49ers conspiracy theory: Niners know who Jets want at No. 2

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

No basis for this whatsoever, but what if the 49ers are fully aware which player the Jets want at No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft? That would help.

Perhaps this is nothing more than throwing some San Francisco 49ers speculation against the wall and wondering whether or not it’ll stick.

But in the wake of the Niners’ blockbuster move last week, which saw general manager John Lynch trade up with the Miami Dolphins to land the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the weeks leading up to Round 1 are going to be rife with rumor and speculative analysis anyway.

So, why not propose another theory to chew on?

Here’s the theory: San Francisco already knew which player head coach Robert Saleh and the New York Jets are fully in on with the No. 2 overall pick.

How? Well, Saleh told the 49ers.

OK, there’s no basis for this. There’s no insider report or rumor saying some secret phone call or text between Saleh and his former employer took place. But like all conspiracy theories, one can’t fully rule out the possibility something like this actually happened.

Saleh owes a lot to the Niners, especially head coach Kyle Shanahan for fully sticking by him when the former defensive coordinator was under fire for a lackluster defense back in 2017 and 2018. Eventually, Saleh matured and adjusted, turning in back-to-back years where San Francisco’s defense was, well… awfully good. Those efforts ultimately landed Saleh his current gig as Gang Green’s head coach.

And while teams almost never wholly give away their true NFL Draft intentions, there would be zero harm in New York privately informing the 49ers which player it was planning on grabbing with the second overall pick this April. How could there be? The Niners’ own plans with the third overall pick have no implication whatsoever on what Saleh and the Jets want to do one pick earlier.

Yet San Francisco would benefit immensely from knowing which player New York wants at No. 2 overall.

Widespread speculation leads us to believe, after the Jacksonville Jaguars grab Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick, the Jets will immediately select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. And another ESPN report, cited by the New York Post, stated the 49ers are already privy on that intention from New York:

"ESPN reported the 49ers and Jets did not engage in any trade talks, but that may be because San Francisco already knew the Jets are set on drafting Wilson.The 49ers and Jets also have close ties through their coaching staffs, with Saleh and [Mike] LaFleur coming from San Francisco. The likelihood is the 49ers know what the Jets are thinking at No. 2 and made the trade knowing what quarterbacks will be available at No. 3."

And the Jets may have already tipped their hand anyway, at least according to reports the Philadelphia Eagles were eyeing the No. 3 overall pick but would have only traded up if Wilson was going to be available.

Again, the theory here is Shanahan and the Niners front office merely confirmed under confidentiality that Wilson was New York’s target.

That knowledge, even if any discussion between the Jets and San Francisco never actually happened, would be enough to give Shanahan and Lynch full comfort in trading up to the No. 3 overall spot, knowing fully well they’d have no obstacle in drafting one of the other top quarterbacks in this year’s class, most likely Ohio State’s Justin Fields or perhaps even North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

Of course, just as big a part of the conspiracy, the 49ers would have to frame the trade-up by saying they were comfortable with any of the big-three quarterbacks — Wilson, Fields or Lance — potentially available with their newly acquired pick.

In secret, however, a conspiracy would state the Niners already know the answer. Perhaps they’ve already quietly confirmed it.

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