Lots of draft stuff this week from all of you. Let’s dive in …
From Anthony (@a2low11): What is the compensation the Niners are looking for in a Jimmy G trade? A first?
Anthony, I was told that, yes, it’d take a first-round pick for the Niners to listen at this point, which of course would be nice for San Francisco to have after it yielded its firsts in 2022 and ’23 to jump from No. 12 to 3. That, of course, is subject to change. Maybe a veteran stopgap they see as comparable to Garoppolo could come along, and they’d then be motivated to move him (I’m not sure who that would be). Maybe the rookie will arrive and blow everyone away over the summer, and the Niners will want to play him.
As it stands right now? I don’t think the Niners feel any sort of urgency to move Garoppolo, which makes his market value completely irrelevant in comparison to the Niners’ price.
Think about it from their perspective. Where you may have figured they’d bleed free agents this offseason, they were able to keep just about everyone they needed to, from Trent Williams to Jason Verrett to Kyle Juszczyk and Jaquiski Tartt. They’re 14 months removed from being in the Super Bowl and were in contention into December last year despite having the worst injury situation in football. They’ll get guys like Nick Bosa back.
Now, if you were the Niners, and you had all that going for you, a team you thought was in position to win a Super Bowl this year, would you be tripping over yourself to hand the keys to the team to a rookie quarterback who you’ve spent maybe an hour or two face-to-face with? Would, say, a third-round pick coming back for Garoppolo—which probably would be a guy running down the field on kickoffs this fall—make it worth taking that risk? Or would you rather keep a guy who’s been in your system for four years as the starter for now, especially considering how conservative Kyle Shanahan has been about playing new quarterbacks (it took Garoppolo a month to get on the field after they traded for him)?
To me, it’s clear. Absent something that really blows you away, and makes you better today, I don’t think you should do it. So if I were the Niners, I’d tell any team that comes to me with a lukewarm offer for Garoppolo to pound sand. And then I’d have myself in a position where either the rookie blows everyone away and is rolling in 2021 or Garoppolo is in a fantastic spot with a really good team around him to boost his 2022 trade value. And win big now.
Either of those results, to me, is better than having an extra third-round pick.
From Not who you think I am (@DonRidenour): Will Deshaun Watson ever play in the NFL again? This is starting to get weird!
Don, I honestly don’t know how to answer that, because answering it would mean guessing how Watson’s legal situation will go from here, and I have no idea how that’s going to play out. And if I were to guess, I’d either be unfairly indicting Watson or not taking the avalanche of lawsuits and allegations against him seriously enough. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to do that.
But I’d say we’re at the point where a suspension would seem to be on the table. The NFL has taken guys off the field in the past for actions that paint the league in a bad light, and just with what we already know, even if Watson is innocent of most of what more than 20 women have described (including a detailed report from our own Jenny Vrentas), it seems like we’ve hit that threshold. Ben Roethlisberger got a six-game suspension in 2010 after a woman gave her account of sexual assault, which was reduced to four games when he met certain conditions. And while the situations are very different, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the standard the NFL uses.
Still, what we’re talking about isn’t whether Watson will play again, it’s when he will. Things, of course, could get considerably worse for Watson legally. Or they could get better. We have to let that part play out. What I will say is that I believe now that the likelihood that Watson will play his next snap in a new uniform is increasing, and that the Texans will listen to offers, including some that may include capital contingent on Watson’s playing again.
From The Disc Golf Dad (@Ryandosparks): If the draft starts Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, do the Falcons jump on Justin Fields and then the Panthers panic and give Cincy pick No. 8 and 39 for the fifth pick? Feels possible and Cincy would still end up with either Chase, Pitts, Sewell.
Disc Golf Dad, I love your question, because I love playing out these scenarios. Here’s what we know about the Panthers: They want an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater or, at the very least, competition for him. And that could come in a number of different forms. The one thing I would caution anyone from doing here, though, is assuming that the top five quarterbacks are all seen as worthy of a top-10 pick by every team. It doesn’t work that way.
So if the one that slips to five, in this scenario, is one the Panthers really love, then I absolutely could see new GM Scott Fitterer’s getting aggressive to try to outflank teams like Denver and New England to land Carolina’s guy. But the possibility also exists that the Panthers aren’t wild about the one that will shake free from the top four picks. And in that case, if they don’t wind up with Watson, it wouldn’t stun me to see a trade for Sam Darnold, with a plan to have Darnold compete with Bridgewater for the job.
