The first-round quarterbacks entering the NFL in 2021 will be joining vastly different situations and systems.
Kyle Shanahan has proven he can make any quarterback work and now has perhaps his toolsiest player ever in Trey Lance. With Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, the battle of football philosophies between Urban Meyer, Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer can commence. Mac Jones joins a situation where the current offense probably won’t look like the one he will end up running when he becomes the starter. Zach Wilson will need all the schematic help he can get in New York; same with Justin Fields in Chicago.
Each of these high-end rookie quarterbacks has shown enough ability to believe they'll succeed at the next level. But each player's landing spot will have an impact on what their performance looks like and how soon they'll excel.
The following is my ranking of the top landing spots for the rookie first-round quarterbacks based on scheme fits in their new homes.
This was an easy choice based on what we've seen Shanahan do with lesser quarterbacks. We are assuming that Lance, as the third-overall pick in the draft, has a higher ceiling than most of the QBs Shanahan has coached.
The “scheme fit” here is really a “scheme expansion.” I think the 49ers can keep doing most of what they’ve been doing in the dropback, play-action and run game areas but can and should add quarterback-designed runs.
The question is going to be how the quarterback runs are designed. Lance ran a lot of designed runs at North Dakota State with power blocking, which isn’t something we've seen from Shanahan even when he had Robert Griffin III. The 49ers have had a more diverse run game than most of the “wide zone” acolytes over the last few years. He compliments that scheme with power, counter and some trap concepts, but all of those were halfback runs, not quarterback runs. Shanahan might simply stick with zone read concepts similar to the RG3 offense.