What better way to kick off ESPN Mel Kiper's first 2021 NFL Mock draft than by including a potential San Francisco 49ers trade involving a quarterback?
That's precisely what happened, as Kiper revealed his first mock draft of the year. In this potential trade scenario, Kiper has the 49ers moving up five spots with the Detroit Lions for the rights to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
"It's tough to project the exact details," Kiper said, "but moving up five spots in a talented quarterback class means there will be competition. We can look to the Mitchell Trubisky as one comp, but another could be the Steelers move for Devin Bush in 2019, where they jumped 10 spots with the Broncos and had to give up the Nos. 20 and 52 picks, plus a third-round pick the following year."
Kiper also said he wouldn't be "shocked" if the 49ers had to give up a 2022 first-round pick.
Aside from the draft capital the 49ers would lose, he also cites that the team could then move on from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as a designated June-1 cut. The cost-cutting move would net the team $25 million in cap-savings rather than a pre-June 1 cut cap-savings of $23.6 million.
He believes the cap savings would then allow the 49ers flexibility in signing some of their own in-house free-agents, namely LT Trent Williams.
But the question remains, is this move realistic?
When looking at both sides, Kiper believes it's a "win-win." I would disagree.
From the Lions' perspective, new GM Brad Holmes is undoubtedly all-in with quarterback Jared Goff. Their ties in Los Angeles run deep, after all, he was the Rams Director of college scouting when the team traded up to get him.
Furthermore, with the Lions holding the No. 7 overall pick, draft position plays in their favor. Based on my mock draft, both QB Trevor Lawrence and QB Zach Wilson will both be off the board, before the top five picks are called.
That leaves teams such as the Lions, Panthers, Broncos and 49ers to possibly scramble up to make a play for a quarterback. That target being Fields.
Holmes doesn't need a quarterback, what he needs is draft capital. They have the most holes of any team outside of the New York Jets. Trust me on that.
If the 49ers were willing to part ways with valuable draft capital as Kiper suggested, that would give Holmes draft flexibility for the foreseeable future. Remember, he already netted two first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 thanks to absorbing Goff's contract.
If he can trade back just five spots, from No. 7 to No. 12, while picking up an additional second-round pick (No. 43) and a potential 1st-round pick in 2022, that would be more than ideal for the Lions.
If you're doing the math, that's five 1st-round picks for the Lions over the next three drafts. Talk about leveraging the salary cap.
But on the flip side, why would the 49ers make this deal? Especially, since I consider BYU QB Zach Wilson to be a better fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense.
While trades happen, the 49ers should be cautious when trading away multiple first-round picks. It doesn't matter who is behind center if you don't have an offensive line upfront. Games are won down in the trenches.
By trading away valuable draft capital, you won't be able to build your line via the draft. The 49ers have glaring holes across the line and need stability there. It's arguably the team's biggest weakness.
No quarterback can properly go through his progressions, no running back can hit the hole and no wide receiver can separate fast enough off his stem if the offensive line can't hold up its end of the bargain.
While Fields may be an upgrade, in the end I wouldn't make this deal. The 49ers need stability from the quarterback position but without a strong offensive line, all bets are off. No quarterback can have success without a strong supporting cast up front. Build the line and the rest will follow.