SF 49ers NFL Draft: 6 quarterbacks to target who aren’t Zach Wilson

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports /
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Sam Ehlinger, Texas Longhorns
Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers likely look at quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, and BYU’s Zach Wilson is a hot name. But who are some others to consider?

There are plenty of reasons to believe the SF 49ers move on from their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, in 2021.

The most blatantly obvious one is saving $24.1 million in cap space amid a year when the salary cap is expected to drop as low as $175 million. Combined with Garoppolo’s so-so on-field efforts, a questionable fit within head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and a noticeable history of injuries, it wouldn’t be overly shocking if the Niners pull the plug on the Jimmy G era in San Francisco.

Of course, this opens up a pandora’s box of possibilities, including the likelihood the SF 49ers use a high pick on a rookie quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft.

BYU’s Zach Wilson has been a hot name among Niners draft circles, rising up big boards from a probable day-two selection to possibly going in the top five picks. But with San Francisco currently poised to select in the teens, barring a lucrative trade up, there’s a good chance Wilson is long gone by the time the team’s number is called.

So, who else might fit the bill?

As far as good fits go within head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, as well as the promise of being a high-caliber impact player at the NFL level, these six prospects would be worth exploring.

Longhorns . Sam Ehlinger. 6. player. 851. . Quarterback

SF 49ers QB Target No. 6: Sam Ehlinger, Texas

The SF 49ers don’t have to use a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback, which might easily be the case considering their other pressing roster needs (cornerback, offensive line, etc.).

So waiting until day three of the NFL Draft might be a smart play, particularly if the Niners are actually interesting in holding onto Garoppolo for at least one more season, yet opening up the chance for someone to compete with him over the long run.

If that’s the case, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger might be worth a look.

Sam Ehlinger Passing Table
Year School Conf Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2017 Texas Big 12 FR QB 9 158 275 57.5 1915 7.0 6.6 11 7 124.1
*2018 Texas Big 12 SO QB 14 275 425 64.7 3292 7.7 8.4 25 5 146.8
*2019 Texas Big 12 JR QB 13 296 454 65.2 3663 8.1 8.5 32 10 151.8
2020 Texas Big 12 SR QB 8 164 279 58.8 2132 7.6 8.5 23 5 146.6
Career Texas 893 1433 62.3 11002 7.7 8.1 91 27 144.0

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 12/1/2020.

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Ehlinger looks the part of a quality starter. He’s decisive and has good mobility, too.

There is a problem, however, with his lowish completion percentage this season, which has taken a dip from the last two years. Most of his reads are typically designed to get receivers open, and Ehlinger doesn’t exactly have the best accuracy and ball placement to fit passes through tight windows.

That said, Garoppolo doesn’t exactly possess that trait either, and Shanahan might still be able to work with Ehlinger’s skill set in this context.

Ehlinger is likely to be a day-three pick, perhaps going no earlier than Round 4, which could afford the Niners to use draft capital elsewhere on much-needed positions.