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Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Justin Fields? Experts debate best quarterback fit for 49ers – San Francisco 49ers Blog

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Of the many decisions general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have made since they took over the San Francisco 49ers none are bigger than the one that awaits April 29.

After trading up in the draft, the Niners will use the No. 3 overall pick to choose their next franchise quarterback. The question now is which one?

“San Francisco had to make the decision to move up from 12 to 3 with the mindset that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were gone,” Todd McShay, ESPN senior NFL draft analyst, said. “Maybe something changes but if you’re John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan you have to make the decision to move up with that assumption. We’re really talking about North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.”

With that in mind, we surveyed six evaluators to get a breakdown on what will go into San Francisco’s decision.


Ranking the QBs

Matt Bowen, ESPN NFL analyst/former NFL defensive back:

1. Fields, 2. Lance, 3. Jones

“If I’m drafting in the top five, I want a prospect with high-end traits and high-end physical tools,” Bowen said. “[Fields’] best fit is an intermediate based pass game that attacks the middle of the field and utilizes his movement ability off play action and quarterback designed runs with schemed vertical throws. Now, who does that sound like? He’d be a very good fit there.”

June Jones, former NFL coach/CoachTube.com instructor:

1. Jones 2. Fields 3. Lance

“The young kid at Alabama might be the best one in the whole draft,” said June Jones of Mac Jones. “Everybody is going to say ‘Well, he’s only played one year.’ Well, guess what? Go look at him play that one year and what you’re seeing is what you’re going to get.”

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN senior NFL draft analyst:

1. Fields 2. Jones 3. Lance

“Traits, I think Fields is the most gifted,” Kiper said. “On traits, you could make the argument he is as good a quarterback as there is in this draft.”

Greg McElroy, ESPN college football analyst/former NFL quarterback:

1. Jones 2. Lance 3. Fields

“I’d have the three all kind of relatively close,” McElroy said. “The distance between Zach [Wilson] and Mac is further than the distance between Mac and Justin Fields.”

McShay:

1. Lance 2. Fields 3. Jones

“When you study Lance’s tape, a lot of it is pro-style stuff and he processes things quickly,” McShay said. “He’s just the kind of guy you want at the quarterback position in terms of showing up every day and giving everything that he has.”

J.T. O’Sullivan, former NFL quarterback/creator of Youtube’s “QB School” channel:

1. Fields 2. Lance 3. Jones

“They would all be good fits,” O’Sullivan said. “I would guesstimate that it would be Fields. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Trey Lance. If it’s Mac Jones, they just have a different understanding of what that organization needs than I do as an outsider.”


Breaking down each QB

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1:02

Damien Woody praises Justin Fields’ ability on the gridiron and suggests he would be a great fit for the 49ers.

Justin Fields, Ohio State

6-foot-3 | 227 pounds | 22 college starts

Key stat: Over the past two seasons, 52% of Fields’ passes resulted in a first down, the highest in the FBS among quarterbacks to play at least 10 games. His total QBR on third down was 90.0, best among the top five quarterback prospects in the draft.

Bowen: “He’s an accurate, decisive thrower who has the ability to threaten deep with ball placement. That’s one thing that stands out watching him on tape is deep ball accuracy. He has upper tier athletic traits, both inside and outside the pocket. He’s super competitive and tough. He battles.”

McElroy: “He has a tendency sometimes to lock on to a wide receiver and doesn’t have the same type of anticipation that I’d like to see from him. Now, he’s got a big enough arm to overcompensate for it in college but I’m not convinced he’ll be able to overcompensate for it, at least early in his career in the NFL.”

O’Sullivan: “He’s the prototypical what the league has evolved into with a great athlete playing the most important position. He can create, can extend, can run, can make all the throws inside and outside the pocket, outside the numbers, down the field. … Some of the turnovers they looked like they were him maybe trying to do too much. Those types of things that will get you in trouble on Sundays. Things that are certainly fixable. But the playmaking ability, the dynamic athlete, what he’s able to do at his size is just special.”

McShay: “He tends to lock on to that primary target. And part of it is he just likes to see the receiver come open, so I think he’s going to have to adapt to an NFL system processing from progression one to two to three quicker and also anticipating throws where he doesn’t have to see the receiver come open. It’s going to be an adjustment but of those three he’s the most physically gifted.”


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1:15

Todd McShay breaks down the potential fit of quarterback Mac Jones with the 49ers.

Mac Jones, Alabama

6-3 | 214 pounds | 17 college starts

Key stat: Jones’ total QBR of 96.1 in 2020 was the highest of any quarterback in the 17 seasons the metric has been tracked, surpassing the mark previously held by Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (95.4) in 2018.

Jones: “His deep ball accuracy might be the best that I’ve graded in 30 years. I don’t think anybody has completed the percentages down the field over 25 yards that this kid has. … The type of passes Mac throws to those receivers, they can be running drag routes, crossing routes, deep balls, the ball is always about 18 inches out front of the receiver and they don’t have to work to catch the ball. That’s where the accuracy is different.”