(I still, for what it’s worth, think there’s something there with the 23-year-old Darnold. But where he lands next will be critical.)
As for the second part of how you drew this one up, the Bengals haven’t moved around in the first round a lot. In fact, since trading up for Ki-Jana Carter in 1995, it’s happened just three times. They moved down in 2004 (Chris Perry), ’12 (Kevin Zeitler) and ’18 (Billy Price). And in two of those three cases, they were acquiring a veteran as part of the deal (Deltha O’Neal in ’04 and Cordy Glenn in ’18).
That says to me that it might take a lot to wrest the fifth pick from the Bengals, who I’ve heard really like LSU’s Ja'Marr Chase (with Joe Burrow doing a little in-house campaigning for him as well), and would also have the option to seriously upgrade the offensive line there with Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. Miami at No. 6? Maybe, if the Dolphins don’t wind up moving that pick for a certain veteran quarterback.
From Logan Williams (@IndieWolverine): With chances for QB going 1 through 4, do you think it’s also possible for a Cincy trade back to make it QB 1 through 5?
Like I said, sure, there’s a chance. But very clearly, a team is going to have to make it worth Mike Brown, Duke Tobin and Zac Taylor’s while to do it, and my guess is they probably wouldn’t want to drop too far back, with a focus on getting their rising sophomore quarterback some help as he returns from his ACL tear.
From Bill Adams (@BAdams3324): What do you think the Pats’ answer at QB is for the long-term?
Bill, this is going to be an underwhelming answer: I don’t know. I think they’d love to have Garoppolo, but I’d be a little surprised if they were looking to hitch the next decade to him. One reason the Niners started to look at moving on from him in the first place was because he simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
In the three years since he signed his five-year, $137.5 million deal there, he’s missed almost as many starts (23) as he’s made (25). Throw in 2017, and the two games he missed out of four he was slated to start for the Patriots, plus the three games he sat before starting the last five of that year for the Niners, and you’re talking about a 60-game sample size over which Garoppolo’s been a team’s de facto No. 1. He started 31 of those games.
Generally, these sorts of issues don’t improve as a player moves into his 30s, and Garoppolo is turning 30 in November. And I like Garoppolo as a player. But I’m not sure he’s shown himself to be the level of player, like, say, Cam Newton was last offseason as a former MVP, where a team would be willing to roll the dice on his ability to stay healthy without covering itself with some major league insurance.
All of that is to say whether it’s Newton or Garoppolo or both on the roster in July and August, I’d think there’ll be a rookie there to compete, along with incumbent young guy Jarrett Stidham. And with the likelihood seeming to be slipping that any of the top five quarterbacks will make it to 15, I think Day 2 prospects like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Florida’s Kyle Trask and Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman could be in play.
Let me put this one on your radar, too: Keep an eye on Stanford’s Davis Mills for the Patriots. He hasn’t played a ton (he wrested the Cardinal’s job from K.J. Costello in only 2019), but he’s a former five-star high school prospect who has every tool you’re looking for, and the Patriots have never been afraid to take swings on quarterbacks with different college careers. Garoppolo’s an example of that, as are guys like Stidham, Matt Cassel and Jacoby Brissett. It wouldn’t surprise me if they see similar distressed-asset value here.
From Raghav S (@RaguSaini92): What are your thoughts on rookie QB3 versus Matthew Stafford? 49ers favor the rookie apparently.
Raghav, that’s an interesting question because it pits the Niners and Rams against each other in the NFC West in an it’ll-be-fun-to-look-at-the-scoreboard-after-this kind of way. My understanding at the time of the Stafford trade was that he had three preferred destinations: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Indianapolis, in that order. The Colts never offered their first-round pick, No. 21, for Stafford. And the Niners never got to the point where they made an offer for him.
Why? Well, they’d talked to Detroit about a Stafford trade at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., with plans to circle back with the Lions after the weekend to follow. But things accelerated that Friday, and by Saturday a deal was in place that made Stafford a Ram. Before doing the deal, Detroit did check in with the Niners. But at that point, the Rams, Panthers and Washington all had made offers well beyond where San Francisco was willing to go.
My sense at the time was the Niners weren’t going to put the 12th pick on the table in the first place to get Stafford, and my guess is part of that related to Stafford’s issues staying healthy. San Francisco’s own experience with Garoppolo might have made it leery about paying big for a quarterback with a lot of injury history.
