Why give up on Jimmy Garoppolo if you are going to take a guy with the same tools, talents, and build as Garoppolo? Not only that, why would the San Francisco 49ers trade two first rounders and swap another (and more!) to take a clone of the quarterback they are looking to replace in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Is Garoppolo a perfect comparison to Jones? No, but the ceiling of Jones, based on physical tools, is somewhere between that of Garppolo and Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings. This type of ceiling is not worthy of a first round pick, let alone trading your future for. This is why, despite Adam Schefter’s quote speculating the Niners would take Jones, you should not believe they are.
Why Jones to the 49ers continues to lack intelligence
Look at the direction the NFL has taken over the past three years.
Quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert have been the dominant breed of gunslingers in the NFL. While Jackson does not have the arm talent of these other dudes listed, they all have the ability to extend outside of the pocket, create outside of structure, and make plays down the field. This has not proven to be a trait of Jones.
Instead, Jones has to have the protection around him near perfect, he has to operate off of timing routes (RPOs, screen passes, quick hitters), and was not given a lot of luxury to improvise under Steve Sarkisian in the Crimson Tide offense a year ago. It also helped he was throwing to wide-open targets all year.
As Jones was forced to push the ball down the field and towards the numbers, where most of the big money throws come at the next level, Jones’ efficiency took a significant hit at Alabama in 2020. This made him the fifth-most accurate passer with every one of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson more accurate than him in 2020 (no completion percentage is not a good argument for accuracy).
We have already mentioned Jones’ lack of mobility and creativity outside of the pocket, but now his accuracy outside the numbers and deep down the field. Why do we think Jones struggles deep down the field and outside the numbers? It is because his arm talent is just on par with that of Garoppolo as well.
Stop comparing Jones to Tom Brady
Comparing a quarterback who is getting drafted in 2021 to one that was drafted over two decades before is a horrible process that does not account for the continued development and offensive ingenuity that has taken over the game. Sure, Brady also just won a Super Bowl at the age of 43 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well, but at his age, Brady still has a stronger arm than Jones does today.
Brady is also the greatest quarterback to ever strap on a helmet, so comparing a one-year wonder in an offense that asked for very little creativity out of him in Jones to him is as outlandish as it gets. Also, no. Head coach Kyle Shanahan does not have a certain type of quarterback that he trends towards.
Shanahan does not prefer immobile, pocket passers under center
When has Shanahan ever had his choice of quarterback to base the assumption that he prefers pocket passers off of? There has only been one season in which Shanahan (when his dad was the head coach in Washington) has had the chance to have a massive hand in his quarterback, his quarterback ended up being Robert Griffin III.
In case you missed it, Griffin ran away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year that year before his career was ripped away by two ACL injuries. Other than that, he has been force-fed the likes of Brian Hoyer when with the Cleveland Browns, Matt Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons (who won an MVP with Shanahan!), and the plethora of quarterbacks in San Francisco.
We not only know that Shanahan hoped Josh Allen fell into their laps in 2018, but that Allen has forced him to re-think his process of evaluating quarterbacks:
“You start to see you can win football games with any type of quarterback as long as they are good enough and you can be good enough in hundreds of different ways. So, I evaluate quarterbacks in terms of trying to find people who can have a chance to be one of those elite-type guys and there’s lots of different ways to do it… I don’t think you have one certain thing you’re looking for. You’re just trying to find a guy who is better than about 98-percent of the people on this planet or in this country and when you find that, you get him and you adjust to him” (Shanahan via Media Transcripts)
What makes people think that Jones is a quarterback who can be better than 98 percent of players in the league? There are two quarterbacks who will be on the board (more than likely) for the 49ers who have elite physical tools, who have shown immense pocket presence, and some of the most beautiful deep balls we have seen.
The choice is clear for the 49ers
There is no reason Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields should not be the second overall pick this upcoming draft, let alone fall past three. Not only is he the most accurate passer in this year’s draft class, sitting at an adjusted on-target percentage of over 83 percent, but his tools are off the charts as well.
Fields has displayed the toughness to stick in the pocket and take massive hits while still delivering strikes. He can make plays outside of the pocket, layer throws overtop of defenders, and blow by defenders in the open field as well. While Trey Lance is also an option that would make sense, Fields is the ideal combination of physical gifts, pocket presence, and elite accuracy that would give Shanahan the type of quarterback he is looking for.
Taking Mac Jones with the third overall pick is a fireable offense and a choice that Shanahan is far too smart to make. Not only has Fields been training with Shanahan since he was 17, but he fits the mold of the quarterback the head coach in the Bay Area wants. Fields will be a perennial All-Pro if he lands with the Niners.