The San Francisco 49ers have narrowed their potential selections with the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft to two star quarterbacks. Ohio State Buckeye Justin Fields is not one of them.
Ian Rapoport, of the NFL Network, reported late Sunday night that “several sources” within the team had made it known that Fields was no longer under serious consideration, leaving Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State University’s Trey Lance as the two remaining choices.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 26, 2021
“So, for the 49ers, what (they’ve) really done over the last couple of weeks and last couple of months is gather as much information as humanly possible on Mac Jones and on Trey Lance through every resource they can, from college coaches to private coaches to family members, everything,” Rapoport said on the NFL Network Monday morning.
“I don’t know that they’re still grinding tape or whatever. I think that part is probably done. But this is about getting all of the other information they can,” Rapoport continued. “I would also add, the 49ers are not going to make this public until No. 3, which means they are not going to tell either party that they are the pick. So, this mystery will probably last for at least another [three] days or so.”
Peter King echoed Rapoport’s reporting in his Football Morning in America column, reiterating that the battle was now exclusively between Jones and Lance.
49ers Factions Split on Mac Jones, Trey Lance
Though the 49ers have reportedly ruled Fields out, the decision-making process is far from settled.
NFL draft insider Todd McShay reported in a Draft Buzz column published to ESPN’s website that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is leaning toward Jones, while the majority of team personnel is pushing for Lance.
“I’m told that many in the 49ers’ personnel department have pushed for North Dakota State QB Trey Lance but that coach Kyle Shanahan wants to draft Alabama’s Mac Jones,” McShay said.
“One person I spoke to even heard that Shanahan might ‘acquiesce’ to the scouting department on the selection, but others have said that seems unlikely,” McShay continued. “At this time of year, there is a lot of seed planting with the rumor mill, and it could certainly be the case here.”
Jones, Lance Have Similar Amount of College Experience
Both Lance and Jones have one full season under their belts as collegiate starters, and each has one National Championship. The big difference: Jones’ championship came in Division I ball, while Lance’s came with the Bison in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
The one year under center for each quarterback was immaculate. Jones led the nation in passing yards with 4,500, throwing for 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions on his way to becoming a Heisman finalist. He also completed more than 77% of his passes and fits the bill of the traditional drop-back passer that has defined most eras of quarterback success in the NFL.
Lance missed nearly all of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but led NDSU to a title the year before on the strength of a nearly 67% pass completion rate over 287 attempts. He also threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions, as well as rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 scores.
Lance’s style of play, which includes the dynamic potential of a rushing threat and making plays through the air outside the pocket, puts his skill set more in line with the top QBs of the new generation in the NFL.
Fields’ style of play is similar to that of Lance. Fields had recently become the betting favorite to be selected by the 49ers with the third pick, and the reason he has seemingly fallen out of contention remains a mystery.
A report last week by Rapoport revealed that Fields is managing epilepsy, though the condition has never resulted in the Ohio State quarterback missing a collegiate game.