Bowen: “Here’s the thing we miss and I do it too: we focus so much on second reaction ability and movement traits, which I think are so important, I really do, I think you have to have that in today’s NFL but if you can’t make the routine throws consistently, it does not matter. If you can’t read the field and make the consistent throws in the pocket, all that other stuff, it’s just hard to win football games when you can’t throw and win from the pocket. Mac Jones can do that. Mac Jones can throw from the pocket, he can throw with anticipation, location, I think he processes well. He doesn’t have a huge arm but he can anticipate those windows and throw with location and be a timing and rhythm thrower which you’re gonna have to be in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Off of play action, that back foot hits the ground, the ball has got to come out. You have to be able to anticipate where you’re throwing that football to find that window that Kyle is creating for you within the scheme of the route.”

McShay: “Just sitting down talking to him a couple times and talking to [then Alabama offensive coordinator] Steve Sarkisian three different times this year preparing for games, Sark told me that he installed more for Mac Jones than he ever has for a college quarterback. Given Sark’s background, that says a lot. … I think Kyle would love to have that mind at quarterback. Kind of an extension of the coaching staff and all the things that he can install. They’re built to win pretty soon and there won’t be that learning curve or adjustment as much with him. Now, the physical limitations are there so you’re not getting the athleticism. You’ve got to be able to scheme him into success.”

O’Sullivan: “I think when I generalize here, teams are trying to project your performance on Sundays and I don’t know how you can look at a prospect like Justin Fields and think ‘Well, his ceiling is the same as Mac Jones’ ceiling.’ We might disagree but my opinion is that I think Justin Fields has the ability to be a little bit more consistent in the playmaking and be able to do things that Mac Jones just can’t do.”


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0:43

Louis Riddick breaks down what he liked from Trey Lance’s pro day ahead of the NFL draft.

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

6-4 | 226 pounds | 17 college starts

Key stat: In 2019, Lance threw 287 passes without an interception. Since 2000, he’s the only Division I QB to attempt more than 200 passes in a season without an interception.

McShay: “Lance is probably the biggest projection of the three because it’s coming from the FCS level and only 17 starts and only one game this past year. But all three have areas they can improve upon. With Lance, it’s his accuracy. That’s not always easy to correct. But we’ve seen with a guy like Josh Allen, when you have the mobility to extend plays and create with your feet, that adds a whole other element to the offense. … We’ve seen some improvement, certainly with Josh Allen, but he’s got to improve the consistency of his footwork in order to be more consistent with his ball placement.”

Kiper: “If you’re looking for the dual-threat, I would take Fields over Lance. I don’t understand the fascination with Lance. I get the fact that he put up big numbers but he did it against bad competition. I think he’s deserving of being in the top 10 but if you’re talking about ahead of a guy who played at Ohio State and played against elite competition, played in a semifinal game against Lawrence and outplayed him, this guy played against Central Arkansas and didn’t play well throwing the ball. I get Lance in the top 10 but I don’t get him ahead of Fields.”

McElroy: “I think Trey Lance has some Josh Allen in him and that’s part of the reason I’m intrigued by him as a prospect. I like Trey Lance, I just think he’s really raw. But you can make the case that he could have as high of a ceiling as anybody in this draft if things work out. That’s kind of how I felt about Josh Allen but I didn’t think Josh Allen was as athletic as he is. … I think he was such a man amongst boys at the level that he was playing at and granted he was doing it on a bit of an all-star team but you could make the same argument for Jones and Fields. … His upside is really intriguing. He can move and has a lot of fluidity to his game. He obviously has raw horsepower that few guys have. … Some of the progression stuff, I didn’t see as much of the progression issue with him as I saw with Fields.”

Jones: “I like him as an athlete. Until he gets in a pass system, he can make some plays now, he can run, he can throw, his completion percentage was not very high because of the type of offense he was in but I think he’s one of those guys that you used to take in the third to fifth round and he could develop and he may develop.”

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Denver Broncos WR DaeSean Hamilton tears knee ligament in workout away from team facility, sources say

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, whom Denver was trying to trade in recent days, has suffered a torn knee ligament in a workout away from the team’s complex, team sources told ESPN.

Hamilton suffered the injury Friday morning, and had not been working out at the team’s suburban Denver facility, sources said.

Hamilton is the second Broncos player to have suffered a significant injury away from the team’s complex after tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury earlier this month. James was officially released Friday.

The Broncos were seeking to trade Hamilton, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft, over the past week and had talks with at least one team as recently as Thursday. The Broncos, given Courtland Sutton‘s return from last season’s ACL tear and the depth at wide receiver overall, were expected to waive Hamilton if no trade partner could be found before they began their OTAs later this month.

