San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard looks to have secured the No. 2 spot behind Brian Hoyer this season. But the rookie could end up starting in 2018. Here’s why.
The San Francisco 49ers raised some eyebrows when they “reached” to grab former Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Beathard wasn’t a highly touted prospect. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein listed him as a sixth- or seventh-round draft target.
And there’s a real possibility Beathard is head coach Kyle Shanahan’s starter in 2018.
San Francisco 49ers
OK, this might be a bit of a reach. Many readers will likely say something along the lines of, “let’s see what happens between now and next year.” But the fact we can even fathom this option is because Beathard has already made a substantial climb.
Nothing has been confirmed, insofar as the regular-season depth chart, of course. But Beathard took over the No. 2 quarterbacking duties behind presumed starter Brian Hoyer already.
Beathard is going to stay in this spot during Week 3 of the preseason — widely viewed as the exhibition game most closely resembling regular-season football — per David Fucillo of Niners Nation.
More Beathard, less of fellow QB Matt Barkley, who suddenly seems destined for a third-string role.
So the question looms — is Beathard a realistic starting option a year from now?
A Strong Preseason So Far
True, Beathard’s preseason efforts have mostly come against second- and third-tier units. Not the starters he would face during the regular season.
But consider this — the rookie has completed 61 percent of his passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Hoyer’s line is 60 percent for 92 yards and an interception, and Barkley’s is 57.9 percent, 178 yards and zero touchdowns.
Again, preseason stats. Those mean little. But it isn’t as if Beathard is a mere anomaly in the competition.
There are some things the rookie needs to work on. Pocket presence is one of them, as is deep-ball accuracy. But as shown in this touchdown to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, the quarterback shows signs of pocket awareness:
He takes the hit to make the play, as well. And these are the kinds of traits worth building upon.
The Long-Term Ramifications
Hoyer will start for San Francisco in 2017. That’s fine. He has the most experience out of the bunch, has worked in Shanahan’s offense before and has the scheme figured out more so than his competition.
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But Hoyer isn’t a long-term option. We know this.
And as this upcoming year winds up being a part of the rebuild process, Beathard remaining the No. 2 option could free up a roster spot — there shouldn’t be much need to keep Barkley — for another player worth holding onto this season.
That’s good. And it’s equally as good considering continued Beathard ascendance could alleviate the Niners from pressing QB needs in 2018.
Yes, the 2018 NFL Draft is supposed to be stocked with quarterbacks. Yes, Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins will likely be available, albeit at a hefty price.
What if, though, Beathard’s development makes those two options less of a priority?
The fact we’re even able to ask that question shows his development is real. A chance to wind up being San Francisco’s starter in 2018 doesn’t seem so far-fetched now, doesn’t it.
So keep an eye on this. And if the Niners suddenly roll with Beathard under center in 2018, it won’t be hard to understand why.