It might sound crazy, but there is a pathway that Alabama football star Mac Jones ends up going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft.
With the San Francisco 49ers trading up from No. 12 to No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft with the Miami Dolphins, there is a chance head coach Kyle Shanahan has his eyes on Alabama football standout Mac Jones.
Even though Jones was the best quarterback in college football last year, as he took home the Davey O’Brien in the Alabama Crimson Tide’s national championship-winning season, he was viewed as the fifth-best quarterback prospect in his draft class. However, he may be more than just the fifth of five first-round quarterbacks to be coming off the board this spring. Here is how.
NBC Sports’ Chris Simms, who is close with Shanahan from their playing days at Texas, tweeted out that you do not trade up from No. 12 to No. 3 to draft a project quarterback. He argues that the most pro-ready quarterback who could be taken with that selection is Jones. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky thinks San Francisco will either take Jones or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance at No. 3.
Mac Jones could be Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers version of Matt Ryan
While Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields were top-five locks before the 2020 college football season even began, no quarterback did more for his draft stock than Jones. At the start of the year, we weren’t even sure he would beat out five-star freshman Bryce Young in Tuscaloosa. Now, he is a lock to go in the first round, possibly as high as No. 3 to San Francisco.
So even if he surpasses Lance as the No. 4 quarterback prospect in this draft process, he still has to leapfrog either Fields of BYU’s Zach Wilson to go top-three to the 49ers. Though Wilson says he likes what the Jets are doing, Gang Green could go with the best offensive tackle prospect in a generation in Oregon’s Penei Sewell at No. 2. Could Jones potentially leapfrog Fields and Wilson?
For anybody who watched college football last season, what Jones did in Steve Sarkisian’s offense was sensational. He nearly became the first quarterback in Alabama history to win the Heisman Trophy. Though he took home the Davey O’Brien, the Heisman went to his top receiving target DeVonta Smith. While you could argue Jones was propped by the talent around him, hear me out.
This is a former three-star quarterback who was never expected to see meaningful snaps at Alabama. He arrived with Tua Tagovailoa in 2017 on a program that already head Jalen Hurts. Once Tagovailoa got hurt and Jones played the final month of the 2019 season as the starter, Young was hand-picked to be the heir apparent with Jones largely being seen as only the Alabama stopgap.
In a year’s time, he earned the trust so much from his receivers that Smith and Jaylen Waddle said he was the better quarterback over Tagovailoa, who went No. 5 overall to the Dolphins in 2020. Jones throws a great deep ball and is incredibly accurate. His NFL prototype is the most obvious of any player in this draft. He is cut from the same cloth as Jared Goff and Matt Ryan.
Shanahan got the 49ers’ head-coaching gig based in part of his two-year working relationship with Ryan on Dan Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons staff. A Hall-of-Fame quarterback getting a top-tier play-caller resulted in one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. While Jones may only be a Goff or a Teddy Bridgewater with this NFL comp, it could be worth the gamble for the 49ers here.
Should the San Francisco 49ers take Mac Jones at No. 3 overall?
So should Jones go as high as No. 3? No, the 49ers should trade back to No. 7, No. 8 or No. 9 with the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers or the Denver Broncos respectively to get their guy. You do that, you pick up more assets to account for all the ones you gave up to the Dolphins for No. 3. So if Detroit, Carolina or Denver want someone like Fields, Lance or Wilson at No. 3, well, here you go.
Jones to the 49ers at No. 3 sounds crazy, but we have seen crazier things happen in the NFL Draft.