Mel Kiper Jr. projects the 49ers with select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But the ESPN draft analyst's projection in his mock draft is different from his personal belief of which quarterback he would select if he ran the 49ers' draft.
His choice would be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, he said Thursday on a conference call with national reporters. Kiper has Fields ranked behind only Trevor Lawrence on his list of quarterbacks in the 2021 draft.
“I think, for the 49ers, I would look at Justin Fields,” Kiper said. “I think he’s the second-best quarterback in this draft, but Mac Jones is the way it’s going, it seems like. I heard Mac Jones or Trey Lance early on, whether that’s not true or just throwing it out there to fool people. Who knows?
“There’s a lot that goes on this time of year. But I went with Mac Jones (in the mock draft) because that’s what you’re hearing. Now, I would go Justin Fields. But that’s me.”
Lawrence and BYU's Zach Wilson are expected to be the top two selections of the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.
The 49ers are considering Fields, Jones and Lance of North Dakota State with the No. 3 overall pick after pulling a blockbuster trade on March 26 with the Miami Dolphins to move up from the No. 12 draft slot in the first round.
Kiper points to his draft rankings from 2018, in which he had Josh Allen as his top quarterback. On draft day, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were the selections of the Cleveland Browns (No. 1 overall) and the New York Jets (No. 3). The Bills selected Allen at No. 7, and ended up with the player who appears to be the best of the bunch.
“In the Josh Allen draft, I would’ve taken Josh Allen No. 1, but he didn’t go No. 1,” Kiper said. “He went seven. So, to me, you have to always realize that a mock draft is completely different than a ratings board and always keep it in the right perspective.
“The mock draft kind of complicates matters because you go against some things you like and don’t like and go by what you’re hearing.”
In Kiper’s mock draft, he has Fields as the fifth quarterback selected with the New England Patriots trading from No. 15 to No. 10 to grab him.
“I love Justin Fields,” Kiper said. “I think he’s the second-best quarterback in this draft. I could see him going to Denver at nine. I could see someone trading up to 10 to get him or trading up to seven, ahead of Denver, and force Denver to go from nine to seven with Detroit to get him.”
Kiper said he believes Fields will be attractive to a lot of teams on Thursday, April 29, if he remains available after the first handful of draft selections.
“I think he’s going to be red hot. If he’s the fifth quarterback taken, so what?” Kiper said. “Quarterbacks who have dropped over the years have done pretty well. But I think there will be activity to go up and get Justin Fields.”