We are eight days out from what will be a pivotal moment in 49ers history when John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan make their selection with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
While the 49ers reportedly haven't decided on which QB they will select, Alabama's Mac Jones still appears to be the leader in the clubhouse. However, another one of the top prospects appears to be gaining momentum as the draft nears.
"It may be that Mac Jones is the guy they had in mind when they made the trade, and certainly what you hear when you talk to people close to this situation, around this situation, is Mac Jones, Mac Jones, Mac Jones," ESPN's Dan Graziano said Wednesday on "Get Up!" "But, I've also been told, again, as recently as 48 hours ago, that no final decision has been made, and there's a lot that points -- I know everybody likes Justin Fields, and I do too -- there's a lot that points to Trey Lance as a guy that could be the 49ers' pick, that fits more of what they do in terms of his experience under center, and play action, and all that kind of stuff you like to see in a Kyle Shanahan offense."
Lance held his second pro day on Monday, giving Lynch and Shanahan their first in-person look at the North Dakota State star.
It's easy to see why Lance would pique the 49ers' interest. The 20-year-old signal-caller has a strong arm, is big, athletic, tough to bring down and has a tremendously high football IQ. He's a great play-action passer and excels in the quick-throw game. However, Lance still is very raw as a prospect and his accuracy was the lowest of any of the top five QBs in the class.
Lance is the draft's biggest wild card. He has an incredibly high ceiling but will need to land on a team that is comfortable sitting him for a season or two as he develops and irons out some of his rough edges.
The 49ers would appear to be in the perfect position to take a swing on the high upside of Lance. Lynch and Shanahan have been adamant that Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starter in 2021, believing that he, when healthy, gives them the best chance to get back to the playoffs and contend for a Super Bowl next season. The plan, at least for the moment, is to allow the rookie to sit and learn next season before taking over in 2022.
That is easy to say in April when the anticipation and excitement for the No. 3 pick are overflowing. It will get harder to keep Lance, Jones or Justin Fields on the bench in October if Garoppolo is struggling and the fan base is clamoring for the future to start now.
Lance fits what the 49ers like to do, and if developed properly will elevate the offense to a level it can't reach under the direction of Garoppolo.
But selecting Lance will require patience and the stomach to risk the future on a talented 20-year-old who only started 17 games at the FCS level.
If Shanahan and Lynch have the guts to pull the trigger on Lance at No. 3, they'll have bet their future in Santa Clara on Shanahan's ability to mold Lance into the best version of himself and do so without delaying the 49ers' Super Bowl timeline intact.