose at three," King noted Sunday night in his latest Football Morning in America column.
Trevor Lawrence is headed to the Jaguars at No. 1. That has been true since they leapfrogged the Jets for the NFL's worst record late in the season. And while the Jets haven't telegraphed what they plan to do with quarterback Sam Darnold, conventional wisdom suggests BYU's Zach Wilson soon will call East Rutherford, N.J. home.
That will leave the 49ers with their choice between Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones at No. 3.
Each quarterback has pros and cons. Fields was sensational for two seasons at Ohio State, but he had shaky moments when pressured by Indiana and Northwestern's defenses. Lance was dominant in his lone season as the starter for the Bison and possibly has the highest upside of any quarterback in the class, but he will need time to develop.
Then there's Jones. The Crimson Tide star is coming off the highest-graded season by a Power Five quarterback in Pro Football Focus history. He's an accurate thrower and a quick processor, but his athletic limitations might make him a reach at No. 3.
At the moment, the 49ers appear content to go into the 2021 season with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback, choosing to let whomever they select sit behind the 29-year-old and develop before taking over in 2022. It's a good plan for a team that's loaded with high-priced veterans and believes it can compete for a Super Bowl next season with Garoppolo at the helm.
Lynch and Shanahan have tied themselves to whichever quarterback they select at No. 3. They just haven't decided who that will be one month ahead of the draft.