The San Francisco 49ers made a bold trade on Friday to secure their future. General manager John Lynch acquired the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a boatload of assets. It was a huge deal that can mean only one thing: the Niners are expecting to land their next franchise quarterback.
San Francisco sent the 12th pick, a 2021 third-rounder and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to move up to the third pick. You don't make that deal to draft a receiver. That can only be a deal for a quarterback.
The top of this year's draft should be loaded with excellent signal-callers. The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to take Clemson's Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and the New York Jets are expected to take BYU's Zach Wilson at No. 2. That leaves Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones as top 10-worthy quarterbacks. The Niners will be selecting one of them.
While this move is bad news for Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers fans should welcome it. The dynamics have changed. After flirting with deals for Deshaun Watson and Matt Stafford, San Francisco finally has a plan in place to move on from Jimmy G. The question now becomes, who is next?
At No. 3 the consensus will be, San Francisco is either going to take Fields or Lance, as Jones is typically ranked as the fifth quarterback in the class. There is a lot to like with both Fields and Lance.
Fields is a supremely talented quarterback who was a top recruit, then a top draft prospect after transferring to Ohio State and dominating. He went 20-2 as a starter for the Buckeyes and accounted for 78 touchdowns in those 22 starts. His arm is strong and accurate and he has the mobility to extend plays. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Fields is solidly built, can diagnose defenses quickly and has shown the toughness to take hits and get back up. He does need some of his rougher edges polished and did struggle against top defenses -- notably, Indiana and Alabama this season. But he's an outstanding prospect with upside and has a mind for the next level.
Lance is pretty much all upside at this point. A physical marvel at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and athletic as all hell, the NDSU product has a big arm, puts great touch on his passes and can bulldoze defenders when he leaves the pocket. Accuracy is his biggest concern as his ball-placement has been inconsistent. He also hasn't seen real action in a long time, as participated in just one game in 2020 before shutting things down to focus on the draft. He has all the tools to be a phenomenal quarterback but his developmental curve might be longer than Fields.
I don't know which direction San Francisco wants to go in, but clearly Lynch & Co. are confident they can get their next great quarterback with the third pick. That's why they went so big and bold on Friday.