NFL News & Analysis

49ers reportedly moved up to No. 3 in fear of Patriots trading up for Mac Jones

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Mac Jones (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the New England Patriots as the number 15 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It seems the San Francisco 49ers really hadn’t decided which quarterback they were going to select when they traded up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft in March.

The 49ers moved up out of fear that the New England Patriots would trade up from No. 15 to No. 3 overall to select Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The 49ers wound up selecting North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15 overall. The Chicago Bears traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 overall to take Ohio State QB Justin Fields.

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San Francisco wanted its choice of quarterbacks after the Jacksonville Jaguars took Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and the New York Jets drafted BYU’s Zach Wilson, and they didn’t want the Patriots leapfrogging them and take their guy. So, they traded two future first-round picks to move up from No. 12 to No. 3 overall but ultimately passed on Jones, and time will tell if that was the right decision.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has all but said that veteran Jimmy Garoppolo will begin the 2021 season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback while Lance could enter the field in certain packages.

The 49ers were heavily linked to Jones before the 2021 NFL Draft, and NBC Sports’ Peter King theorized in May that it was a smokescreen deployed to drum up more interest in Garoppolo, who was being shopped in trades at the time. The Patriots were linked to Garoppolo at the time and ultimately wound up taking Jones. But if San Francisco was trying to get New England to bite on a trade up to No. 3 overall or for Garoppolo, then they ultimately failed. The Patriots called their bluff, hung back and took their future starter at their original draft slot.

First-round rookie quarterbacks | 2021 preseason
Player PFF grade Accurate pass % Big-time throw %
Trevor Lawrence 78.3 (10th) 58.5% (22nd) 4.5% (t-22nd)
Zach Wilson 85.7 (N/A) 64.7% (N/A) 9.1% (N/A)
Trey Lance 56.7 (46th) 47.4% (48th) 4.5% (t-22nd)
Justin Fields 67.6 (20th) 38.3% (59th) 5.7% (t-13th)
Mac Jones 92.2 (2nd) 70.8% (3rd) 6.9% (7th)

Jones beat out Cam Newton for the Patriots’ starting quarterback job. He’s one of three rookie quarterbacks, along with Lawrence and Wilson, who will start Week 1.

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