On March 26th, 2021, the San Francisco 49ers shocked the football world when they traded their #12 pick in the 2021 draft, a first and third-round pick in 2022, and a first round pick in 2023 for the #3 pick in this year’s draft. Since the moment that deal was announced, one thing was obvious: Jimmy Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco was coming to an end sooner rather than later. Seeing how deep the 2021 draft class is at the Quarterback position, as well as Garoppolo’s frequent injury issues, it made perfect sense for Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch to plan ahead and look to select their Quarterback of the future. Now, the question is who do they take?
Ever since ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the 49ers would be selecting Mac Jones with the third pick, it was just about confirmed that Jones was a lock at three. Seeing the relationship Schefter has with the 49ers front office, not to mention that he is almost never wrong, there was no reason for even the most intelligent sports minds to disagree. Why not Mac Jones, though? He is very intelligent, a 2020 Heisman Trophy finalist, and a 2020 National Championship winning Quarterback. He has great mechanics, a quick release, and very good accuracy throwing the deep ball. Sounds like the guy you would want, right? Sounds like Kyle Shanahan has his next Matt Ryan 2.0, won’t you say?
As good as Mac Jones is (and was in his senior season at Alabama), he is not the answer here, to be honest. The Mac Jones’s of the world are a thing of the NFL’s past: your prototypical big armed, intelligent Quarterback with a quick release but limited mobility. Granted Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. won the 2020 Super Bowl, and we all know he isn’t going to beat many in a race but he can outsmart even the best NFL defenses. That being said, Brady is also a God amongst men when it comes to the Quarterback position. The Quarterback is evolving, with Defensive Ends now running 4.4-4.5 40-yard dash times when rushing them. The athletic, mobile Quarterback is on the rise and is taking over the game of football. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert. These are the Quarterbacks of today, and they will also be the pro-type Quarterbacks of the future.
That is why it is clear to me that the 49ers brass must select Justin Fields. Yes, Fields does have concerns, but when has he not shown up in big games? I would give Mac Jones the nod as far as how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands, compared to Fields. Some would even say that Jones has better accuracy as well, and it is hard to deny that when you look at his film. That being said, have you seen how many times Jones threw to his already open receivers? He rarely had to put the ball in tight spaces, due to the space created by his exceptional receiving core. While we are on that topic, his two main targets are two of the top three receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft, as well all of college football in 2020.
Fields also played with studs at receiver, but the comparison between him and Jones really isn’t close. What Fields does excel at, which Mac Jones lacks, is his mobility and the ability to create big plays on the fly, as well as extending plays with his feet. There have been sports minds that have questioned Justin Fields’ work ethic and football intelligence. This is a consistent stigma put on Black Quarterbacks… It doesn’t matter if he is drafted #1 overall like Michael Vick or a former CFL Quarterback like Hall of Famer Warren Moon. Both had a major impact on the Quarterback position, and were pioneers for black athletes at that position.
Justin Fields learned two different offensive systems in his first two years playing at the collegiate level (Georgia, Ohio State), not to mention that he carried his team to the 2019 playoffs. The Buckeyes may have fallen to Clemson in the semi-finals, but Fields had a very solid season overall. He showed that he can be a leader by starting a petition (that got over 250,000 signatures) to force the Big Ten Conference to let the 2020 football season go on and give his Buckeyes a chance to win a National Championship. He did not have the best year statistically, but he did lead his team to the National Championship game. He also had a gutsy and dominant performance against Clemson in the semi-final, finishing the game with 6 TDs and a cracked rib. That same cracked rib did not stop him from playing in the National Championship game two weeks later, however. He has toughness and a competitive nature that Mac Jones has not yet proven that he has.
Fields has done everything to prove that he has a lot of potential to be a very good Quarterback at the next level. Oh, excuse me for not mentioning that the kid runs a 4.4s 40-yard dash! He can make defenders miss in space, has a huge arm and decent touch on his passes. With a Head Coach like Kyle Shanahan to develop and model him, I think San Francisco would be back in the Super Bowl sooner than later. Again, Jones is a thing of the past and, to be honest, I think he is the style of Quarterback that certain sports minds are just trying to keep alive (the immobile white Quarterback). There, I said it! I think this even more so especially when they question Fields’ intelligence and “work ethic” but, at the same time, say that Mac Jones is “so intelligent” and is like a young Tom Brady (which I think is absurd to say). The mobile, athletic Quarterback is taking over the NFL by storm, and this is how the Quarterbacks of the future will look like. If I were in the 49ers front office, I would jump on this train and ride it to a Lombardi Trophy. One thing is for sure: Jimmy G is on his way out, and new blood is coming in, but who will be Shanahan’s guy come April 29th?