With the 49ers moving up to the third overall selection in April’s NFL Draft, Niner Noise looks at how this could end up being a bargain for the team.
Sure, on the surface, the “49ers trade three first rounders and a third to Miami for the third pick in the draft” sounds like a massive haul for the Dolphins and a lot for the Niners to give up to move up nine spots in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
And, perhaps to some, it is.
But a deeper look at the situation tells a different story.
For starters, it is just two first-round picks (in 2022 and 2023) San Francisco is actually trading away, along with the third-round compensatory pick in 2022 they received when former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh accepted the head coaching position with the New York Jets.
In essence, the teams swapped first-round picks this year. And the two first-round picks the 49ers gave up may likely be at the end of the first round the next two years if the team can stay healthy and pick up where it left off in 2019.
And although they gave up that third-round pick, the Niners still have their original third-round pick in 2022 at their disposal.
Yet that may not actually be where the real bargain lies.
49ers banking on the 2021 NFL Draft quarterbacking class
You see, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are more than likely looking at next year’s draft as well, understanding the stable of 2022 quarterbacks potentially available in next year’s draft pale in comparison to this year’s crop, headed by Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, NDSU’s Trey Lance, and Alabama’s Mac Jones.
While most pre-draft mocks have Lawrence and Wilson off the board when the 49ers make their pick at No. 3, Lance, Fields, and Jones are all viewed as solid first-round quarterback prospects.
Next season, if the Niners are selecting in the 20s or later, a trade-up to find a potential franchise quarterback may cost them quite a bit more than what they gave up to move up in this year’s draft.
Simply put, a trade from the 20s to a top-five selection would be an exorbitant cost compared to moving up from No. 12 overall this year.
The 49ers are expected by many to return to their high-end form of 2019, so they may not hold a draft pick this high again for quite a while.
With the uncertainty of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s health and his shaky play at times, this move now provides the team the ability to go get a “quarterback of the future” should Garoppolo not play well or get injured once again this season, assuming he indeed remains part of San Francisco’s plans for 2021. It also could push Garoppolo to perform at a higher level, because up until now, he hasn’t had anyone on the roster push him for the starting gig.
And while some fans will still lament it was a lot to give up, ask Kansas City Chiefs fans if they can remember the exact draft picks their team gave up to move up and select quarterback Patrick Mahomes back in 2017.
I would venture to guess the vast majority of them not only couldn’t remember, but the don’t care.
In the NFL, many teams pay big money for free agents and hope for immediate results and success. But ultimately, to be a perennial contender in the NFL, you must make sacrifices, take a few chances, and play a game of chess in order to maintain a certain level of sustained success.
Perhaps the success the 49ers had in retaining many of their most important free agents this offseason, combined with the likelihood next year’s crop of college quarterbacks is viewed as shallow, allows San Francisco the freedom to make a move like this now.
While there are certainly no guarantees in the NFL with draft picks, Lynch and Shanahan are taking a calculated risk they will secure a franchise quarterback in April’s draft.
Many fans said that Lynch and Co. were too conservative in their approach to free agency, building, and retooling the roster.
But that all changed quickly this past Friday.
Make no bones about it, this trade and subsequent draft pick will determine the fate of not only the 49ers’ long-term success, but the futures of both Shanahan and Lynch in the organization.