Ever since the San Francisco 49ers traded up for the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, all the talk surrounding the team has been about which quarterback they’ll select with their new pick. Will it be Mac Jones, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance?
But what if it wasn’t any of those guys? What if it wasn’t even a quarterback?
What if it was the draft’s top wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase?
I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would the San Francisco 49ers select a wide receiver third overall? You don’t often see a team give up multiple first-round picks to select a wide receiver. However, if we take a deeper look into the 49ers’ needs, selecting the draft’s top wide receiver makes a lot more sense than you might think.
Let’s start by looking at the Jimmy Garoppolo situation. Ever since news of the trade came out, there have rumors of Garoppolo being traded. Garoppolo has yet to actually be traded, and there have been reports that the team isn’t ‘overly eager‘ to trade their starting quarterback. Those reports say the 49ers are waiting for the right offer from another team, but maybe he hasn’t been traded because the San Francisco 49ers don’t actually want to trade him.
The 49ers know health has been a concern with Garoppolo, as he only played six games last season. However, they also know what he brings to this team when he is healthy. It wasn’t long ago that Garoppolo led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
In the 2019 regular season, Garoppolo played all 16 games. In those 16 games, the 49ers went 13-3. Garoppolo completed 69.1% of his passes for 3,978, 27 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 102.0. When he’s on the field, Garoppolo has proven he can be successful.
Garoppolo has received a ton of support from his teammates throughout all this draft talk. “You know, I want Jimmy G to be my quarterback,” said George Kittle. Raheem Mostert has previously stated, “I’m still riding with my quarterback and that’s number 10.”
When it comes down to it, the players don’t make the business decisions, but if multiple key players are voicing their support of Jimmy Garoppolo, that has to mean something to the decision-makers.
If the 49ers select a quarterback with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, would they be more of a contender than they would be with Garoppolo leading the way? Probably not. Instead of drafting their next franchise quarterback, what if the 49ers select the draft’s best wide receiver in Ja’Marr Chase, giving Garoppolo more help on the offensive end?
Wide receiver may not seem like a huge need for the 49ers, but the numbers say otherwise. Last season, the 49ers’ leading receiver was Brandon Aiyuk, who had 60 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns. Second to Aiyuk was Kendrick Bourne (667 yards), but he’s no longer with the team.
Yes, it’s true that George Kittle and Deebo Samuel both missed significant time last season. We know what Kittle would have done if healthy the entire season. He likely would have had a 1000+ yard season. What about Deebo Samuel? In the seven games he played, Samuel totaled 391 yards. That comes out to 55.9 yards per game. If you apply that average to a 16 game season, Samuel would have totaled 894 yards.
Outside of George Kittle, do the 49ers have a receiving threat opposing teams have to account for on every play?
Ja’Marr Chase would instantly make the 49ers’ offense better. We’re talking about a guy who recorded 84 receptions for 1780 yards and 20 touchdowns as the number one receiving threat for the National Championship LSU Tigers team. Ja’Marr Chase is instant offense. An opposing defense has to account for him on every play. Mix Ja’Marr Chase in with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, and you’ve got one of the top passing attacks in the NFL.
Before the 49ers acquired the third overall pick, they held the 12th pick, which was behind teams such as the Bengals, Lions, Panthers, and Eagles. All of those teams could select one of the draft’s top receivers with their first selection. If the 49ers had waited until the 12th pick, there’s no way Ja’Marr Chase would have made it that far.
When the trade between the 49ers and Eagles occurred, there was a report that the Eagles traded back because they thought the Bengals were going to select Ja’Marr Chase at number five overall. What if the 49ers knew the Bengals had their eye on Chase and decided to trade up ahead of the Bengals to get their guy?
All the reports about which quarterback the 49ers have their eye on could just be a cover-up, so teams don’t know who they’re actually targeting. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the San Francisco 49ers pass on a quarterback and select the 2021 NFL Draft’s top wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase.