A quarterback will be taken third by the 49ers.
That is without question at this point. The one and only mystery ahead of the 49ers this offseason, aside from who they will draft, is what they will do with Jimmy Garoppolo. Will the 49ers look to ship him off? Or will they retain him?
"We've got a guy (Jimmy Garoppolo) in here who we know we can win with," said Kyle Shanahan at his presser on Monday. "A guy that our players love, that we love and we're excited to have him this year and we're excited to have a hell of a quarterback right behind him learning for when the time is his."
This sounds a lot like what the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith in 2017. The Chiefs drafted their future franchise quarterback, while continuing to roll out Smith for one more season. Cleary, the whole "sit behind Smith" plan worked out. Perhaps this is a similar situation for the 49ers right now that could play to their favor.
So are the 49ers looking to replicate the Chiefs' Mahomes/Smith situation?
Sure, if you wanna be lazy about it and just think it is that simple, then of course they are. The reality is, however, that this is not the case. Both situations are incomparable. It all starts with how the 49ers are going about getting their franchise quarterback.
Jumping from No. 12 to No. 3 cost the 49ers their first-round picks for the next two seasons. All the Chiefs gave up, in essence, was one first-rounder, which at that point was meaningless to them since they had been picking in the mid-to-late 20's in the draft. The 49ers have been picking in the top-15 every year since Shanahan took over. Their draft picks do mean something unlike the Chiefs who were a shoe-in for the playoffs.
Plus, picking at third forces the 49ers' hand to play their guy from the get-go. There is certainly a difference in pressure on the 49ers to start their rookie in Week 1 given the drafts status and capital surrendered as opposed to the Chiefs. There was no pressure on them to start Mahomes because they were going on some hardcore runs with Smith. Garoppolo can't even run on the field because he is always hurt.
They can't just waste a year of cost-control to sit behind Garoppolo for half of the season. The 49ers would be creating their own hurdles for their rookie. Besides, what would the rookie learn from Garoppolo anyway? And is Garoppolo going to be as willing as Smith was with Mahomes to take him under his wing?
Garoppolo is not Smith.
The two players shouldn't even be held in the same breath. Smith is the better quarterback in every way possible, especially with his football IQ. Mahomes cannot stop praising what Smith did for his career. Garoppolo could only sniff that same impact, and even if he was close to that, how is he going to teach the rookie when he'll likely be in the press box drawing doodles?
When Mahomes was drafted, Smith was already 33-years old and his contract was $10 million cheaper than Garoppolo's. Being replaced was predictable at that point. On Garoppolo's side, he is 29-years old. That is typically still the prime years for a quarterback, which says a lot that the 49ers are ready to move on from him. His injuries and average play has forced the 49ers' hand, whereas the Chiefs knew Smith couldn't go on forever.
These two situations cannot be compared and the similarities are slight. To get a prospective from the side of the Chiefs, I spoke to Tucker D. Franklin who is the Deputy Editor of Arrowhead Report for Sports Illustrated.
"I think what the the Chiefs did is hard to replicate. Smith’s willingness to take Mahomes under his wing is uncommon. We saw Joe Flacco a couple of years ago say he wouldn’t do that with Lock and there’s no promise Garoppolo would do that if they draft a QB. In terms of the trade, I think the Niners move puts a bit more pressure on the team to play the No. 3 pick right away because of the draft position. It was clear that Alex Smith was the guy after Mahomes was drafted and there seems to be some uncertainty about Garoppolo in San Francisco."
So even a person covering the Chiefs does not see the correlation. It isn't as cut-and-dry of a situation as it may seem. There is no incentive for Garoppolo to be helpful and it does not behoove the 49ers to sit their rookie given what they gave up to get him.