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NFL Draft

Will 49ers Be In The Market For A QB In 2021 NFL Draft?

  • The Draft Network
  • November 5, 2020
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When the San Francisco 49ers lost in primetime to the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago, it was a tough game to swallow. But it was just one loss, and something that continued to come up as people talked about the game was the fact that the 49ers didn’t have their starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Many wanted to write the 49ers’ offensive struggles off until Garoppolo returned—almost in the manner of a knight riding in to swing the battle and win the war.

But even as Garoppolo returned, he wasn't a shining knight for San Francisco.

Following the Eagles game, with Garoppolo back in the starting lineup, the 49ers fell to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 43-17. Garoppolo was a liability. Going 7-for-17 passing with just 77 passing yards and two interceptions was not pretty on the stat sheet and, at times, it looked even worse on the field. 

It didn’t help that the 49ers’ offensive line looked out of sorts against the Dolphins’ multiple fronts, and there were a handful of bad plays where you really couldn’t expect Garoppolo to do any better. But there were also just really bad moments from Garoppolo where he was the only one to blame. There were mechanics issues with his footwork, bad accuracy issues, and just an overall inability to be the playmaker the 49ers needed.

Unfortunately, that last part isn’t totally unfamiliar for Garoppolo. Those issues have continued to pop up this year all the way through the 49ers’ latest loss to the Seattle Seahawks. That’s where our discussion for this article begins.

Garoppolo is rarely as bad as he was against the Dolphins, but he also has not been a next-level playmaker at any point this year. Even for all the success he had last season, the whole idea is that he can really manage the game. He keeps things in control enough for Kyle Shanahan’s offensive genius to eventually shine through and best the opponent. But this year, Garoppolo isn’t even doing that. 

In the six games he has played, his yards per game, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and total QBR are all down. And the worst of it all is that his interception percentage and sack percentage are higher. He’s not only not executing at a high level (something that most knew he wasn’t going to be elite at, but that was okay), he’s making bad decisions—something that he can’t do in order to hold enough value for the team to win.

Now, of course, we have to talk about how unlucky the 49ers have been with injuries. Garoppolo himself has missed time due to ankle injuries, wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel have both missed games, and tight end George Kittle now has a broken foot following the loss to Seattle. The list seems to go on and on for San Francisco in 2020. But the issue of Garoppolo at quarterback goes beyond just health, and it’s worth talking about right now because their 4-4 record has a projected finish of 8-8. That now potentially gets worse with these latest additions to their IR list, and with how well the other teams in their division are playing.

With the 49ers having what might be a pick in the middle of the first round or maybe even close to right outside the top 10, with a solid roster still in place, could they be looking to potentially move on from Garoppolo for a rookie quarterback? I say yes.

Garoppolo’s numbers aren’t all that great, even in his most successful season (2019). He wasn’t much more than a facilitator throughout that campaign, as his total attempts on the year ranked 19th among all quarterbacks—and if you divide that up into attempts per game, he’s not even in the top 20. He was not a player the 49ers leaned on with his arm to base their gameplans. I think there’s a reason for that beyond just the fact they were one of the best rushing teams. 

Per Bill Barnwell of ESPN, the 49ers structured Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million extension in 2018 with a big roster bonus in its first year of the deal in order to give themselves more flexibility as the deal went on. Entering next offseason, there's no guaranteed money left on his deal, but he does have a base salary of $24.1 million for 2021 with a cap hit of $26.9 million. If they choose to move on from Garoppolo before June 1st of next year—which they would obviously be ready and willing to do by then, if that’s what they choose—they would save more than $24 million in cap space.

Garoppolo has also suffered several serious injuries over the last five seasons. In 2016, he separated his shoulder. In 2018, he tore his ACL. And this season, he’s missed significant time due to ankle injuries. Not only are there question marks about Garoppolo being good when healthy, but his history tells us there’s no guarantee he can even stay healthy.

Shanahan is too good of a coach and that roster is too good for the 49ers to realistically get in range of Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. But there are a few other quarterbacks in this upcoming draft who could really tempt Shanahan and his staff to start from scratch at the quarterback position. Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask, Mac Jones, and Desmond Ridder are all names you could see linked to the 49ers over the coming months. We’ll know more about which guy could be the right fit as we get closer to draft season.

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