The San Francisco 49ers made the biggest move of the 2021 NFL Draft thus far, moving up nine spots from No. 12 to No. 3 -- putting the organization in the perfect spot to land a franchise quarterback. Teams trade significant draft capital for a reason, as the 49ers parted ways with the No. 12 pick, a 2022 and a 2023 first-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick to select their quarterback for the next decade.
Who the 49ers select at No. 3 overall is up in the air, depending on which quarterback is available at No. 3. This pick will determine the 49ers' future -- and their Super Bowl championship window for the next several years. San Francisco has a roster capable of competing for a championship now, but do the 49ers have the quarterback that can get them there? This is why San Francisco gave up two future first-round picks to move up in this draft and land a quarterback -- a move that will define general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan's tenure with the franchise.
The blueprint for the 49ers to have a perfect draft isn't hard now that the dirty work is complete. Draft the right quarterback and compete for Super Bowls for years to come.
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Draft Justin Fields
The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and there's a very good chance the New York Jets are taking Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. Once the Jets select Wilson, the 49ers should run to the podium and select Justin Fields. This shouldn't even be a conversation.
Fields is the ideal quarterback for Shanahan's zone-read scheme. He can make the throws on the run and thrives on the intermediate passes. Not only does Fields have a strong arm, but his timing is excellent for a player his age. Fields does need work seeing the field, but he can get out of trouble with his running ability -- which he doesn't use nearly enough. He can instantly start Week 1 in the 49ers offense, a system that focuses on running the ball. Fields can get comfortable as a game manager before developing into the game changer he has the potential to be.
Get the best quarterback on the board and win football games for the next decade. That's what the 49ers are drafting in Justin Fields.
Trade Jimmy Garoppolo
Now that the 49ers have selected Fields, he's good enough to start Week 1 for a roster that's bound to compete for the NFC West title and make the playoffs for the second time in three years. There's no reason for Jimmy Garoppolo -- the team's starting quarterback for the past four years -- to compete for this job nor be on this roster past Day 1 of the draft.
There are going to be teams that will be unable to select a franchise quarterback in this draft (the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are two that come to mind). Some team is going to strike out on landing that quarterback, which is where the trade market for Garoppolo really heats up.
In his 31 starts for the 49ers, Garoppolo has completed 67.5% of his passes, throwing for 7,352 yards with 46 touchdowns to 26 interceptions (98.1 passer rating). Of quarterbacks that have thrown 750-plus pass attempts over the past four years, Garoppolo is fourth in completion percentage and ninth in passer rating. He's second in yards per attempt (8.33) behind only Patrick Mahomes.
Garoppolo's resume with the 49ers is good enough to land a second-round pick for a team that needs a starting quarterback. The 49ers should be able to recoup some draft capital.
Restock at cornerback
The 49ers have the No. 43 pick in the draft, a selection they should use to land a cornerback. San Francisco has Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson as the starting cornerbacks on the depth chart, but this is a position that needs reinforcements. Verrett should have a starting job locked up for 2021 so this draft pick should compete with Johnson for the starting job (Richard Sherman isn't expected back).
Who should the 49ers target in the middle of the second round? Perhaps there's a chance Asante Samuel Jr. could fall to No. 43 -- as he would be the ideal selection for San Francisco. The 49ers could also package one of their late-round picks (they have three fifth-round picks) to move up a couple spots and land Samuel. Georgia's Eric Stokes is another cornerback that can compete for a starting job, as he possesses the speed and ball-hawking skills to be a difference maker in the secondary. The 49ers shouldn't go wrong with either Samuel or Stokes.
San Francisco could also use more depth at cornerback, adding talent in the later rounds. Oklahoma's Tre Brown could help this secondary out as a nickel corner or Michigan State's Shakur Brown is a player that can play inside and outside -- worth taking a flyer on.
Here are the prospects CBS NFL Draft writer Josh Edwards has the 49ers taking in his mock draft:
|Round (overall pick)||Prospect (position)||College|
Mac Jones (QB)
Elijah Molden (CB)
Milton Williams (DT)
Andre Cisco (S)
Chuba Hubbard (RB)
Frank Darby (WR)
Adetokunbo Ogundeji (EDGE)
Kayode Awosika (OG)
Bryce Thompson (CB)