The 49ers better be right about this. Friday’s draft deal-making was a real roll the dice moment for the franchise. One way or another we’re going to be talking about this push-in-all-the-chips moment for years to come.
As you know, the Niners have arranged a deal in which they traded three – count them three – first round draft choices (and a third rounder) for the third choice in this year’s draft. It is clearly a move to choose a quarterback. Nobody pays that much to draft a tackle.
Several points should be made:
First, this is a lot to pay for a rookie quarterback. This is a “generational talent” kind of price, what you pay for the sort of unicorn who appears and is so dazzling that you’d offer almost anything to acquire him.
Not sure that is what we have here.
The draft stud is Trevor Lawrence. And you can forget him. He’s going to be the #1 choice in the draft by Jacksonville. But if you could trade three first rounders to get him, the price the 49ers paid would be understandable.
Instead, we are left with the second (Jets) and third picks (49ers) to sort out the four remaining candidates, Zach Wilson (BYU), Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trey Lance (North Dakota State) and Mac Jones (Alabama).
The odd thing is that Wilson is said to have a slight edge on the rest of that group, and the Jets and new coach Robert Saleh, are said to be very interested in him. So if the 49ers wanted Wilson wouldn’t they have worked out something with the Jets? Couldn’t they get the #2 choice? Maybe just a swap of spots with New York? Do they know who Saleh is going to draft? Or are they OK with missing on Wilson and choosing among the others?
Because one thing is certain. This just put a ton of pressure on a rookie quarterback. For the rest of his career, the words “whom the 49ers traded three first round draft picks to choose,” are going to be in his bio.
It’s an interesting group. Wilson is slight but is said to have elite arm talent. He’s shifty and very modern-quarterback-y. Fields is a big guy, over 220 pounds, who has had some ups and downs at The Ohio State, but mostly ups. Lance checks all the boxes, but who did he play at North Dakota State? Mac Jones was successful at Alabama, but who wouldn’t be with that roster?
None of which screams “can’t miss prospect.”
Whoever it is had better be ready for sky-high expectations and a baptism under fire.
Second, if you wanted to undermine Jimmy Garoppolo’s confidence, congratulations. After an off-season filled with constant chatter about his future, and a grudging “Uh, sure, he’s our quarterback,” from Shanahan and Lynch, the team mortgages the farm for a new, young guy.
Having paid this price, they are going to want to prove that they were right. And that means getting the kid into games and having success as soon as possible. And Jimmy? Best wishes.
Again, this better work out. Because you have a Super Bowl quarterback in uniform and you’re throwing him under the blocking sled.
Third, this sets the course for the franchise in the future. It is always possible that they can regain those first round choices, but for now #1 is gone for three years in a row. First rounders are the coin of the realm. In the modern game, drafting usefully in the early rounds is the way to stock a roster. That’s where you get helpful, dependable starters who don’t take a big bite out of the payroll for at least a few years.
Still, you can’t say the Shanahan/Lynch brain trust is timid. They went all-in on this, aware of the pressure it will put on the person they draft, on Garoppolo and the current roster. And finally, this will attempt to answer the charge that these 49ers are just a one-shot flash-in-the-Super-Bowl team. They want to say this is a consistent, winning franchise.
This is a move they hope will make that happen.
They better be right.