ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has called an audible, projecting quarterback Mac Jones to the 49ers instead of Justin Fields from Kiper’s previous mock draft.
Why? Brace yourself for a lofty comparison to Tom Brady.
“You can say super-super intelligent, super-super accurate, super competitive, then that’s all the things that allowed Tom Brady to be successful,” Kiper said on Thursday’s media conference call.
“That’s not saying he’s going to be Tom Brady successful,” Kiper said in couching his praise. “And that’s not saying he’s going to be Tom Brady; he’s the greatest of all time but who thought he was going to be anywhere close to that when he was a late sixth-round pick out of Michigan.
“I think Tom Brady really helped Mac Jones and he helped other quarterbacks along the way. You don’t need dual-threat quarterbacks to be effective.”
Let’s pause there. How effective has Kiper been in predicting the 49ers’ first-round moves since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over in 2017? Let’s look:
2017 (No. 2): Defensive end Myles Garrett (No. 2)
What happened: Garrett went No. 1 to the Browns, who Kiper had mocked quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The 49ers traded down from Nos. 2 to 3 and selected defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, who Kiper had to the 49ers in his third of four mock drafts.
2018 (No. 9): Cornerback Denzel Ward
What happened: Ward went No. 4 to the Browns, and the 49ers took offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, as at least one draft guru projected.
2019 (No. 2): Defensive end Nick Bosa
What happened: Bingo! Kiper (and the 49ers) nailed it. Bosa won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, while No. 1 pick Kyler Murray took top offensive honors for Arizona
2020 (Nos. 13, 31): Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
What happened: The 49ers passed on Jeudy and traded down to No. 14 for defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, then they traded up to take wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25; Winfield went No. 45 to Tampa Bay.
Speaking of the Bucs, while Brady headed for his seventh Super Bowl win last season — doing so after the 49ers’ rebuffed him last spring – Jones helped Alabama to the national championship.
Now the 49ers are debating Jones, Fields (Ohio State) and Trey Lance (North Dakota State) as top options for the No. 3 pick, presuming Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson go 1-2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.
Nobody has yet reported who the 49ers absolutely are taking. That may not come until after the fact April 29. Kiper expects Jones to sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo heading into this season.
Why do Kiper – and actual NFL decision makers —miss on quarterbacks?
“Quarterbacks are getting kicked to the curb very early now. It’s not like it used to be,” Kiper said. “I really can’t wrap my arms around the way they’re dealing with quarterbacks now, but that’s life in 2021.”
Life won’t go so great for the top five quarterbacks this year.
“Out of these five, there are probably going to be two disappointments,” Kiper said. “One is going to be a complete bust and one will be a disappointment. That’s what history tells us. Who are going to be it? I don’t have a crystal ball for that.
“When you have 17 starts and you’re coming from the I-AA level, there’s some risk there with (North Dakota State’s) Trey Lance. Mac Jones only has 17 starts, doesn’t have a tremendous amount of overall natural ability to make things happen with his legs, and if a play breaks down, he’s not going to do it. But the greatest of all-time didn’t have to do that in Tom Brady.”
“Justin Fields is going to be the fifth quarterback taken. Obviously the NFL feels he has more of the risk, or he wouldn’t be the fifth quarterback taken.”
Memo to Mel: Fields is not the fifth choice of the 49ers’ fan base, who’ve raged on social media at any mention of Jones.
“After Trevor, good luck trying to figure out the two quarterbacks who are going to be disappointments or busts. All four could be,” Kiper added. “Which ones are, I don’t have my crystal ball.”
Kiper accurately envisioned the cream of the 49ers’ 2017 draft crop, which included not only Thomas but Reuben Foster in the first round, neither of whom remain on the roster.
After that 2017 draft, Kiper said his favorite of the 49ers’ 10 picks was the fifth-round selection of future All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
“I really liked the George Kittle pick,” Kiper said in 2017. “He can be that H-back or move tight end. I thought he was a real good pick for them in the fifth round.”
Real good, indeed. Some may say Brady-esque, perhaps.
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Author: Cam Inman
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