Part One of Niner Noise’s Assessment on the 49ers 2016 NFL Draft Needs: Quarterback
By Peter Panacy
In this first installment assessing NFL.com’s draft needs for the San Francisco 49ers, Niner Noise takes a look at the all too critical position of quarterback and what may happen under center in 2016 and beyond.
Not long ago, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com published the needs for all 32 teams heading into the 2016 NFL Draft and, not surprisingly, the San Francisco 49ers had some pretty substantial holes to fill.
Niner Noise broke down a general view of those needs previously, but it’s time to go into further detail as we address each specific need Zierlein listed and how the 49ers may choose to address the situation at hand.
In this first installment of a five-part set, we’ll look at the quarterback position.
There are those who would argue quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. Super Bowl-caliber teams tend to have an elite, or near-elite, signal-caller under center. Although the Super Bowl 50-champion Denver Broncos proved us all wrong (even though quarterback Peyton Manning was elite not long ago).
Currently, the 49ers don’t have an elite quarterback on their roster. What they do have is a former star in Colin Kaepernick — who has seen his career sputter ever since 2014 — and a former hopeful in Blaine Gabbert.
Tack on QBs Dylan Thompson and Thad Lewis, and San Francisco doesn’t exactly boast a lot of fear in opponents stemming from this position.
Chronicling how this all came to be would be redundant. Fans know the story behind Kaepernick’s demise and how the front office, and inept coaching staff under former head coach Jim Tomsula, misused him and set him up to fail.
And all this came crashing to a fall in Week 9 last season when Gabbert got the starting nod over Kap.
So it shouldn’t be surprising to see Kaepernick’s camp request a trade even after the 49ers hired head coach Chip Kelly this offseason.
True, Kelly could be Kaepernick’s last best hope to resurrect his career in San Francisco. And yet it’s also feasible to see Kap dealt to the Broncos if the two sides ever reach an agreement. They haven’t yet, as contract issues have gotten in the way, but these things can change quickly.
"Colin Kaepernick is ALL about his money and that’s a good thing. @dkurtenbach#rants.https://t.co/ZdipJlv8rY— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) April 7, 2016"
Whether or not a trade finally happens will have a critical effect on the 49ers’ draft plans. Even if Kaepernick is retained though, the 49ers may be looking for a new quarterback in the draft itself.
Barring a miraculous resurrection of Kap’s career under Kelly, matched with an equally beneficial relationship-repair between Kaepernick and the front office, San Francisco’s former star quarterback will likely still want out at some point soon. It may not be in 2016, but this ongoing saga seems too far gone to truly repair. And the 49ers might want to sell high anyway.
Buried in all this is Gabbert. Without question, Gabbert’s 2015 campaign was the best of his career — a year in which he passed for 2,031 yards, 10 touchdowns against seven interceptions and posted a respectable 86.2 passer rating.
Similarly plausible is the possibility Kelly works some magic out of Gabbert. But, as NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell stated on KNBR 680 a few months back, Gabbert “is who he is” at this point in his career. So how much improvement should we realistically expect.
So this leads us to the draft itself.
First, let’s take a look at some of the leading quarterback prospects, according to CBS Sports:
- Jared Goff, Cal
- Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
- Paxton Lynch, Memphis
- Connor Cook, Michigan State
- Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
- Cardale Jones, Ohio State
- Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
- Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State
- Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
- Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Starting off with Goff, we already know the Cal product has interest in remaining in Northern California with the team for which he grew up rooting in nearby Novato.
Goff might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, and it isn’t too hard to find expert picks mocking him to San Francisco at No. 7.
And the 49ers have interest too, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport:
But it’s possible the Cleveland Browns or Dallas Cowboys — both slated to pick ahead of the 49ers — take Goff before he falls to San Francisco. Even if he does fall, the Niners needs are so many that they could elect to upgrade other areas of need, which would press the quarterback position later into subsequent rounds.
Lynch, Cook or Hackenberg may be options for the 49ers in Rounds 2 or 3. Or, perhaps, San Francisco waits much further.
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Not included on the aforementioned CBS list is Oregon’s Vernon Adams Jr. Perhaps he’s a late-round target the 49ers are eyeing. And it’s impossible to overlook the UofO connection between Adams and Kelly, right?
Who knows. But the critical factor here is Kaepernick’s situation. Trading him away would likely mean the 49ers would be more pressed to draft a quarterback than if he stayed. And yet a new QB could happen regardless.
The final answer will, of course, be revealed during the draft. If and when a quarterback is selected, the pick will cross off one crucial area of need for the 49ers.
And yet they have so many more.
So stay tuned for our next installment breaking down NFL.com’s needs for San Francisco in this year’s NFL Draft.
Next: NFL.com's Needs for 49ers in 2016 NFL Draft
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.