The 49ers, not the Falcons, hold the keys to the draft

quarterback prospects

Every year in the NFL draft, there is a team — usually in the top five picks — that makes a pick that has rippling effects for the rest of the first round. The selection eliminates any preconceived notions about how the rest of the first round will unfold. One decision causes other dominos to fall, and many reports involving the Falcons make most fans believe that Atlanta holds the keys to the draft, but the reality is the 49ers’ third overall pick is where the draft starts.

The Jaguars are mammoth favorites to take Trevor Lawrence; the Jets aren’t as heavy favorites to take Zach Wilson, but it still isn’t close. Where the odds begin to level out is at the third overall pick, which currently slots Mac Jones as the favorite to go to San Francisco. But depending on what the 49ers do, the Falcons could select another quarterback, Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, or trade the pick.

If the 49ers take Jones, Fontenot will have his choice of Justin Fields or Trey Lance, which might be too enticing to pass up. If Atlanta ends up taking a quarterback, then many big-name prospects will fall to teams who don’t need a quarterback. The Bengals will have their choice of Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts, and Ja’Marr Chase. Then the Dolphins will be able to choose from two of the aforementioned prospects.

If the 49ers take Fields, Fontenot could still go with a quarterback or he could take someone like Pitts, which would then cause Lance and Jones to slide as the next few teams don’t need a quarterback.

There is always the case that Fontenot receives enough compensation, a king’s ransom, to trade out of the fourth pick. In my head, Fields and Lance would have to fall due to Jones going third for this to happen. But there could be a scenario where John Lynch goes with his scouts and drafts Fields or Lance; then a team trades up to four because they feel like they need the lone quarterback prospect left.

So, yes, there are fewer possibilities at three than four because we know it will be a quarterback. I believe Shanahan knew which prospect he preferred before Lynch executed the trade, and I still think he prefers that quarterback. It feels like Jones will be the pick, but nobody can deny the upside of Fields and Lance. Regardless, Atlanta’s decision depends on which direction San Francisco goes, which is why Fontenot is listening to trade offers and weighing each path he could take.

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