NFL Draft: Why is there so much 49ers buzz around Mac Jones?

Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Many NFL Draft analysts and insiders feel the 49ers could take Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 3 overall despite there being better talent available. Why?

The San Francisco 49ers fanbase is going to be awfully upset if their team elects to select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But San Francisco’s choice isn’t up to the fanbase.

With the Niners’ original pick at No. 12 overall, Jones could have made a lot more sense. He’s certainly in top-five quarterback discussion behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

But the gap between those four and Jones is awfully large. And it’s troubling to think San Francisco gave up two additional first-round picks, plus a 2022 third rounder, to move up solely for Jones when at least two of those aforementioned quarterbacks will be available.

Despite this, there’s been no shortage of expert analysis and speculation that Jones will be head coach Kyle Shanahan’s pick.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco told KNBR 680 it “would not surprise me at all” if the 49ers grabbed Jones at No. 3. Then ESPN’s Adam Schefter told the DiPietro, Canty & Rothenberg Show (h/t Bleacher Report) he believed “it’ll be Mac Jones.”

Then The Draft Scout’s Matt Miller riled up the Niners fanbase with the following tweet:

Why all this smoke surrounding Jones and San Francisco? Especially when there are clearly other quarterbacks with far more upside?

49ers don’t need to create a smokescreen but might be doing so anyway

Barring something crazy, the Jacksonville Jaguars are selecting Lawrence at No. 1 overall. They have no reason to leak rumors or speculation because they’re in a position to land a franchise quarterback for the first time since, well, the franchise was founded.

The No. 2-drafting New York Jets also don’t have to create much more smoke either, since they’re almost entirely pegged to select Wilson. Again, no need to create a smokescreen after telegraphing their intentions by trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers already this offseason.

And after moving up to No. 3 overall, the 49ers have made their intentions clear, too. It’ll be a quarterback. That’s a no-brainer.

There isn’t exactly much to gain by the Niners “leaking” rumors, if that’s actually the case. Even if it is, the apparent smokescreen doesn’t make a lot of sense.

If there is potentially a reason behind the would-be smokescreen, it might merely be an attempt by San Francisco’s front office to scramble the remaining 29 teams’ first-round selections after No. 3 overall. If the 49ers made it awfully clear someone like Fields or even Lance was the pick, the rest of the league would have enjoyed nearly a full month to prepare for the rest of the first round.

Again, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Especially if other league front offices aren’t buying the idea the Niners are sold on Jones. But San Francisco isn’t in a spot where it needs to announce its true intention anyway.

Maybe that’s the reason why.

49ers have kept their plans close to the vest under John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan

Remember how many leaks the team suffered back during the tenure of former general manager Trent Baalke?

Almost all of that has gone away now.

Case in point, the 49ers’ 2020 trade of Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts was a tight-kept secret until the deal went down. Left tackle Joe Staley’s retirement the same year was also closely guarded, allowing the Niners to spend only two mid-round picks to trade for perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams from the Washington Football Team.

As our old friend, Rob Lowder, pointed out:

Pretty much.

Trading up to No. 3 is a massive gamble. And that gamble has to be rewarded with what should be the best possible investment. Jones, for whatever his talents and fit may be, wouldn’t be worth the investment.

Sometimes, the clearest explanation is the right one. It’s also something NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tried clearing up on The Rich Eisen Show when he said, “I also know that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have not told people within their organization. There’s only a couple people that actually, really know, and they’re not saying.”

That doesn’t totally explain why San Francisco has so much speculation leading to Jones, though. And it’s possible league insiders are merely speculating themselves, seeing Jones as a more natural fit for Shanahan’s offense.

Maybe that’s the reason why. Especially considering the 49ers’ recent track record of not leaking information to the outside world.

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