SF 49ers can target Notre Dame QB Ian Book in 2021 NFL Draft

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book (12) Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book (12) Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers will need a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Notre Dame’s Ian Book could be a late-round flier to develop.

Regardless of what the SF 49ers elect to do in 2021 with their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, there’s an awfully high chance head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will need to grab a signal-caller in next year’s NFL Draft.

There’s a chance all three of the Niners’ current quarterbacks are elsewhere next season. Garoppolo’s future is in doubt, particularly considering the team could save $24.1 million in cap space with the understanding he has his limits within Shanahan’s offense. Meanwhile, backups Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard are free agents next year, too, Beathard of the unrestricted variety.

No matter what San Francisco elects to do with Garoppolo, finding someone to replace Mullens and/or Beathard is going to be a priority.

It’s possible the SF 49ers use a high draft pick to address this need this April. But if the Niners are OK with targeting a day-three quarterback with one of their late-round picks, Notre Dame’s Ian Book could be the ideal find.

This FanSided article already highlighted some of Book’s upside, then pointing out how another Notre Dame quarterback, Joe Montana, forever changed San Francisco’s history:

"Book recently tied Brady Quinn and others for the most wins in school history with 28. He’s one away from floating next to Touchdown Jesus as the Knute Rockne of Notre Dame quarterbacks. And while some might judge Book’s minimal 12 passing touchdowns, Montana’s final season in South Bend ended with 10.The 49ers are proving to be a run-heavy team after the past two seasons. Garoppolo is showing to be an overpaid game-manager. With a trio of weapons in the passing game, there’s no denying the talent, when healthy can be special with a managing quarterback who trusts the clock and his targets in yards after the catch.Book marks every positive trait in that category."

This isn’t to say Book comes anywhere close to what Montana was and is. But there are some likable traits tailored to what the SF 49ers do.

Ian Book Passing Table
*2017Notre DameIndSOQB10467561.34566.14.744119.3
*2018Notre DameIndJRQB1021431468.226288.48.6197154.0
*2019Notre DameIndSRQB1324039960.230347.68.6346149.1
2020Notre DameACCSRQB915724963.120968.49.2121148.9
CareerNotre Dame657103763.482147.98.56918148.4

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 12/3/2020.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. (h/t Fighting Irish Wire) sees Book’s ceiling as a high-end backup with some positive traits, saying the following last May before the quarterback went on his overly efficient 2020 campaign:

"Ian Book is just a good college quarterback. I think, as a backup in the NFL, that’s what you’re hoping maybe he can develop into. He’s not Jake Fromm. Look where Jake Fromm went, fifth round. Is he as good as Jake Fromm? No. His grade is not going to be as high. Jake Fromm went in the fifth round to be in Buffalo backing up Josh Allen. Ian Book is just a good college quarterback, consistent week in and week out.I have him at nine in terms of the quarterbacks. He’s in that mid-round to late-round type of guy."

One of the things needing to be pointed out is how well Book protects the ball, evidenced by his lone pick this season, which was back in Week 1 versus Duke off a tipped ball.

And his 23-of-33 stat line for 279 yards and a touchdown against UNC showcased his pure efficiency.

Nothing overly flashy. He’s not going to be a highly touted prospect.

But as far as plain reliability goes, Book is certainly work a look.

The quarterback isn’t afraid to push the ball down the field, which is something none of the SF 49ers’ current signal-callers do particularly well. And as the current trend of mobile quarterbacks at the NFL level go, Book checks off that box, too. He’s had nearly 1,000 rush yards and 10 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish the last two seasons.

If there is a problem, Book tends to rely on his scrambling abilities too much and will need to hone that in at the pro level.

And one could make a solid argument he’s not exactly the best at sensing pressure and can struggle against defenders who get past Book’s blockers.

Then again, the current slate of SF 49ers quarterbacks isn’t particularly great in that area either.

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If the Niners truly are interested in Book, he probably could be had with nothing greater than a fifth-round pick, perhaps slipping into Rounds 6 or 7. Currently, San Francisco has five picks between Rounds 5 and 7.

And Book could easily wind up being the player on which one of those picks is used.