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49ers blockbuster trade shakes up 2021 draft

How about that news for a Friday afternoon surprise?

The San Francisco 49ers shocked the football world Friday with a trade with the Miami Dolphins for the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Moving up from their previous position at 12 overall, the move signals the changing of the guard at the quarterback position.

First of all, this move is to target one of the rookie quarterbacks expected to be available in the first round. General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan may not admit to it publicly, but that’s the motive behind this move.

Which rookie quarterback are they going to take? We’ll get into that in the coming weeks with more draft analysis to come, but names being floated are BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Depending on who you ask, the rankings may change. My initial rankings are Wilson, Fields, then Lance, in that order.

The cost of doing business

Let’s break down what it took for the 49ers to secure a Top-3 pick in this year’s draft:

  • 1st Round Pick in 2021 (12th overall)
  • 1st Round Pick in 2022 (TBD)
  • 1st Round Pick in 2023 (TBD)
  • 3rd Round Pick in 2022 (TBD)

Pretty expensive move, right? That’s the cost of doing business if you’re looking to trade up to grab your next franchise quarterback. If we take a look at the Jimmy Johnson NFL Draft trade chart, which many teams still use a version of to determine the value of their draft picks, it values the Dolphins’ third overall pick at 2,200 points.

The 49ers pick at 12 overall was valued at 1,200 points, a 1,000 point difference. Assuming the 49ers have a bounce-back season in 2021 and another good season in 2022, those first-round picks would carry late-first round value. Realistically, each of those first-round picks would have been worth anywhere in the neighborhood of 620 points each, which would net them an additional 1,200 points, give or take. That would just barely exceed the 2,200 point value of the third overall pick. An additional late third-round pick in 2022 would bring the total value to around 2,500 points. Again, this is just an estimate.

The $26 million elephant in the room

So what happens with current starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo? Obviously, the move to draft a rookie quarterback signals the (eventual) end of Garoppolo’s time with the 49ers, but how long will he remain on the roster?

I would advise you to take that quote with a grain of salt. Garoppolo will either be under center to begin the season while the rookie develops, or will soon be traded to another team. Either way, they’re going to remain loyal (on the surface) to Garoppolo no matter what. They need to continue to instill confidence in him as he continues to start games, or they need to boost his trade value. Those are the kind of quotes we should expect to hear from now until the 49ers officially move on from Garoppolo.

It’s hard to make a prediction on how the change at quarterback will happen. It depends on which player the 49ers draft with the third overall pick, and how NFL-ready that player is. Depending on who they draft, and how they evaluate him, the 49ers may give their rookie quarterback the keys to the car in Week 1, or they may have him sit and develop behind a veteran like Garoppolo or somebody else not on the roster. For now, the 49ers will hold on to Garoppolo as they determine what’s best moving forward with the draft just a month away.

Future ramifications

The first and obvious impact of this trade, is the change at quarterback. The less obvious impact, and what I believe to be extremely important to the structure of the team, is the money it frees up moving forward. Garoppolo is expensive, and with his hefty contract soon to be off the books, and replacing it with a cheap rookie contract, it gives the 49ers added financial flexibility in the future.

As the 49ers prepare to make a splash in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 29, there will be plenty more discussion regarding which quarterback they will take with the third overall pick. Stay tuned for more quarterback draft analysis.

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