No. 1: 49ers Quarterback Nick Mullens
I know, I know. Quarterbacks get all the love. And while it is true to an extent, Nick Mullens has validated the ranking during his time with the team.
Yes, it’s true he isn’t a regular 16-game starter, having started just eight games with a 3-5 record. But it was the effect he had on the team when he replaced former Iowa Hawkeye and third-round pick C.J. Beathard during the 2018 season.
Beathard had started five games of his own after Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season in Week 3 that year. Comparing the two, Beathard has a career 1-9 record with 74.6 passer rating, threw 12 touchdowns against 13 interceptions while completing just 57 percent of his passes.
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Meanwhile, Mullens completed 64.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 90.2 rating.
While the numbers don’t jump off the page, the eye test between Mullens and Beathard says there is a pretty large gap between the two, and most certainly the reason Mullens has secured the backup role to Jimmy Garoppolo.
With a Super Bowl-contending team, having a solid backup who could hold down the fort in the event of an injury to the starter could be the difference to securing a higher seed and staying on course for a return to the Super Bowl, or being the 2019 Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the year.
The speed of processing the defense and making the correct read while having command of the playbook puts the quarterback position on a higher plane.
At the end of the day, the 49ers are entering a time where salary cap restrictions may limit their ability to add high-profile free agents and retain all of their pending free agents. Therefore, the draft and UDFAs will undoubtedly play a huge part in the organization’s desire to extend its championship window beyond a season or two.
While nothing is guaranteed, with John Lynch and Co’s ability to find gems among the UDFAs, the Niners appear poised to be able to keep the window wide open for the foreseeable future.