There's no question that in order for a quarterback to succeed at the NFL level, he needs to be able to play from within the pocket and throw accurate passes in the face of defensive pressure.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, many believed that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan's past preference for Kirk Cousins and track record with other quarterbacks meant that he ideally would want a player who primarily thrives in the pocket, as opposed to a more dual-threat oriented QB.
The 49ers surprised many when Trey Lance was the pick at No. 3 overall in April, and Kyle Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami last week that he found humor in all of the reports linking him to Mac Jones, who was the general consensus among "insiders" as the 49ers' preferred choice.
"I do laugh at ... that everyone thinks that they know exactly what I want at quarterback because I thought we had a chance to get the number one free agent quarterback who was going to be on the market in our second year," Shanahan told Kawakami on "The TK Show." "And since we did, people just assume that's how I would draw it up, which if you draw it up, obviously you're going to give the guy everything. I do believe that you have to be able to win from the pocket in this league as a quarterback or it will catch up to you. But holy cow, if you can run, it makes playing from the pocket a lot easier because those defenses are going to change and stuff."
Of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round, Jones was the only one who didn't offer above-average speed for the position. All five, including Lance, showcased impressive accuracy and strong arms that are valuable in Shanahan's schemes, which have revolved around a strong running game opening up play-action opportunities.
Lance was the only QB out of the five that put together a 1,000-yard rushing season during his collegiate career, and whenever he is deemed ready to assume Jimmy Garoppolo's position as QB1, Shanahan might have a brand new batch of plays that highlight Lance's speed and size in the open field.
Shanahan did emphasize to Kawakami that Lance's ability to throw was what made the 49ers comfortable with drafting a player without a lot of similarities to the incumbent starter in Garoppolo.
"I just wanted the element that he could bring. And I wouldn't have been impressed with the running element if I didn't believe he could be a quarterback from the pocket. So you've got to have that skill set, as I say, to get in the club. But when you have the bonus of running, that's kind of what I got so intrigued with. They were all good candidates, but it's just what direction do you want to go and the more time that we put into Trey, the stronger it got and I've always been intrigued by that element of the game."
Don't expect to see Lance move up the depth chart anytime soon, as Shanahan repeatedly has said he isn't ready to compete with Jimmy G for the starting job right now.
Shanahan trusts that when the rookie is ready to take over, the 49ers' coaching staff will know.