SF 49ers fans will jump over Mac Jones after CFB Playoff win
By Peter Panacy
The SF 49ers could add a quarterback early in the NFL Draft, and Alabama’s Mac Jones surely improved his draft stock in the CFB Playoff.
It’s time to queue the Alabama quarterback Mac Jones-to-SF 49ers talk ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jones was outstanding during the Crimson Tide’s dominant 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the CFB Playoff championship game on Monday night, having himself a former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow-kind-of-game in front of a national audience en route to 36 completions on 45 attempts for 464 yards, five touchdowns against zero interceptions.
And while Jones isn’t going to wind up going No. 1 overall in the draft like Burrow did, there’s little doubt the former improved his draft stock leading up to the selection this April.
Possibly onto the Niners’ radar, too.
Jones still isn’t in the top tier of prospect quarterbacks in this year’s draft. The quarterback Jones helped to beat, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, is in that upper category along with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and BYU’s Zach Wilson. But all four of those names could easily be gone before San Francisco is slated to pick at No. 12 overall.
Barring what will likely be a lucrative trade-up, Jones might be the next best option for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.
But Mac Jones only benefits from a star-studded offense, right?
Jones’ massive night, capping off a season where he threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns against four interceptions, was aided by a tremendous Alabama offensive cast. Monday had a prime example just how dangerous the Tide’s offense could be, particularly with the Heisman Trophy winner, wide receiver DeVonta Smith ripping off 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns before exiting with a finger injury.
So it only makes sense to think Jones’ numbers were inflated by players like Smith and running back Najee Harris, who also had three touchdowns in the game.
True. But the bigger concern would be if Jones wasn’t able to put up big numbers in that context. Yet he did and with regularity and ease, showing both pocket poise, accuracy, a strong arm and with great decision-making skills over the course of the game.
Do SF 49ers actually target Mac Jones in the NFL Draft?
Using the No. 12 pick on Jones still might be a bit too high. And there remains a question whether or not the SF 49ers want to move on from their starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, in 2021 anyway.
Even if they don’t, adding a quarterback to immediately push and potentially replace Garoppolo down the road isn’t that bad of an idea, and Jones offers up a lot of the same positive traits head coach Kyle Shanahan would want.
True, Jones isn’t the athlete epitomizing many an up-and-coming quarterback in today’s dual-threat NFL. But where Jones won at Alabama was with his mental processing, read progression and eliminating mistakes. Note his touchdown-to-interception ratio, which stands apart from what Garoppolo has done in a San Francisco uniform.
Plus, Jones has a bit more touch on his throws down the field and outside the numbers, which are areas where Garoppolo has also struggled.
That’s something to consider, too.
The SF 49ers fanbase, as a whole, probably wouldn’t be overly thrilled with Jones going to the Niners at No. 12 overall. Despite the quarterback’s outstanding efforts in college football’s final game of the season, he’s still a mid-to-late first-round pick at best, and some will still argue he deserves to go no higher than early in Round 2.
If that’s the case, and Jones is still on San Francisco’s radar, there’s a much stronger chance now Jones winds up being a draft-day trade target, both to help solve the team’s long-term needs under center while maximizing the SF 49ers’ crop of drafted players this April.