The 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall on March 26. They gave up a lot — the 12th overall choice this year, 2022 first and third-round choices and a 2023 first-round selection to the Dolphins — to move up nine spots.
The moment they executed the trade it became obvious the 49ers were drafting a quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson, the presumptive first two choices of the Jaguars and Jets respectively. Still, weeks later, no one outside the organization knows for certain who the team’s choice will be come Thursday.
So how does a team move up without knowing exactly who they are going to take? That idea seems preposterous to many, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the top five quarterback prospects have improved their candidacy since the trade.
“When we made this decision, we knew that were five guys that we felt that we’d be OK with taking,” Shanahan said Monday. “You know, we knew there were three at the time exactly. That’s why he thought three was a good spot to go to. After going through this whole process, I feel good about five guys at three. Yeah, we had a guy probably at first back then, but we knew that wasn’t set in stone, and we knew the only we could figure out a little bit more, especially when you can’t work out guys; you can’t meet with these people. There’s a lot of things you can’t do this year. The only way we can go off that is if we got closer to where we could do a little bit more in-depth thing that we didn’t have to hide, and we did. In that time, I think every candidate has gotten stronger. Yeah, we probably started with one in mind, but that one’s gotten better since and so have all the other candidates.
“Do we know exactly who we want? Maybe, probably. But maybe not. I don’t feel like we need to say that. That’s not just for our case, but like lots of stuff happens between now and the draft, and you don’t want the whole league knowing exactly what you’re set on four days before the draft, and we also care about a lot of people that have been involved in this. We’ve gotten to know a lot of people and stuff. Those are the types of questions like narrowing it down, or who’s been eliminated or things like that that I don’t know if I want the league to know. I don’t think it necessarily helps. You’re only really going to know whether we know or not until we pick, and that’s kind of what we’re comfortable keeping it at.”
After making their choice Thursday, the 49ers’ brain trust surely will say they picked the quarterback the team had in mind March 26 when it made the trade. Whether he was or he wasn’t, we might never know.