The San Francisco 49ers are such a fascinating piece of this 2021 NFL Draft class. Since Kyle Shanahan’s arrival, the team has won 6, 4, 13, and 6 games. Yet with minimal tangible success, the view of Shanahan suggests he’s an elite coach. From a schematic standpoint, that is tough to debate. His run scheme, along with the likes of Sean McVay, has revolutionized the run game and embarrassed NFL defenses in the past few seasons. With this 2021 7-Round 49ers Mock Draft, it’s important to get the right quarterback and hopefully find a starting cornerback. After that, it’s all about finding diamonds in the rough.
And I’d be remiss not to mention that, in 2017, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo started in just six games (5-0 in those starts). In 2018, he only played in three games due to injury. Then, in 2020, he only played in six once again. So don’t worry, San Francisco, you do actually have a good head coach. It isn’t easy to win games with… whatever that backup quarterback situation has been over the years.
San Francisco 49ers Post-Free Agency 7-Round Mock Draft
- Round 1, Pick 3: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
- Round 2, Pick 43: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
- Round 3, Pick 102: Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
- Round 4, Pick 117: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
- Round 6, Pick 155: Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas
- Round 6, Pick 172: Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
- Round 6, Pick 180: Joshua Kaindoh, EDGE, Florida State
- Round 7, Pick 194: Trevon Grimes, WR, Florida
- Round 7, Pick 230: Tedarrel Slaton, DT, Florida
49ers 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Pick-by-pick analysis
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Why? Because he’s the best quarterback available. The end.
Fields is the most accurate quarterback in the class, according to quarterback evaluators like Ian Wharton. He’s a sturdily-built quarterback who happens to also run a 4.46 40-yard dash at 227 pounds. He has a plus arm and displays the ability to make plays on the move to his left and right. Fields does this because, for being that athletic, his first instinct is as a passer and not a runner. It’s also important to note that his perceived struggles during the Indiana and Northwestern games are overstated. He should be the pick in this 2021 49ers Mock Draft and the name called on April 29.
Now, let’s get into the whole reading defenses thing that seems to be a hangup. Well, it isn’t. Fields operated in an offense that schemed up far fewer run-pass options and screens than all of his counterparts in the top-five discussion. The passing concepts within the Ohio State offense are filled with leverage reads and option routes that were intermediate to deep-breaking routes. All that came from a spread offense predicated on spacing.
He operates the offense well and often shows the ability to read initial leverage and get to secondary or tertiary reads. But this offense was NOT the Buckeyes offense of old. With Dwayne Haskins and J.T. Barrett at the helm, Ohio State ran more mesh and other concepts closer to the line of scrimmage, stressing defenses at that level east and west so they could allow their playmakers to make plays. Fields ranks last of the top quarterbacks in the percentage of yards after the catch.
He can sling it.
Why not Mac Jones?
“He’s a Shanahan quarterback.” Well, that’s partially been dispelled by our own A.J. Schulte. Mac Jones is a fine quarterback, but his skill set and physical abilities lend to a ceiling that might be Kirk Cousins. A more realistic ceiling might be current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Shanahan has proven he can win games with him, but they’re winning with him, not necessarily because of him. Or, sure, he could be Tom Brady. Good luck with that.
He possesses average athleticism and size. Actually, his arm is probably a bit underrated by most. There are times he’s proven he can generate some velocity to fit passes into closing windows. He is also an accurate quarterback, but he also did that behind the country’s best offensive line and was still slightly less accurate than Fields was to every level of the field. He’s a good quarterback who can absolutely find success at the NFL level. He’s not a quarterback you trade assets to move up nine picks for.
Why not Trey Lance?
Trey Lance might have the highest ceiling of any 2021 NFL Draft quarterback. I’d consider him in this 7-Round 2021 49ers Mock Draft if Fields wasn’t good enough to be the QB1 in most draft classes. Lance has a howitzer as an arm and is a great athlete and runner himself. He played from under center and in a run-heavy offense that utilized hard play-action similar to how Shanahan likes to.
Lance is just a bit more of a risk because he’s: A) a bit less naturally accurate than Fields, B) inexperienced with only 17 career starts (the same as Jones), and C) played at the FCS level. He’d have the freedom of a redshirt year in San Francisco, but it’s just not the right decision, from my view, to take him over Fields.
The rest of the draft
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
There was a bit of a deep run of cornerbacks in this particular simulation, but Eric Stokes remained on the board with the 43rd pick, and the 49ers snagged him in this 2021 7-Round Mock Draft. Stokes possesses blazing speed and the ability to process information and react in zone coverage. He tested as a fast and explosive athlete, but his agilities were only mediocre. That matches his tape, which is always a relief.
Stokes may struggle in transition on stop routes when he’s forced to flip his hips and drive back to the ball, but in zone, his click and close will allow him to drive on passes, and his explosiveness will get him in passing lanes. He is slight and can struggle against physicality and isn’t the sturdiest tackler, but his floor as a cover corner is high.
Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
Elerson Smith is a freak athlete. He had that on full display when he faced great athlete and tackle prospect Brady Christensen. He possesses outstanding length for the position and is still growing into his frame. With a bit of technical refinement and strength training, he could become a dangerous pairing alongside Nick Bosa. His style is reminiscent of Las Vegas Raiders pass rusher Maxx Crosby. Crosby was an ascending prospect, and that’s exactly what Smith is too.
Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Thomas would be an outstanding value in this situation. The 2020 opt-out most likely hurt his stock a bit not playing in 2020, given the class’ strength. He sits at 87th overall on Tony Pauline’s big board. Getting a second corner in this 2021 7-Round 49ers Mock Draft was important because the cupboard is pretty bare at cornerback for the team. Thomas has the fluidity and athleticism to be an excellent slot corner at the next level.
Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas
Jonathan Marshall is one of my favorite players in the class. He’s an uber-explosive defensive tackle with an underrated game. Getting him at this point of the 2021 49ers Mock Draft is highway robbery, but for some reason, this appears to be his perceived draft stock.
Marshall performed well against a plethora of impressive SEC offensive lines, despite playing as a true zero-technique defensive tackle. He was asked to take on double-teams down in/down out when he’s really a gap-penetrating three-technique. And at 310 pounds with good natural strength, he and Javon Kinlaw can be interchangeable on the defensive line because they’re both versatile.
Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
Joshuah Bledsoe is a nice developmental depth piece who had some great flashes against Alabama. He can play both as a free safety and in the slot and could provide nice versatility to a defense that likes their defensive backs to be just that. If he can develop, the 49ers could realistically replace one of their two current safeties with potential contractual outs after 2021.
Joshua Kaindoh, EDGE, Florida State
This young man is freaky. Joshua Kaindoh is an elite explosive athlete who’s a former five-star recruit. The traits in his game are evident, but he needs a lot of seasoning if he’s going to contribute at the next level. However, with his athleticism, he should be able to contribute on special teams. That’s an important asset to get in the later rounds.
Trevon Grimes, WR, Florida
This is criminal. Trevon Grimes is a massively framed receiver who works well along the sideline and in the air. He possesses strong hands that secure contested passes and through hard contact. He must learn to attack blind spots better and change his pace as a route runner to create separation better.
Tedarrell Slaton, IDL, Florida
Some of the best value in the draft comes with Day 3 interior defensive linemen. Slaton is a high-upside nose tackle with Go-Go Gadget arms that act as sledgehammers when he lands them with accuracy. Although he’s a taller defensive tackle, he plays with surprisingly good pad level and overall leverage. He’ll need to become more adept at diagnosing blocking schemes, but he’s a load in the middle that could allow the linebackers to roam free.
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