In the BetUS Locker Room NFL mock draft, we discussed the QB-heavy nature of the first round.
There are five legitimate first-round prospects in Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones.
Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond could also conceivably sneak into the first round. The abundance of solid QBs available led the 49ers to trade up in the draft. San Francisco sent three first-rounders to Miami to land the third pick in the draft and take a swing at finding its QB of the future.
The 49ers are in an interesting position, as their roster, when fully healthy, can contend in the NFC. So, the Niners could prioritize both the present and future by keeping Jimmy Garoppolo this NFL Odds season for a potential Super Bowl run and drafting a QB for the future.
There has been a lot of speculation about who the Niners will select with their first-round draft pick and rightfully so. It’s looking increasingly likely that Lawrence and Wilson will go numbers one and two, respectively. So, we’ll discuss who the Niners should take out of the three of Fields, Lance and Jones.
Justin Fields: Holds FBS Record for Best Single Season TD/INT Ratio
The Ohio State product had a historic season in 2019 as a sophomore. Fields threw 41 touchdowns to three interceptions for one of the most impressive QB seasons in FBS history. While Fields couldn’t maintain that ratio in 2020, he still led Ohio State to the National Championship game, where the Buckeyes fell to Alabama.
Fields would give the 49ers a well-rounded, NFL-ready QB who can both throw a deep ball and make plays with his feet. A transfer from Georgia, Fields went 19-0 in the regular season during two seasons at Ohio State. With the Buckeyes, he threw for 5,373 yards with a 68.3 percent completion percentage, 63 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 867 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Fields has good size at 6foot-3” and ran an excellent 4.45 40-yard dash, which would make him one of the fastest quarterbacks in the league
Some concerns about his game include holding on to the ball too long and struggling to deal with blitzes. Despite those concerns, he is an accurate passer who can make NFL-level throws.
It is somewhat surprising that Fields hasn’t been lengthily discussed as an option for the Jets at No. 2, because he has all of the tools to be a great QB in the NFL for years to come. Fields is the favorite to be selected at No. 3 at -180.
Trey Lance: Unknown Quantity Full of Potential
Of all of the QBs being considered in the first round, Lance is the biggest wild card.
The 49ers made a bold move by trading up so it wouldn’t shock me if they used their pick on Lance.
He is, however, a longshot to be selected at No. 3 at +400. Lance’s North Dakota State postponed their season to the spring and played one game last fall so he started just 17 games in college. The good news is that he won all the games he started, including an FCS title in 2019.
Even with his winning pedigree, Lance could face a tough transition into the NFL from the FCS. But, fellow former NDSU QB Carson Wentz successfully made that transition a few years back.
Lance is athletically gifted but it might take time to polish his game.
In the National Championship game in 2019 against James Madison, Lance completed just 6-of-10 pass attempts for 72 yards. However, he had an incredible season in which he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, and no interceptions, along with 1,100 rushing yards and 14 rushing TDs.
With Garoppolo still under contract, Lance would most likely benefit the most of the three QBs from taking a year to get up to speed.
In the one game NDSU played in the fall, Lance looked a bit rusty and he doesn’t have much experience as a starter. Taking Lance with the third pick would be a swing for the fences for Kyle Shanahan and the Niners.
Mac Jones: Led Alabama to a National Title
Jones defeated Fields and the Buckeyes in the National Championship Game and was excellent. Jones totaled 464 passing yards and five touchdowns in the 52-24 blowout. In 2020 Jones led the FBS in both passing yards and completion percentage. Having Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and projected first-rounder Jaylen Waddle to throw to help, but impressive numbers nonetheless.
There’s a sense that Jones’ ceiling is lower than both Fields’ and Lance’s as he’s not as good of an athlete.
Jones has decent arm strength but he’s not at the level of Fields and Lance in that category either. He’s certainly accurate but might project as more of a game manager in the NFL. Which makes it baffling that many analysts were predicting that Jones would be the 49ers pick.
As good as Jones was in 2020, it doesn’t seem like San Francisco would trade three first-rounders for a quarterback who doesn’t have the same potential as other QBs who will still be available. It’s likely that Jones will still be on the board by the 12th pick, which San Francisco held before the trade.
While Jones could end up being a good QB in the league, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be the guy in San Francisco. Even so, his odds to be selected at No. 3 are pretty short, at +125.
Tough Call Between Fields and Lance
With an excellent defensive unit and solid offensive options, like RB Raheem Mostert and WRs Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, the Niners would be an ideal fit for a rookie QB. Call me insane, but I think the Niners could win the NFC with any of the three of Garoppolo, Fields, and Lance at QB.
It’s certainly the least likely with Lance at QB but I think he’s more NFL-ready than most imagine.
If the Niners want to throw a rookie into the fire and shop Garoppolo around, it makes the most sense to draft Fields.
If Shanahan wants to run it back with a healthy Garoppolo, it potentially makes more sense to draft Lance for him to take time to get up to speed.
But, Fields could also benefit from Garoppolo as a mentor in that situation as Patrick Mahomes did with Alex Smith a few years ago. I don’t think it’s exactly a clear-cut choice but I do think that Fields has the edge here and will be a Niner come draft day.
Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a 49ers fan.