Meanwhile, the Rams went all in, handing over two future first-round picks and their third-rounder this year to land Stafford. So from here, we’ll get to see who was right and who was wrong, and another story line linking two rivals that already have a lot of ties to one another.
From Rob (@rpciii): Can you dive into what role Dave Ziegler will have in the draft prep and the draft and if he will have a say I’m the picks?
Hey Rob, Dave Ziegler is basically now in the position that Nick Caserio was in for the last 12 years. It won’t be exactly the same, of course, because Caserio got more responsibility as he went along in New England. Just as Caserio had Bill Belichick’s old friend Floyd Reese helping to smooth the transition as Scott Pioli left for Kansas City, Ziegler has a guy, in Matt Patricia, with a lot of program-specific institutional knowledge working with him.
But the good news is that the transition is already underway, to a degree. Last year, Ziegler took on a new title (assistant director of player personnel) and added responsibility working under Caserio. Where before, as the team’s pro scouting director, Ziegler was focused on that side, he started to do more on the college side and got some experience with other facets of New England’s scouting operation.
For those reasons, the Patriots felt pretty good putting him behind the wheel when Caserio landed the Houston job. And with Ziegler’s showing up in places like LSU’s pro day on Wednesday, I’d expect he’ll have the seat in the Patriots’ very small draft room that Caserio and Pioli once occupied—right next to Belichick.
From Gary (@GaryFromTheBay): Who are the 49ers picking at No. 3?
Gary, I’ve heard, like everyone else, from teams convinced that San Francisco is taking Alabama’s Mac Jones. One coach pointed out to me, in comparing Jones to Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, “He’s more accurate than the other two in all ways. If you look at the QBs Kyle has played with over the years, they are a lot more like Jones than the other two.” And that much you can see, in looking at Jones’s strengths against those of guys like Matt Schaub, Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan.
That said, this coach conceded that it comes down to looking at the floor versus the ceiling on each of the three, with Jones’s edge now in the evidence that he throws accurately and on time, and exhibits consistent, efficient pocket movement.
And the ceiling-vs.-floor argument is why the idea of Jones is, at the very least, a little eyebrow-raising. I know what people have said about other teams in the top 10 picks. But knowing what I know at this point, I think there’s a decent chance Jones would’ve been there for the Niners at 12. Also, there’s the question of the price (three first-round picks and a third-round comp pick) versus the level of upgrade Jones would be.
All of this isn’t to take away from Jones, by the way, because he’s a really good player. There’s no question Fields and Lance would need work. Fields needs to play less hero ball and get the ball out faster more consistently. Lance is raw in a lot of ways (though he is very much a fit stylistically for a Shanahan offense). But here’s the thing about that: If the Niners do hold on to Garoppolo, they’d have the luxury the Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes in 2017, to give their quarterback a redshirt year to develop through.
And given that redshirt year, and the coaching Shanahan and his staff would bring to the table? You’d think the sky would be the limit with Fields or Lance. We’ll find out in a month if the Niners feel that way about Jones, too.
From Shedrick Carter (@shedrickcarter2): Draft looks set with 3 quarterbacks going 1-2-3. So the draft pretty much starts at 4. Do you see Atlanta going QB or best player available (Pitts)?
Shedrick, it seems likely to me that the Falcons will either take a quarterback or move the pick to a team that will. This year, because of the limitations on team people allowed per pro day (three), the lack of exposure to these prospects in the fall and no combine, and the inability of teams to bring players in for 30 visits or to go to their campuses to meet with them and work them out privately, I believe who teams choose to send to pro days is significant. And Atlanta’s actions in that regard are interesting.
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith have been on the ground at Clemson to see Lawrence, North Dakota State to see Lance, BYU to see Wilson, Alabama to see Jones and Ohio State to see Fields. They’re doing every bit the work that the Jets and Panthers are, and that the Niners will now that their trade is complete, in vetting the QB class.
Now, the question will be whether they will love the one who falls to them at No. 4. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know they’ve done every bit of homework as if they plan to take one there, they’re aware (like everyone else is) that the 2022 picture is muddy at best at the position and they don’t plan to be picking in the top five much in the future. So if the one that drops in their lap is one they love, I don’t think Fontenot will hesitate to pull the trigger. And if they don’t love who’s there? I’d bet someone will make them an aggressive offer.