While it’s strange to think it, the SF 49ers find themselves realistic contenders for Trevor Lawrence after being embarrassed by the Dolphins.
But there’s a very real chance something like this could take place.
Five weeks into the 2020 season, the Niners suddenly find themselves 2-3 and are looking hard at the reality of selecting in the top five of the draft next year. This, after head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad fell victim to what’s easily the worst defeat in Shanahan’s coaching tenure, a 43-17 rout at home to the previously one-win Miami Dolphins in Week 5.
San Francisco’s first five weeks marked the “easy” portion of the schedule. And yet the team went 2-3 during that stretch, pulling off wins over the New York Jets and New York Giants, who are generally viewed as the two worst teams in football this year and also contenders for Lawrence’s services.
Looking ahead at the SF 49ers’ upcoming schedule, life isn’t going to get much easier:
- Week 6 vs. LA Rams (4-1)
- Week 7 @ New England Patriots (2-2)
- Week 8 @ Seattle Seahawks (5-0)
- Week 9 vs. Green Bay Packers (4-0)
- Week 10 @ New Orleans Saints (2-2)
- Week 12 @ LA Rams (4-1)
- Week 13 vs. Buffalo Bills (4-0)
The teams San Francisco faced over its first five weeks boasted 18 combined losses this season following Sunday’s Week 5 slate of games. Over this upcoming stretch, the same number currently stands at six.
Needless to say, Shanahan is hitting the “gauntlet” portion of the 2020 schedule.
Forget about injuries and the other elements of disappointment here for a moment. Final records don’t care about those kinds of things. No matter how it’s sliced, teams coming off a Super Bowl appearance the previous year and suddenly finding themselves contenders for a top-five pick, particularly someone of Lawrence’s ilk, is quite the shocking turnaround.
But even if the SF 49ers were in a position where they could draft Lawrence, would they actually do it?
SF 49ers can’t rule Trevor Lawrence out in 2021 NFL Draft
If you’re monitoring the “Tank for Trevor” campaign, you’ll know the Niners have a two-game deficit on the right to select Lawrence first.
But even if San Francisco somehow finds itself in position to grab the Clemson signal-caller, either by the way of the No. 1 overall pick or by watching teams like the Jets or Giants pass on him (which is entirely possible, too), would Shanahan and general manager John Lynch actually go that direction?
There are reasons to believe they would.
Yes, this would mean the quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo era in San Francisco would come to a premature end. His 27 starts in a Niners uniform have revealed a lot of things, but Jimmy G being the kind of quarterback teams build franchises around isn’t one of them. He’s a good quarterback. No one is doubting that. But he’s not elite. And considering he’ll turn 29 years old by the time this season is over, it’s not likely he’ll hit that elite status in his career either.
Granted, there aren’t any guarantees about Lawrence being a future NFL elite. But as far as best NFL Draft plays are concerned, Lawrence is about as sure a thing as the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes or the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson: two quarterbacks the SF 49ers could have grabbed back in 2017, yet ultimately decided to pass on for reasons they’ll be kicking themselves about for years to come.
There’s the financial part of the equation, too.
If the Niners are good at one thing, it’s contractual negotiations with their players. Part of the five-year, $137.5 million deal Garoppolo signed back in 2018 was the ability for San Francisco to get out from underneath the contract relatively easily after three seasons.
Should the 49ers decide that’s the route they want to take, it would cost them a mere $2.8 million in dead money against $24.1 million in cap savings. Even if the Niners won their Week 5 matchup against the Dolphins, Garoppolo’s contractual situation in 2021 would be a discussion piece.
Now with San Francisco looking hard at what could be some significant offseason changes, that portion of the deal is now highlighted more than ever.
Sure, Shanahan and Lynch could ultimately decide Jimmy G is “their guy,” and the SF 49ers may still wind up drafting well after Lawrence goes in the top two or three selections of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Still, the fact we’re having this discussion at all paints just how ugly the picture has gotten for the Niners five weeks deep into the season.