49ers

Why 49ers QB Nick Mullens is unlikely to be traded during the offseason

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USATSI

Why 49ers QB Nick Mullens is unlikely to be traded during the offseason

What’s better than having a solid quarterback? Having two.

That’s the situation the 49ers have found themselves in after Nick Mullens has impressed in six starts since he took over starting QB job on Nov. 1.

Mullens has thrown 10 touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the 49ers to a respectable 3-3 record, including two consecutive wins. He’s amassed 1,754 passing yards, an average of 8.6 yards per pass attempt, and has a robust QB rating of 96.0.

But with Jimmy Garoppolo expected to make a full recovery from his torn ACL in time to start the 2019 season as QB1, the question about Mullens’ future with the team has already come up.

Could the 49ers trade Mullens for draft picks this offseason, given Jimmy G is entrenched as the starter?

"I mean, you're open to anything possible that improves your team," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Monday. "That's not just backups. You have an obligation to do whatever you think is right to give your organization the best chance to win.

Mullens himself isn’t worried about any of this speculation, and is just focused on finishing the season strong.

"I love the 49ers,” Mullens told reporters on Wednesday. “I'd be here as long as I could. But that stuff does not matter. I'm just really trying to focus on this game this week, and just really control the things you can control. That's what Coach Shanahan preaches all the time. We walk in the door, we see it all the time. Control what you can control, and let everything take care of itself. So that's how I handle myself."

[RELATED: Mullens confident, prepared for Bears' tough defense]

Although the prospect of getting a decent return in a trade for a backup QB is enticing, 49ers fans should pump the breaks.

Mullens is under contract in 2019 for only $570,000, which is pennies for a quarterback who has proven he can win games at this level.

After 2019, the undrafted QB is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that San Francisco controls his rights for cheap through the 2021 season.

While some view three cost-controlled years of a solid QB as a valuable trade chip, coach Shanahan implied that the 49ers would be silly to give up this type of asset, given the importance of steady backups.

"I think backups are extremely valuable, not just at the quarterback position, but everywhere,” Shanahan said Monday. “Usually, you have to win with backups, and you hope to stay healthy all of the time, but very rarely does that happen. Backups can be the difference in a season."

Backups have indeed been critical to the 49ers this season, with Mullens, along with running back Matt Breida (replacing the injured Jerrick McKinnon), providing two of the biggest bright spots so far in the 4-10 season.

So you can never say never, but it appears likely the 49ers will play it safe and hold on to their diamond-in-the-rough QB.

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers are well-equipped to trade first-round pick

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AP

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers are well-equipped to trade first-round pick

The 49ers are set to pick twice in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23, but that doesn’t mean they will.

San Francisco has seven picks in this year’s draft: Two in the first, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh. The 49ers wouldn’t pick anywhere between the No. 31 and No. 156 overall picks.

NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks the 49ers’ second first-round pick is a trade possibility, given San Francisco’s mid-round picks and the potential for a team to trade into the first round and draft quarterback.

“[It’s] not gonna be the 49ers making that pick,” Jeremiah said Tuesday on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” (H/T 49ers Web Zone), “but the 49ers trying to collect some picks they don't have in those middle rounds. I could definitely see that being a trade-up spot for some of those teams in Round 2 who want to get that extra year on the contract, come up to 31 and get your quarterback there."

Jeremiah said four QB prospects are surefire first-rounders: LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Bryce Love. All it would take for the 49ers to trade the No. 31 overall selection, then, is one team interested enough in a quarterback such as Washington’s Jacob Eason or Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts to make a deal.

The 2018 draft offers some precedent for the package the 49ers could receive. The Baltimore Ravens traded a second-round pick (No. 52 overall), a fourth (No. 125) and a 2019 second-round pick (No. 53) to select future NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.

[RELATED: 49ers favored to repeat as NFC, division champions in 2020]

That’s not to say Eason, Hurts or any other QB in the draft will reach Jackson's level, who fell to the end of the first round despite winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in his decorated college career. The 49ers, however, likely would be able to recoup multiple picks if they traded out of the first round.

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch wouldn’t have the flexibility to do so had they not traded dominant defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this month. They acquired the No. 13 overall pick in exchange, setting them up to accumulate more draft picks if Jeremiah’s prediction holds true.

NFL odds: 49ers favorites to repeat as NFC West, conference champions

NFL odds: 49ers favorites to repeat as NFC West, conference champions

If you're expecting the 49ers to be a one-year wonder, you're in the minority.

San Francisco arguably was the NFL's biggest surprise last season, as the Niners improved by nine wins and were one fourth-quarter collapse shy of defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. The team's offseason priority has been to retain as much of its core as possible, and while there have been a few notable departures -- none larger than DeForest Buckner being traded to the Indianapolis Colts -- the 49ers have been mostly successful in that endeavor.

And, consequently, the betting public hasn't lowered its expectations for San Francisco in 2020.

Within the NFC West, the 49ers (6/5) currently are significant favorites to repeat as division champions, according to FoxBet. San Francisco is followed, in order, by the Seattle Seahawks (11/5), Los Angeles Rams (16/5) and Arizona Cardinals (10/1).

Should the 49ers win the NFC West in 2020, it would mark the first time they've won the division in consecutive seasons since 2013, the last of San Francisco's three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game.

While it's a narrower margin, the 49ers are favorites to get back there, too.

FoxBet currently lists the 49ers as 24/5 favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV, closely followed by the New Orleans Saints (11/2). The Dallas Cowboys (15/2) and Philadelphia Eagles (8/1) fall next in line, while Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9/1) have the fifth-best odds in the conference.

[RELATED: Sanders picked Saints over 49ers, Packers in free agency]

It makes plenty of sense why so much is expected of both San Francisco and New Orleans, given how strong both teams were last season and their respective developments since. The 49ers might have snuck up on some opponents last year, but you can be sure that won't be happening this time around.