The 49ers are clearly going to take a quarterback with the third overall pick, but who does head coach Kyle Shanahan want?
With last Friday’s trade up from No. 12 to No. 3 in the first round of next month’s draft, the San Francisco 49ers made it clear they’ll take a quarterback to eventually (if not immediately) replace Jimmy Garoppolo. On Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged how they don’t have to hid their plan.
On Tuesday, Alabama and Ohio State will have their Pro Days. That means two of the three quarterbacks the 49ers surely have their eye on, Mac Jones and Justin Fields, will have their showcase for teams. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be in Tuscaloosa to see Jones, while assistant GM Adam Peters will be in Columbus to see Fields.
The buzz and the allocation of people on dueling Pro Days seems to say the 49ers want Jones. But what does Shanahan’s past actually say about who he wants?
What Kyle Shanahan’s history says about 49ers’ plan at No. 3
Shanahan was the offensive coordinator under his father Mike in Washington from 2010-2013. The quarterbacks in 2010 and ’11 (Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck) don’t tell much. But in ’12, when Washington courted and drafted Robert Griffin III, is far more telling. Griffin won Offensive Rookie of the Year, then a knee injury in a playoff game quickly derailed his career.
Washington took Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of that 2012 draft. While it’s easy to tie him to Shanahan as an ideal fit, with Shanahan’s words as great evidence, the reality is Cousins made four starts in two years with Shanahan as the offensive coordinator in Washington.
Shanahan spent one season as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator in 2014. Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw started games, highlighted by Manziel’s shortcomings and a good stretch from Hoyer early in the season.
Moving to the Atlanta Falcons for two seasons (2015-16), Shanahan had Matt Ryan as his quarterback. After some struggles that first year, Ryan had an MVP season in ’16 as the Falcons reached the Super Bowl.
In Shanahan’s first season as 49ers head coach, the team acquired Garoppolo at the trade deadline. Garoppolo stands as the only quarterback Shanahan has hand-picked on his own up to this point, and did not inherit (Ryan) or have thrust on him (Manziel). And he has missed substantial time in two of three full seasons.
If Shanahan wants someone like Cousins or Ryan, then Mac Jones is they guy they’ve moved up to No. 3 for. If he wants someone with more athleticism and mobility, like peak RGIII, Justin Fields fits that mold. North Dakota State’s Trey Lance is also mobile, but he’d ideally sit on the bench for a year behind an experienced starter.
Shanahan’s mixed history leaves some mystery about the 49ers’ plan for the third overall pick. The betting money has landed on the pick being Jones very quickly, but Fields shouldn’t be ruled out just yet.