After trading up into the top three, it’s clear the San Francisco 49ers control a 2021 NFL Draft.
For anyone still wondering what could happen on draft night, things have drastically changed over the past week. With the San Francisco 49ers moving up from No. 12 to No. 3 in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins, that’s an indication of two things.
First, Miami will be trusting that Tua Tagovailoa will improve in his second year under Brian Flores. Second, the 49ers are finally getting competitive to land their quarterback for the future.
However, what does the trade mean most of all? The NFL Draft will officially begin at pick No. 3. Depending on what happens when the 49ers are on the clock could drastically change the outcome of the picks to follow.
How should the 49ers play out the implications of their trade?
Sending three future first-round picks doesn’t indicate that San Francisco will be adding a tackle or wide receiver. Instead, their sites must be set on one quarterback who they believe will be there at the third pick.
Following a report that the Philadelphia Eagles were interested as well in trading up with Miami backfired, that also cemented who the New York Jets would be targeting. The Eagles were only willing to move into the top-three conversations should BYU’s Zach Wilson be on the board.
After moving down to No. 12 in a swap with Miami, it’s an indication that the Jets will be moving off Sam Darnold and trusting the cannon-sized arm of Wilson will be the future in the Big Apple.
New head coach Robert Saleh, GM Joe Douglas and offensive coordinator Mike LaFluer also all attended Wilson’s Pro Day, basically sealing that conversation.
What will the 49ers do at No. 3? Right now, multiple scouts believe they are targeting Alabama’s Mac Jones to be the guy. When looking at Kyle Shanahan’s former quarterbacks, Jones fits the bill of what has worked.
That doesn’t rule out the possibility of Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance being on the table. However, Shanahan elected to attend Jones’ second Pro Day in Tuscaloosa rather than head up to Columbus for a good look at Fields.
If Jones ends up being the pick, it’s possible — and highly likely — that it causes a trading frenzy among teams trying to trade up to land Fields and Lance. Carolina, Denver, and Washington all are looking for the long-term option under center which means Atlanta and Cincinnati could net a decent trade package to build (or, in Atlanta’s case rebuild) for the future.
The effect? Top-tier talent at tackle and receiver will fall down draft boards, making it even advantageous for a team like the Bengals or Lions to move down and acquire picks while still getting their top target.
The last time three quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks was back in 1999. That streak should end come April 29. The direction of San Francisco though could have all five top-end gunslingers off the board before pick No. 6.