Alabama’s Mac Jones was heavily linked to the San Francisco 49ers during the pre-draft process. Instead, they opted for a different standout signal-caller.
The 49ers on Thursday selected North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, not Jones, with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here are two quick thoughts on what that choice might mean for another QB-needy team, the New England Patriots:
— Jones was considered the fifth-best quarterback in this draft class until reports began connecting him to San Francisco. Now that the Niners passed on him, how far will he slide? Will he slip all the way to No. 15, where the Patriots are set to pick?
Though he lacks the top-end athleticism of Lance, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, Jones looks like the best fit for New England given his superb accuracy and excellent decision-making.
On a related note: Where will Jones go in relation to Fields? Former Patriots executive Michael Lombardi believes the Patriots are not targeting the former Ohio State star, contrary to other reports.
The Patriots also could trade up for either QB.
— One of the biggest selling points on Jones is his pro-readiness — the fact that he shouldn’t need much time to adjust to the NFL game before he’s ready to start. If the 49ers had selected him, the odds of them trading current starter Jimmy Garoppolo would have increased exponentially.
Lance, though, only started 17 collegiate games, never faced an FBS opponent and has played just one game in the last 15 months since most of his final season at NDSU was wiped out by COVID-19. Chances are he’ll need to sit for at least part of his rookie season before he’s prepared to take over Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Thus, it would be beneficial for San Francisco to keep Garoppolo as a short-term starter, which would eliminate him as an option for the Patriots. New England is the most obvious landing spot for the 29-year-old veteran if he is moved given his prior Patriots experience.
On ESPN’s NFL draft broadcast, Lance said he’s “excited to learn from” Garoppolo.