The first pro days and second pro days are in the books, and now the 49ers have nine days to go through all their evaluations of the 2021 NFL Draft class's top QBs and decide which one they want to bet their future on.
Conventional wisdom says that general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn't have made the blockbuster deal to move up to No. 3 overall without having a clear target. But NFL Media's Peter Schrager noted in his latest mock draft that the 49ers, as of right now, still are in evaluation mode when it comes to Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
"We're less than two weeks away and I'm still feeling Mac Jones is the guy," Schrager writes. "I'm told the 49ers still have not made a decision and continue to do their work on all three quarterback prospects who would be available: Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Jones had one of the greatest college football seasons we've seen in recent years, and pro scouts like him a lot -- even if the pundits do not."
When the 49ers made the move up the draft board, Shanahan noted they would not have done so if they didn't believe there were at least three elite quarterbacks in the class. It's safe to assume that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the presumptive No. 1 and No. 2 picks, are two of the three signal-callers Shanahan referred to.
Most analysts have pinpointed Jones as the QB that Shanahan wants to run his system. The Alabama star is a quick processor who throws with great timing and anticipation. What he lacks in pure athleticism, Jones makes up for in pocket presence and in-pocket mobility which allows him to feel pressure and make subtle movements to extend plays. He knows how to execute a play within the framework of the offense and it's easy to see why he and Shanahan could be an ideal pair at the next level.
However, the rare gifts of Fields might be too much to pass up. The Ohio State star has elite arm talent, with the strength and ability to throw with zip and precision to all parts of the field. Couple that with Fields' top-level athleticism, which allows him to extend plays outside the pocket and make second reaction throws -- a staple in today's NFL -- and Fields is the complete package. He also fits what Shanahan has previously said is the most-lethal version of dual-threat QB, as Fields has the ability to beat teams with his legs but the arm talent to eviscerate defenses once they key in to stop the QB ground game.
We can't forget about Lance, who hosted his second pro day Monday. The 20-year-old signal-caller has worked hard to fine-tune his mechanics and might have the highest ceiling of any of the top-five quarterbacks. While Lance has a rocket strapped to his right side and is a load to bring down on the ground, he's the least accurate of any of the top five quarterbacks and will need some time to develop before taking over at the NFL level.
The 49ers' expected decision to keep Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback for 2021 would allow Shanahan and Lynch to take a swing the high-upside of Lance. But the 49ers have a roster they believe can compete for a Super Bowl right now, so they'd have to be sure Lance would be ready to take over for Garoppolo next season.
Shanahan and Lynch face a decision that will define their tenure as the 49ers' power brokers. With nine days left, it appears they still have yet to decide who they will stake their tenures in Santa Clara on.