When the San Francisco 49ers made the trade with the Miami Dolphins on March 26 to acquire the No. 3 pick in next month’s NFL draft, there was still a debate going around as to who the No. 2 pick would be. However, after Zach Wilson’s near-perfect Pro Day, most believe he cemented that spot. So now the conversation has shifted: Who will be selected at No. 3 to be the next QB for the 49ers? With Trevor Lawrence and Wilson going 1-2, one of these three guys could be heading to the Bay Area: Mac Jones, Justin Fields or Trey Lance.
Here’s my breakdown of the situation:
As of March 29, the leader of the pack appears to be Mac Jones, with reports that 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan both will be in attendance at Jones’ Alabama Pro Day on March 30. Jones is riding a 2020 season that saw him lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship while completing 73.3% of his passes (80.3% adjusted completion percentage) for 4,500 yards, 41 TDs and just 4INTs. Compared to Fields and Lance, Jones is the best pure passer and most accurate of the group. He also is the best of the three at moving around in the pocket and going through progressions quickly. Jones doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he makes up for it with anticipation and quick release. While he doesn’t have the same dual-threat ability as Fields or Lance, he is athletic enough to extend plays with his legs when needed. It is easy to see why Jones could be a perfect fit for Shanahan’s system given the fact that he played in a very similar offense at Alabama.
Before the 2020 season began, Fields was the clear-cut No. 2 QB behind Lawrence, and had a chance to put his name in the discussion for being the first overall pick. Now he finds himself fighting to be the third QB in the 2021 draft class. Fields is extremely athletic and can make big-time plays with his arm or legs. He has a strong arm and can push the ball to all levels of the field. He doesn’t have a traditional over-the-top throwing motion. This can lead to inaccuracy and getting passes batted at the line of scrimmage. During the 2020 season, 70.3% of Fields’ total passing yards were air yard – more than both Lance and Jones by a wide margin in this category. Fields seemed to struggle when the No. 1 target in the progression was not open, so there will need to be time for him to get better at that, especially within Shanahan’s offense. Fields isn’t the same style of QB Shanahan has had in recent years (Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo), but the added dynamic of Fields’ strong arm and athleticism could give Shanahan the opportunity to enhance his already potent offensive scheme.
Trey Lance only played once in 2020 as part of a showcase game at North Dakota State. He did himself no favors during this game, completing only 50% of his passes and struggling to show any sort of consistent accuracy. Lance is the most true dual-threat QB of the class, tallying 1,343 yards and 16 TDs on the ground in just 17 games. He has the ability to score on the ground from anywhere on the field, but is the least polished passer of this group. Lance is a raw prospect with a high ceiling who would really benefit from sitting behind a veteran for a year while some of the footwork/accuracy problems are worked on. Going from playing at the FCS level to the NFL after a year off and being asked to start day 1 would be a tough ask for any player, but especially a quarterback. Selecting Lance makes sense if the 49ers decide to keep Garoppolo for another season and give him the time he needs to develop into a dynamic NFL QB.