It’s better to be safe than sorry, and the 49ers took that approach heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
Roughly a month before the start of the draft, San Francisco executed a blockbuster deal to move up from the 12th pick in the first round to the third. The significant move up the board was a clear indication the Niners planned to take one of the top five 2021 quarterback prospects with their first selection.
Of course, San Francisco wasn’t the only QB-needy team slated to pick in the top half of Round 1. The Patriots, who had just endured a rough 2020 season with Cam Newton under center, were set to pick at No. 15. And according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Niners feared Bill Belichick and Co. could make a power play for a signal-caller San Francisco had some interest in.
From Schefter’s report Sunday:
San Francisco wanted to position itself to select a quarterback for the future and believed there were multiple worthy candidates. But the 49ers also were concerned that the Patriots would leapfrog them in the draft and position themselves to select Jones before San Francisco could.
The 49ers considered the well-documented relationship between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, and knew that New England was doing legwork on the quarterback prospects in the draft. The Niners also believed at the time that Jones was the prospect the Patriots identified as their potential quarterback of the future.
This belief contributed to the Niners completing the late-March trade that sent three first-round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up to the No. 3 spot, which gave them the ability to draft Jones or any other quarterback they deemed worthy in that slot.
San Francisco ultimately did not draft Jones, instead opting for Trey Lance. The North Dakota State product will be on the sideline backing up Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 1 when the 49ers visit the Detroit Lions.
Jones, meanwhile, will make his NFL regular-season debut against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.