The Broncos will begin “Phase 2” of their voluntary offseason program Monday.

The NFL Players Association had advised players not to take part in voluntary workouts at team facilities this offseason. The Broncos players were among the first to issue a joint statement in April saying they would boycott the voluntary workouts, and the team has still had a little more than 20 veteran players working out at the facility at various times in April and May.

James’ injury has already been a flashpoint between the NFL and the NFLPA over the “non-football injury” designation. That designation means teams are not required to pay players their full base salaries if they were injured outside of team facilities.

The day after James was injured earlier this month, he was specifically named in a memo from the NFL’s management council to team executives and head coaches. In that memo it was outlined under the “Non-Football Injuries” designation that teams like the Broncos would have “no contractual obligation” to pay players like James who were injured away from the team facilities.

The memo also outlined why a player’s salary would be paid if the injury had been suffered during a workout at a team’s complex. The memo also said: “Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train at a non-NFL location.”

The NFLPA responded two days later in an email to players that said: “It was gutless to use a player’s serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.”

The email added: “This memo is another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can.”

James’ release Friday had a vested veteran, non-football injury, post-June 1 designation.

The Broncos are essentially voiding $10.58 million worth of guarantees James had for the season — $10 million in base salary in addition to a 17th game check, added when the schedule was increased.

The Broncos will carry a $13 million “dead money” charge against this year’s salary cap after James’ release. James and the NFLPA could file a grievance to try to recover some of the money he lost with the release.

Earlier Friday, James had posted on social media that his “surgery went well,” adding: “Appreciate everyone reaching out. Always remaining positive & striving to be better than yesterday.”

Given the Broncos were trying to trade Hamilton and were poised to waive him if they didn’t find a trade partner, his situation might be handled differently than James’ by the team as both players are likely headed for injured reserve at some point.

Hamilton’s base salary for the 2021 season was scheduled to be $2.183 million, while James has a $10 million salary guarantee.

Hamilton, who has struggled with drops and some confidence issues that have followed some of those drops, had 81 receptions over his first three seasons combined and five career touchdowns. He had 23 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns last season.

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Fully vaccinated NFL players, staff can shed masks at team facilities

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Fully vaccinated NFL players and staff will no longer be required to wear masks at team facilities, the league informed clubs in a memo Friday. The policy change is effective immediately.

The NFL’s health and safety department made the decision after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 mask guidelines for the United States on Thursday. People are considered fully vaccinated if 14 days have passed since their second shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or their single shot from Johnson & Johnson.

The league is encouraging but not requiring players to get vaccinated. Non-players are expected to be vaccinated unless they have a medical or religious exemption. Those who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to interact with players.

Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski learned of the news on the practice field during rookie camp Friday. The reigning NFL Coach of the Year was able to take his mask off for the first time as a head coach.

“It felt pretty good,” Stefanski said. “There were some people I didn’t realize what they looked like.”

According to the memo, the NFL expects additional modifications to come that will reflect “the greatly reduced risk of viral infection and transmission in fully vaccinated individuals.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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New York Giants’ Kadarius Toney does drill shoeless due to ‘wrong size’ cleats

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney‘s first practice with the team did not go exactly as planned. That was evident when he was seen running an individual wide receiver drill Friday without a cleat.

Shoeless KT was born out of necessity because of what he termed the “wrong size” cleats.

Toney was seen fiddling with his right cleat early during Friday’s rookie minicamp practice. At different points during the workout he changed cleats, added socks, changed socks, worked with the equipment staff and even the training staff. He even kneeled off to the side and looked downright uncomfortable at times.

It’s fair to say on this one he didn’t start out on the right foot. Instead, he started out barefoot.

“I think they did the wrong size. Just figuring it out right now,” Toney said afterward. “I ended up getting it eventually.”

Well, at least not before the session was over. Despite returning for a special teams period late in practice, Toney was on the side as his teammates ran conditioning drills to finish the day.

It was an unusual first impression, no doubt.

“Yeah, it was kind of, yeah, basically just cleat,” Toney said. “I mean, yeah, it was just a safer route to go [on the conditioning], I guess you could say.”

The Giants traded back in the first round of last month’s draft and used the 20th overall pick to select Toney out of the University of Florida, where he was first-team All-SEC last year.

But everything is new now that he is a professional, including his equipment. Toney signed an apparel deal with Adidas before the draft, according to his Instagram account.

Coach Joe Judge considered this rookie minicamp, which began Friday, as a sort of orientation for the rookies. But he probably did think that meant figuring out what size shoe would fit his top pick in this year’s draft.

“You know what, first day on the field I think there’s a little bit of equipment issue,” Judge said. “We have to get that straightened out and make sure our guys hit the field with equipment they are comfortable with. We’ll handle that, make sure it’s not an issue going forward.”

Day 2 is scheduled for Saturday. Hopefully with two properly fitted cleats.

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