49ers drafting Mac Jones at No. 3 would destroy blockbuster trade
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers engineered a blockbuster move to get to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, but selecting Alabama QB Mac Jones would ruin the deal.
The San Francisco 49ers are only halfway through turning their blockbuster 2021 NFL Draft trade with the Miami Dolphins into a true success.
On Friday, news broke the Niners were shipping off the No. 12 overall pick in this year’s draft, along with two more first-round selections the next two years and a 2022 Round 3 pick, to the Dolphins for the No. 3 overall selection.
Now comes the important part: ensuring that pick winds up being worth the ammunition given up to acquire it.
If there was one way to ruin the trade, however, it would be using the No. 3 overall pick on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. It’s already being suggested head coach Kyle Shanahan could have eyes on Jones, who is widely touted as the fifth-best signal-caller in this year’s class behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
And that speculation has continued even after San Francisco’s aggressive trade-up.
True, Jones seems like the prototypical head coach Kyle Shanahan quarterback. In many ways, the Crimson Tide passer looks a lot like one QB Shanahan eyed for the 49ers back in 2017, now-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. There was no shortage of rumors and news Shanahan envisioned Cousins joining the Niners at some point.
The problem with this, however, is Jones won’t be a top-five pick. There’s an awfully good chance he’ll wind up being selected after San Francisco’s original pick, No. 12 overall. And while quarterback values always tend to increase leading up to draft day, especially those in Round 1, suggesting Jones is worth the third-overall pick is bad scouting.
If 49ers go with Mac Jones at No. 3 overall, this trade would be one of the worst in recent memory
There’s no such thing as a guarantee in the NFL Draft. Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Lance could all flame out at the pro level, while Jones becomes the next Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback. That’s the risk.
But part of the art of making draft-day deals is minimizing the risk while maximizing value. The first four quarterbacks in this year’s class have far less risk than Jones, and targeting Jones at No. 3 would be a poor way to maximize value. Unless Shanahan was truly all-in on Jones regardless of anything else and somehow had inside information, let’s say, the Atlanta Falcons were going to take Jones no matter what, too, at No. 4 overall, a trade from Nos. 12 to 3 would be a waste of future capital.
Plus, this move already guarantees San Francisco will have its choice between two of the top four signal-callers in this year’s class.
For a team looking to eventually move on from its current starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, that’s not a bad situation to be in. But it only matters if the 49ers end up making the best possible decision.
Going after Jones, isn’t it.
The Alabama quarterback would have made much more sense at No. 12, perhaps. Even a more modest trade-up, let’s say somewhere between pick Nos. 7 and 11, would have been much more reasonable and achievable if Jones was still on Shanahan’s mind.
At No. 3 overall, however, no. A would-be Jones selection at that point would ruin the trade.
All the Niners have to do is select someone else, perhaps Fields, Wilson or Lance, to make it worthwhile instead.